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Understanding Zoning and Planning before Property Acquisition

As a real estate agent, it is essential that you check out a property in its entirety before advising your customer to put money on it so that whatever issues exist would have been sorted out before money exchange hands. This becomes your customer’s prerogative to avoid putting him/her in harm’s way.

Putting the aforementioned premise in perspective, there is a need to understand the precepts of zoning and planning in accordance with the dictates of the government’s master-plan with reference to Lagos state.

In terms of zoning, most of Lagos, Abuja and a lot of other states have taken physical planning a notch up. They are beginning to squarely confront the challenges of urbanization by planning out their thriving cities.

For instance, Lagos is working on theirs’ judiciously. The Lagos state government have planned and published the master-plan for Lekki, the Mainland and Badagry. There are also developmental plans in place for surburbs like Ikorodu. Of course this master-plan comes with its implications if not adhered to, to the letter. Consequently, If you buy a land and fail to check out the zoning implications with the master-plan design of that city, you may be heading for a deadlock by the time you want to run your designs and constructions. Therefore it is important that you always check out the master-plan arrangement of the locality where your intended property is situated

Looking back at the experiences that I have had along my line of business, it is note-worthy to spot and identify the difference between an existing plan and one that has been designed to be. This will save you the trouble that may possibly arise when you assume an area to be what it is because that’s what its still being used for. The government may have other plans intended for that area which is usually available in the master-plan of that area.

Doing that, will be a faux pas on your path. One essential rule you must strictly adhere to while acquiring a land is ensuring you check out that property in the master-plan to be sure it corresponds with current trends.

A colleague shared an experience of someone who wanted to buy a property around the Government Reserved Area of a particular city in Nigeria. After the search, authenticity of the property, due diligence and negotiations had been successfully completed, then it was time to do the needy. The agent involved decides to go further and chart the place in question putting the “Physical plan against the Master-plan” only for him to realize that a considerable portion of that land is to be sequestered by a road project that is intended for that site. Plans were in top gear albeit on paper, to extend or probably increase the width of the existing road. If this were to be the case then a good portion of the said land would be cut off rendering it ineffectual for the intended purpose or worst case scenario, there may likely be a demolition if intended project is pursued.

As it were, the road may remain affixed and good as it is; the property too, undisturbed and good to remain a viable property for sale. However buying that property would be at your own peril, when in 2-3 years the government decide to work on the intended or existing project or go on to execute the plan they had in their developmental master-plan. Consequent of this, you won’t be able to maximize your investment and it will become a major setback and in other cases the owner may lose his/her entire investment because hardly will a compensation come from such ugly situation.

The property owner may not even get as far as the above instance if he/she doesn’t even get an approval to start with. Even if you had avoided an approval and carried on with the project, you may just have shot yourself in the leg because the government will then have a case against you. They will simply raise an argument that there was no approval for the building you erected which itself is an offense.

“If you had presented your documents for approval, we won’t have approved it anyways”, a government official would say.

In summary, they would have informed you at that instant and prevented you from investing your resources in the project which would amount to you losing your resources in such way and manner.

So it is important that you look at the master plan of such places to avoid such instances.

How to get a Master-plan

A master-plan can be bought in the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development or they publish them in some instances. It is sold relatively for an affordable amount and you can have it as a library material, research material or something you refer to for your transactions

Now let me share a personal experience. We had a similar problem not too long ago in one of our projects. This is a case of a project that had been checked and verified intoto. Our experience on this particular case brought to the fore the challenges and inadequacies within the various ministries involved in land matters. The planning innovation is just taking shape in the country; hence those involved are squared up against noticeable challenges arising mostly from a bridge in communication.

To the crux of the matter: we had done our charting with the survey department, the land was good and within excision area. The certificate of occupancy we obtained was dated back to 2006 and the planning issue was a more recent 2010 issue. Our major challenge emanated when we had to engage a town planner to run the skeletal plan. He went to work and chart the place in planning, that was when we discovered to our chagrin that part of our land falls within a road. In fact, according to the master-plan, a road was to bifurcate our land. I went to the place occasionally in a bid to put an end to the problem. We surveyed the land and realised that the government had only recently constructed a road just behind the place and there was even a road passing in front of the site. Now the dilemma was the possibility of another road springing up in that place. It was almost obvious that no road will again come up again in the way and manner it has been described to come up.

The confusion this generated put us in a fix. The planning design suggested that there should be an inexplicable massive road that would ordinarily bifurcate the site. Albeit, the site is quite a small portion and is incomparable to the extent of the road in question. You can imagine the small portion of the land we bought to still be subjected to divisions. I can bet the remainder of the land will no longer suit the intended purpose. And to think that the land was even given to the original owners(the family whom we purchased our small portion of land from) in excision. It really would have been unjust for the government to halve our own small portion of land for a road project that wasn’t necessary and that’s also putting into cognizance the large expanse of land that was excised to the ‘omoniles’ i.e. the family. Let’s say probably one-fifth of their land will be sacrificed on the altar of a massive road project. Land that was acquired after the family had fulfilled all righteousness! Land that was given to them as compensation, having earlier challenged the government for using another portion of the same land for their never-ending road construction.

Again, if that kind of road will come on their land then they may have to give them land elsewhere as compensation.
‘Omoniles’ will always do the obvious; they will not just fold their hands and let that happen. That was the challenge that confronted them while the dilemma for us and our business even if we thought it wasn’t possible for such road to exist was that, we still needed to get government’s consent for us to proceed with the planning and we still had to use the entire place for the purpose it was intended otherwise a problem will arise. Of course doing this came with its obstacles.

Surprisingly, the survey department did not have a problem with our land; they couldn’t even see the particular road we were talking about because they were not privy to the information. Invariably it was just the officials in the planning department that had first-hand information pertaining to the imaginary road.

This was our plight and will always be a challenge if you don’t bring zoning and planning into retrospect when you want to acquire land.

It could become a major stumbling block for you sooner than later.

Debo Adejana
MD/CEO Realty Point Ltd


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