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Land use administration

LAND USE ADMINISTRATION AND E-GOVERNMENT

Land use administration in developed countries is carried out with ease and this is due to their adoption of E-government. However the situation is not the same in some developing countries and Nigeria is no exception. This article addresses concept of ICT model in Land use administration.

Land remains pivotal to any meaningful development of man and his society. The continued existence of man and his growth depend on availability of land for the much needed development. Land cannot be reproduced, destroyed nor depleted, albeit it can be mismanaged.

Once land is mismanaged, the whole economy is distorted and the social and economic fabric of the state disintegrates to the detriment of man and his society.

This is an inescapable consequence as land provides shelter, food, minerals and other resources needed for man’s development. Outside its physical direct importance to man, society and the state, land also remains to date the most viable and sought after security for bank advances and a pillar in the development of effective and efficient commerce in the country.  Thus the way and manner land ownership is structured, title is obtained and land documentation and transaction is framed has a direct impact on man’s development and the nation’s economy. It is therefore imperative that the management of such core resource should be such as to produce the best for the benefits of man.

The current system of land titling, ownership, possession and administration in Nigeria is fraught with so much uncertainty, insecurity and bureaucracy that leaves it operating at below optimal level for the sustenance of man and the nation’s economy. A system that is laden with much human interface and operated manually would definitely be corrupt and inefficient especially in this ICT age. It is therefore necessary for the government to put in place an ICT enabled programme to facilitate the development of a seamless land use and administration policy in order to galvanize the economy, improve government-citizen relationship and broaden the revenue base of the country.

Under the current legislative and administration regime, virtually all aspect of land use administration and  management is done manually. Though, provisions have been made for the issuance of Electronic Certificates of Occupancies in states such as Lagos and Ogun state, there is still a lot of dilly dallying in the full introduction of e-government in Land use administration. Even where the system has been computerized it is still shrouded in myth and mystery as the operation of the system is not transparent enough to garner the confidence of the citizenry.

There are claims that Land registry has been computerized yet it takes days if not weeks to access land information. This scenario will remain the same until the system is made transparent and members of the public are allowed to publicly access it.

Land use charges and other property based levies are still being assessed manually, arbitrarily mostly by the rule of the thumb and out of the discretion of the officer in charge. Citizens apathy to payment of taxes and other levies could be attributed to this syndrome. Government estate valuers still inspect and value vacant lands for the purpose of imposition of capital gain tax though the operative legal regime for land use does not recognize vacant land as part of capital formation for the purposes of payment of compensation for compulsory acquisition of land.

Duplication of Certificate of Occupancy over the same land, improper mapping and charting of surveys and orchestrated false reports in order to exhort citizen is still prevalent.

To overcome the identified problems and lapses engendered by the manual process of land documentation and administration, ideally an internet enhanced module with all its transparency and equity should be put in place. A model that will allow an interested member of the public or a professional on payment of the prescribed fee to access necessary information from government departments using the agency of the internet. A system that will facilitate download of information on status of a piece of land online using scratched cards or pin numbers obtained from banks after the payment of the required fee. Getting property assessment online and payment of all levies and fees online without necessarily having to shuttle between offices and banks.

The model should be designed in a way to permit the filling of caution online, apply and register property interest online and enable interested parties to conduct searches generally on identified properties. It is also essential that the model should provide information on zoning and property restrictions in master plans and building schemes. The model should also be able to provide a comprehensive and current data on the property financial obligations to the state and reveal contravention and breaches of government land use regulations where necessary.

 

In configuring software for the model, great care should be taken to ensure the generation of correct survey plans and proper ordering and registration of the concerned property. This is to ensure accurate identification, documentation, depository and retrieval of the particulars of the property when necessary. Efforts should also be made to assure a proper seamless and secured online payments system that is hacker free and guarantees the security of the transaction.

Furthermore the model should be comprehensively designed to reveal state land acquisitions, releases and excisions where necessary. It should also provide information on ratification and procedure for obtaining state lands. The new system should facilitate the online assignment and payment of stamp duties, capital gain tax, neighbourhood charges and other sundry fees and charges. Apart from allowing online registration of interest in property, the model should be designed in a way that will facilitate the processing of governor’s consent to subsequent transaction be it mortgages, charges and or assignments. With the coming in of the new system it should be possible to obtain online certified true copies of documents lodged in the land registry. The model should also address the possibility of online processing of certificate of occupancy over land.

CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS

The introduction of e-government services in the area of land use administration is not only desirable but necessary. However, efforts should be made to address the challenges that are likely to adversely affect the smooth operation and delivery of the system. The first concern is the problem of change management. Change management is important not only in terms of cultural change but also in terms of changing operations and processes workflow that the automated environment will introduce. It is important to educate people at all levels about the benefits of technology.

There is also the problem of infrastructural development particularly in the areas of energy supply and sustainability, human and computer ratio and the deployment of internet facilities throughout the nooks and crannies of the country. Efforts should be geared towards improving the energy supply base of the country and there is the need to increase the production of the needed manpower in this area. Government should further encourage the growth of cyber cafes and internet facilities particularly in non urban areas in the country. This could be done through SMEs programmes, tax incentives and micro finance loans. One important challenge of the internet system is the problem of security of information and internet fraud. The model should ensure the security of personal details submitted online and secure the online payment system from possible hackers. The provision of such assurance will further boost people’s confidence in the workability and sustainability of the system.

Funding is another major challenge to successful delivery of the e-government services. However, this should not be a long term problem as the system can be self sustaining and fund generating in the long run.

Furthermore, there is the challenge of lack of any legal framework or regime to back up the implementation of the project. To solve this problem the government should set the necessary legislative process in motion to bring about the much needed legal framework for the project.

The concept of e-government and its relevance to modern land use administration in Nigeria particularly Lagos cannot be undermined. In spite of all the challenges that may confront the ICT model and land use administration, it is desirable and necessary to implement it now in order to take the benefits of digital revolution.

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