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Amid confusion over policy, change of property use hits all-time high in Lagos

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With the prevailing property market and the attendant impacts on investors, property owners in Lagos are changing the use of their properties to meet the need of tenants and prospective clients.

It was gathered that the practice is gaining momentum for commercial gains as the original use of property are no longer profitable to the owners.

The practice is more prevalent in areas with high density, development infrastructure and good location.Such places include, Adeniran Ogunsanya, Bode Thomas, Surulere, parts of Mushin and Ilasha in the mainland.

Places like Lekki and environs are not spared from this, as investors tend to change the use of newly acquired property or new ones to meet with their needs without recourse to existing urban planning laws in the area.

Much of these changes of use come inform of conversion of private buildings to commercials ones, building of schools, event areas and plaza even in fully residential areas that could not accommodate the expected pressure on the existing infrastructure.

But the state government indicated that the era of change of use is over as most of the city’ s plans have been reviewed to accommodate present realities.

With recent reviews of Ikeja, Lagos Island and Victoria Island and Lekki area, the government said the anticipated development should have been captured.

The Guardian gathered that for any successful change of use, there must be approval from government agencies but that the practice and wonder why people are still in the business

For instance , the process for a change of designated use of property in any location in Lagos is by formal application by the owner of property to the Physical Planning Department of the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development of the respective state where the land is located.

The decision to grant the application is at the discretion of the state government and cannot be challenged as of right.

The grant or approval is also subject to payment of the assessed official fees and compliance with the procedure as may be determined by the location and valuation of the property. The process involves submission of an application letter with copies of title documents (evidence of ownership), perimeter survey of site, set of approved building plan, technical report to be prepared by a registered Town Planner, photographs of land, location sketch showing land in relation to surrounding development, tax clearance certificate, development levy receipt, evidence of payment of processing fee for change of use.

Amid confusion over the stop in the practice, property owners and investors are still caught up with the practice of changing the use of their property without authorisation.

Some claimed that they got it from government agencies, while others said they were given a special consideration by the authorities.

One of such property owners, who confided with the Guardian, claimed that he applied and got a clearance for the change of use in Surulere area, where he constructed a four storey office and residential apartments against the normal bungalow setting even though the change of use programme was said to have been stopped about 10 years ago.

Also, architects and other professionals in the built environment in some of their works, advised clients to approach the state for the change of use of their new buildings when they should know it is no longer tenable.

For, instance, at the presentation of the Lagos Branch of Nigeria Bar Association Bar Centre, a mixed use development in Lekki, the architect has advised that the they applied for a change of use.

The architect’s advise was based on the fact that the proposed site is on Abayomi Shonuga Crescent, a residential area with limited roadside parking facilities.

He said a change of use application will be required from the local planning authority who should be done through a registered planning consultants to be engaged by the NBA.

But the thinking of many is that , there might still be a way to go around hence the advice to apply for it.

If indeed, the practice is moribund and professionals are not getting proper briefing then government should really have a case to answer.

But past president of Nigeria Institute of Town planners (NITP) and past chairman of Lagos state chapter of Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria (ATOPCON), Mr. Moses Ogunleye said officially there is nothing like change of use and those changing their property use are doing so illegal because government has said it has stopped issuing approvals for it.

He also noted that it is difficult to determine whether there is a change of use because of the revised city plans being undertake by the state.

“ The government is currently revising plans in certain area in the metropolis and some of these places, like Lekki, Mainland and Ikeja have new development plans.

“If people change their property use, we should find out if what they build now is in tandem with the new plan in that area.

Also affirming that, Assistant director, Public Affairs in the State’s Ministry of Physical planning and Urban development, Mukaila Sanusi, said the state has discontinued approvals for change because it has perfected its development plans which take into consideration future needs .

“As a result of that change of use is no longer allowed”, he added.


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