Mr. Kehinde Daodu in a chat with Elsie Godwin of Nigeria Real Estate Hub (NREH), pointed out the need for the Land Use Act of 1978 to be severed from the constitution.
Daodu, who is a lawyer and have been practising for over 12years also pointed out areas of the Land Use Act to be amended. He called on the government to do something about the Omonile/Land grabber as a matter of urgency.
What’s your opinion about the Land use act of 1978? What do you think should be amended? What should be left?
At the time the Land Use Act was enacted, the drafters were probably thinking of revolutionising the land tenure system that was in existence then. In its application, over time we have seen that it has its own lapses, particularly with respect to the issue of consent which in my opinion has actually limited mortgage transactions tremendously. It should definitely be amended.
Areas of amendment;
It should be severed from the constitution – The Land Use Act needs to be severed from the Constitution. This is because, any amendments to be made to the Land Use Act would be tantamount to amending the Constitution. The cumbersome process laid down by the Constitution for making amendments to its provisions is a major challenge to the amendment of the Land Use Act to bring it in conformity with modern realities.
The requirement governor’s consent for alienation of land in Nigeria should be removed. I acknowledge that some states are working towards making the process less cumbersome e.g. Lagos State, however the requirement of consent creates a lot of delays in land transactions. It has also provided an easy way out for insincere persons to renege on concluded contracts for sale of land. It also deters investments especially due to the inhibitions created by the requirement for governor’s consent.
On the other hand the requirement of governor’s consent should be highly restricted within clearly defined limits, to allow flexibility of transactions relating to land.
As regards Omonile/land grabbers that is prevalent in the country, what in your opinion can be done to to curtail their excesses?
It is a major problem and something must be done about it as a matter of urgency. The issue of Omonile did not start today. It’s an issue which has to be addressed head on by the government. When you go to your land to do something, they interrupt every crucial stage to collect money, hoping you didn’t have the issue of buying the land from the wrong owners as they say. I would say that their activities are grossly limiting the ability of people to become home owners. What we have found is that this people are even entrenched with the police. It is a full blown enterprise, the security agencies, government and everybody have to work together to tackle this menace which has bedevilled our society. Strict sanctions need to be imposed by the legislature for such act and such sanction imposed on anyone found guilty. I am happy that the Lagos state government is taking steps towards this.
What’s your view on property registration; time and cost?
I think I referenced that with respect to consent but I think the various land registries have elevated the issue of land registration to tax and while that itself is not a bad idea. In my opinion, the primary purpose of land registration should be for easy identification, it shouldn’t be something that will discourage people from owning properties or even using such properties to access credits. Most financial institutions will not listen to you if there is no proper title and registration details on the parcel of land. We need to institutionalise these things. We also need to review the fees. A lot can be deployed from making access to land easy and even title easy, because once people can have the ability to unlock funds that they will need for the purpose of the lands, the government will be able tax whatever is unlocked. If the system of registration is easy and cheap, entrepreneurs would unlock potentials with respect to the land, this will in turn mean that businesses will become more profitable and then assessable to tax. Do not use the land itself as a means of taxation but tax the profits that come from the productive use land.
Resolving property disputes in our courts take very long, how can these be reduced to ensure the economy does not continue to suffer as a result of these delays?
Resolution, you cannot actually divorce that from the system itself. Most cases take forever to be resolved and it’s even more difficult with respect to land. It needs a fundamental reform. Lagos state has tried to do something about that by creating divisions with respect to all aspect of this dispute resolution. They have the mortgage, general, civil and land matters. There is not one fix it solution for the delays encountered in this regard, it’s a little difficult because there are loopholes within the laws to explore to delay the process, so blocking those loopholes would improve the situation. The process of filing has been improved upon though and I think to a very large extent, part of it is on Practitioners as well as to the delay being experienced in court. I also think that Practitioners should take pro-active measures at the preliminary stages to ensure that any disputes are resolved speedily and internally.
Why would you blame people who are doing their job; which basically involves looking for loopholes in the laws?
We need a whole judicial reform to deal with this because it’s not only in respect of land matters, it cuts across all matters that go to court. Even at the professional level for lawyers, some form of standard is required for all lawyer. Because from the outset, you may see that the person that has come to you for a particular issue does not have a case and the person insists he wants to test it in court. As a professional at that point, you should be candid enough to say there is nothing to do in this particular one and maybe some form of penalty on the lawyer if at the end of the day they go to court and loses such case. Because there are blatant ones. I am not talking about the borderline ones, which is allowed to be tested and see what decisions will be reached. As a practitioner, you should be able to see what is available to you in the blatant cases. Also, something has to be done to the appeal process and I think it is time for a constitutional review in terms of issue of appeal generally.
Can we say the renewed tenancy law of Fashola’s administration in Lagos state is achieving its purpose?
The tenancy law of Lagos state is a good development. It is being tried but I am not sure as to the level of compliance and/or enforcement. I think one of the novel area is the issue of payment of rent for just a year – landlords are forbidden to ask for more than 1year rent. Before now, the law with respect to tenancy has always been in favor of the landlord, this time around we are seeing something that is speaking up for the tenants and largely the middle and lower class. Some landlords have complied and some still demand rent for more than a year and there is still this attitude of ‘if you don’t want, some other people are willing to pay the 2years’.
In all, I think it is a good development for us. I think if there is enlightenment in respect of the law, maybe the level of enforcements and compliance will be enhanced.