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Land registries remain cesspit for bribery in Nigeria, says report

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A new survey released recently revealed that land registries have remained a cesspit for bribery among other public offices in Nigeria.

The document by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in partnership with National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) titled: “Corruption in Nigeria: Patterns and Trends: Second Survey on corruption as experienced by the population”, focused on the prevalence of bribery in Nigeria for a three year period, between 2016 and 2019.

The report signed by the Statistician General, National Bureau of Statistics, Dr. Yemi Kale and UNODC Country Representative Nigeria, Dr. Oliver Stolpe, noted the overall decrease in the prevalence of bribery in Nigeria since 2016, except in land registry and few others.

Public officials who are entrusted with some of the core functions of the state, not least those involved in land administration, the report said, account for the highest prevalence in direct bribe requests from 21 per cent in 2016 to 26 per cent in 2019.

The report, however noted that the prevalence of bribery has significantly decreased in relation to several types of public officials, with the exception of land registry officers, members of parliament and other officials, to whom it has increased.

The largest changes are in relation to police officers (from 46 to 33 per cent), prosecutors (from 33 to 23 per cent), judges/magistrates (from 31 to 20 per cent), customs/immigration officers (31 to 17 per cent, and embassy/consulate officers (16 to 8 per cent).

According to the 2019 survey, the prevalence of bribery in relation to police officers was highest in four of Nigeria’s six zones and the third and fourth highest in the other two zones.

A similar pattern emerges in relation to public utility officers, who were among the top three types of officials in relation to whom the prevalence of bribery was highest in four out of six zones.

Prosecutors and land registry officials were among the top three in two out of the three northern zones (North-Central and North-West), while tax/revenue officers were among the top three in the North-East and South-East.

All other officials appeared in only one zone among the top three types of official in relation to whom the prevalence of bribery was highest.

Land registries are one of the three stages of perfecting title to land to enhance the property rights enjoyed by the assignee.

Corruption in land administration has remained a challenge in the real estate sector with many stakeholders calling for digitalisation of the process.

In the 2017 NBS report, ‘Corruption in Nigeria: Bribery-Public Experience and Response’, the land registries were the fifth most corrupt public agency in Nigeria.

There are anecdotal experiences of property files that ‘magically disappear’, in order to solicit for ‘facilitation’ to ensure their reappearance, such are rife.

Besides, cases abound of multiple ownership of land in Nigeria, which has caused many disputes. The report say, a digitised registry would in some measure provide incorruptibility, clarity and transparency in the system.

The survey, which was conducted in May and June 2019, covered more than 33,000 households across the country, providing data for each of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

Its primary focus is to assess the actual experiences of Nigerians whenever they come into contact with up to 20 different types of public officials.

The survey also evaluates the likelihood of citizens being approached for the payment of bribes as well as the frequency of such requests and payments. It also provides insights into citizens’ attitudes towards corruption, their readiness to refuse requests for bribes and to report corruption incidents.

For the first time, the survey provides data on bribery and nepotism in public sector recruitment.

Chairman, Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN), South-West, Debo Adejana, who confirmed the development in the sector said, “ feelers from their members were not any different from the report”.

This, he said, indicated increase in the prevalence of bribery in the land registry.

The president, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Lekwa Ezutah, explained that land price is fixed with higher value attached to it, and where demand for a particular commodity like land is higher, those who deal in this scare commodity tends to be more corrupt.

According to him, the trend was due to the general tendency to cut corners, those who work in land registries are captilising on that to go for a kill.

He said there is need for enlightenment so that people know that it does not pay to take bribe while those giving should desist from doing that because it is their right to get this land registered.

Also, a past president of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Mr. Joe Idudu said, bribery and corruption in land registries are like an epidemic and in line with what is happening in every institution in Nigeria.

He asked, which institution in Nigeria is bribe not taken? “You have heard this one about land registries, what of judiciary and various registries?

“It is an epidemic, that is the whole truth, you try to get letters of administration from Lagos Courts, you cannot. The truth remains that there is hardly any area of Nigerian lives today where corruption is not right at the top.

“It is unbelievable that you cannot get letters of administration in our courts. It is a terrible thing; there is no area of our lives that it is not seen. If we have to pay for the air we breath, we will bribe in Nigeria to get it”, he added.

The Chairman, NITP Lagos state chapter, Bisi Adedire, said when someone applies for anything, he knows the statutory fees to pay and if anyone ask for anything outside that he will not subscribe to that.

Adedire said although, he had heard it from people, he had not experienced it in recent past, probably because of his position.

“I just spoke to someone in Oyo that said, it is now possible to process the Certificate of Occupancy (Cof O) and get it in 60 days. If government is doing that, it means they want to ease the process of obtaining titles of land”.

He urged more state governments like Lagos to emulate such because it takes up two years before you get C of O in Lagos.

“We should rather talk on the process of obtaining titles, which is becoming too cumbersome, time wasting and exorbitant, rather than concentration on corruption and bribery.

“What the government is saying is that people should pay for processing of titles, I think it is on the high side coupled with multiple taxation”, he added.


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