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Why right of way acquisition process is complicated, by Mark

By Victor Gbonegun
10 January 2022   |   2:43 am
The absence of requisite knowledge, experience by practitioners and parties in right of way acquisition and compensation projects have been identified as major factors

International Right of Ways (IRWA). Photo/Wikipedia

The absence of requisite knowledge, experience by practitioners and parties in right of way acquisition and compensation projects have been identified as major factors affecting the effective execution of projects.

Experts have therefore urged adherence to emerging international best practice in right of way acquisition.

A former president, International Right of Ways (IRWA) Nigeria, Dr. Emmanuel Mark, who was the guest speaker at the yearly lecture organised by Lagos State land officers said: “Right of Way is a legal right to pass along a specific route through grounds or property belonging to another and encompasses a public path across private land.

“The acquisition is the process of obtaining the right (interest) in and possession of the property. Over time factors like location, ownership, political pressure, title issue, funding and others, affect such acquisitions.”

Mark explained that inadequately trained staff could be one of the biggest obstacles to projects, stressing that only two organisation, which are NIESV and International Right of Ways (IRWA) are reputed for training and credentialing expertise for such assignments.

He added that qualities of an estate surveyor and valuer leading a right of way acquisition project must include but not be limited to credibility, expertness, trustworthiness, empathy and patience.

He noted that right of way acquisition is not just power of government, but also the process by which that, power is exercised. This process, he said should include planning, publicity (gazette and advert), valuation and submission of claims, payment of compensation and possession.

Mark said: “Right of way acquisition and compensation is a sophisticated process and one of the major items contributing to the cost and schedule of infrastructural projects like transportation, highway and public utilities. International development partners has always insisted that projects conform with certain policies before they are funded; though the instruments are not legally binding, they create legal norms that states are inclined to follow and on some occasion, have formed the basis for best practice in the acquisition under international law.”

According to him, some of the problems that could arise when the right of way acquisition is not done properly, include reduction of tenure security as people believe that they lack tenure security if the government can acquire properties without defined procedure, reduced investment in the economy, weakened land market, delayed project when it is done through unfair procedures.

On the emerging international best practice for the right of way acquisition and compensation, he said: “International development partners/agencies such as World Bank and other financial organisation developing project like the African Development Bank (AFDB) insist that projects conform with certain policies before they invest on them. Some of those documents include but are not limited to the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance VGGTs; AFDB Policy on Involuntary Resettlement Policy Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) publication and World Bank Policy on Involuntary Resettlement (OP.4.12)”.

These guidelines, he further stated are backed by international consensus of governments, international non-governmental organisations, civil society and the private sector.

Speaking on appropriate measures to address the existing gap in the right of ways for projects, he said the design of projects must be undertaken to minimise resettlement, property owners must be meaningfully engaged in the process and compensation should take place before displacement.

He pointed out that a dispute redress committee must be established early, including local redress process, compensation for the market value of yield, plus the cost of the nursery to maturity and labour, while land for land or other forms of compensation must be at full replacement cost.

Earlier, the Lagos State Lands Bureau Permanent Secretary, Mr. Bode Agoro, said it was a difficult year, but the agency weathered the storm.

He thanked the land officers for the work they’re doing in Lagos and hoped that 2022 will be better.