The efforts of the Ogun State Government to reduce the problems associated with land title documentation may have been hijacked by persons interested in defrauding the residents.
Residents of some parts of Ogun State have raised the alarm that they are being visited by suspected imposters who pretend to be officials of the state government, and demand for money to cover the cost of transportation, which is outside the requirements of the Homeowners’ Charter.
A resident of Abule Ijoko, Mr. Moses Quadri, narrated to our correspondent how he parted with N5,000 after his property was inspected by three men, who insisted that he must pay for their transport back to Abeokuta where they said they came from.
Other residents of the community said they got calls from the men before they came down to Abuke Ijoko, a development they described as unusual because the state government had been sending only text messages to applicants under the programme.
“They have inspected my property and said the next thing I should expect is assessment. They called me that day and I wondered why they called me at night, but one of my landlord friends said I should let them because they shared the areas into groups and if I didn’t let them, it might take time before it would get to my turn again,” Quadri recalled.
He said three people came and inspected his building and when they were done, they told him it was his duty to pay for their transport back to the office.
Quadri said, “They said I was responsible for their transportation. I am an elderly person so I felt that as young people, I should give them money but not exactly what they requested for. They asked for an outrageous amount and said that ordinarily I should be responsible for their fares back.
“They asked for N5,000 for transport and other amounts for sundry other things that I can’t recall now, but I gave them only N5,000 and told them that I didn’t have any other money to give. One of them said he was a surveyor; he had a tape with him.”
After the inspection, he was given a sticker to paste on the wall as a sign that the house had been inspected.
“I think they came on an official duty from the state government but used the opportunity to make their own money,” he said.
The homeowners’ charter was inaugurated in 2013 by Governor Ibikunle Amosun to ensure that all penalties and fines against those who build houses without requisite approvals and Certificates of Occupancy were waived so that they could get title documents.
The scheme also relaxes the documentation requirements, while fees are discounted so that many residents, especially those who would otherwise not be able to afford it, can benefit from the programme.
Amosun had said at the time that the scheme was to make homeownership in the state easy and also attract investments into the sector, adding that without the relevant documents, it would be difficult to lay claim to landed properties because such could not be used as collateral for loans.
Property owners who registered for the programme are required to make an initial deposit of N5,000, and then submit documents that can be used to establish ownership of the property, including land purchase agreements, deed of gift or sub-lease, receipts and survey plans.
The government had explained during the inauguration of the scheme, “It is expected that properties with regularised documents will benefit from the Ogun State Governments’ urban renewal policy through effective planning of facilities in the areas of education, health and other essential infrastructure.
“It will also minimise disputes on the ownership of properties, while property related frauds and problems of land speculators are reduced to the barest minimum. The Homeowners’ Charter programme will also enhance the value of the property market in the state.”
It was also noted that the communities expected to benefit from the initiative included Sango-Ota, Magboro, Ifo, Ogijo, Ojodu, Alagbole, Ado Odo-Ota, Oke Odan, Akute, Agbado, Agbara, and Ijoko, among others.
The government also recently said it had increased the number of inspection teams from 13 to 52 for the success of the programme.
Residents, however, said they were being made to part with money that they were not informed that they would pay.
A resident of Sango Ota, Mrs. Juliana Adeboye, said she received a call asking her to prepare for a visit by the inspection team but that she should make available the sum of N5,000 for logistics.
She said, “Someone called me that he was one of the officials of the Homeowners’ Charter and that he was coming to my place and I should get my documents ready, that they would be three in number. He also said I should keep their transport fare of N5,000.
“I told the man that I am a civil servant and I didn’t have that much. He asked how much I was willing to pay but I told him that I have already paid the normal charges of N15,000; N5,000 at the point of obtaining application form and N10,000 at the point of submitting the form, which are legitimate, and that until they inspect my house and give me my bills, I won’t give out money. And even if I want to give money, it won’t be on request but on my free will.
“I later asked where I will meet them because we usually have a meeting point where they take off to visit each house; which is easier for everyone. On the said day, I was at home waiting for them, I called the man who called me early in the morning but his line was switched off, when it was 10:30 am, I had to leave for the office.
“When I told a neighbour, she said her house had been inspected and that no one requested for any money. I then called a man in Abeokuta, who said they were not supposed to request for money. He asked me to send the man’s number but when I called back, he said the man didn’t pick his call. I feel those people are insiders who want to spoil the efforts of the state government.”
A resident of Ijoko-Ota, Mr. Rasheed Waheed, also told our correspondent that he had a similar experience but that he did not fall victim because he had heard other people’s stories.
According to him, one Adewale called him and told him he was from the homeowners’ charter scheme.
Waheed said, “I became suspicious immediately because I have never received a call from them before; it had always been text messages. Even when I travelled to Mecca some months back, I got their text message.
“I got calls from the supposed Adewale three times. The first time I waited, but when it was obvious they were not coming, I left for work. The second time I asked my son and a neighbour’s son to meet them at the usual place where people use to gather. The third time, I was out of town.”
He added that the man, who called him, said they were three in number and that he should pick them up at Abeokuta or provide transport allowance for them to inspect the house.
A resident of Ibafo in Obafemi Owode Local Government Area, Mrs. Taiwo Oladokun, told our correspondent that each house 0wner paid N500 to facilitate the inspectors’ movement.
“After the inspection, you are also expected to give them money in appreciation before they leave,” she said.
The residents said they were suspicious that the people who were calling them were moles in the state government’s agency in charge of the scheme.
When the agency in charge of the scheme was contacted, the Ogun State Bureau of Lands and Survey, the Press Officer, Mr. Ademola Orunbon, said the men were not from the government.
“Residents should know that the governor has provided everything for the programme; he gave the professionals involved more than seven Toyota Hilux vans for inspection; so, there is no need for anyone to foot their bills; it is illegal, the residents should not let such things go on,” he said.
Orunbon advised the residents to apprehend anybody who attempted to defraud them and hand over such people to the police.
This item originally appeared in Punch news