‘Fleecing’ Lagos residents with ‘questionable’ residential housing schemes
One of the most visited residential houses in South Africa is located on 8115 Vilakazi Street, Soweto, in the Gauteng region of that country. It was the residence of famed South Africa’s anti-apartheid hero and former president, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
Vilakazi Street is the only street in the world that ever had as its residents, two Nobel Prize winners- Mandela, and the late Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu, Johannesburg’s first Black Anglican bishop, who later became the first Black archbishop of Cape Town, as well as the primate of South Africa’s 1.6 million-member Anglican Church.
Writing about his first personal residential apartment, which at a point was without electricity and running water in his autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom, the South African icon wrote: “It was the opposite of grand, but it was my first true home of my own and I was mightily proud… A man is not a man until he has a house of his own.”
Nothing underscores the importance of a home than the dictum of the legendary African statesman. Equally lending credence to the importance of shelter to mankind is the numerous housing schemes initiated by past administrations in the country and across the world.
The United Nations (UN) in also underscoring the importance of housing noted that adequate housing constitutes part of the right to an adequate standard of living in Article 25 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in Article 11.1 of the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The UN, which also maintained that other international human rights treaties have since recognised, or referred to the right to adequate housing, or some elements of it, such as the protection of one’s home and privacy,” added that, “the right to adequate housing is relevant to all states, as they have all ratified at least one international treaty referring to adequate housing and committed themselves to protect the right to adequate housing through international declarations, plans of action or conference outcome documents,” the body added.
Lagos, Nigeria’s economic nerve centre, which is striving hard to realise its megacity ambition, is saddled with enormous housing challenges, as it welcomes daily, hundreds of persons from across the nation and beyond.
While unverified sources claim that less than half of the number of persons that arrive in Lagos daily go back to where they came from, the state government is of the view that this influx of people has exacerbated the state’s housing deficit thus mounting immense pressure on available infrastructure.
At an interactive session with journalists not long ago, the state’s Commissioner for Housing, Moruf Akinderu-Fatai, claimed that those that stay back neither have beforehand arrangements of what to do in the city, nor where to live.
Akinde-Fatai added that Lagos’ prosperity had become its major challenge “as people come from all over the world to tap from the opportunities it offers.”
Lagos State is the smallest state in the country, but with a very high urban population.
In 2017, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, while speaking at a round-table on infrastructure financing organised by the Harvard Business School Association of Nigeria (HBSAN), in collaboration with the state government confirmed that the population of the state had swelled above 24 million.
Ambode who added that the population of the state was equal to that of 30 African countries combined, explained that by 2050, the state would be a city of 36 million people, or the sixth largest city in the world after Mumbai, Delhi, Dhaka, Kinshasa, and Kolkata, and ahead of Tokyo, Karachi, New York and Mexico City.
“We have a migration rate of 86 people moving into Lagos every hour, higher than New York, London, or Mumbai; we have a population density of 6,939 persons per kilometre, and an average of five persons per household,” the former governor said, adding that “Lagos State requires one million housing units every year for 5 to 10 years to fix the housing deficit.”
Be that as it may, with each household size pegged at 4.9 people, and a housing stock of 1.49 million units, a silhouette of the true picture of the state’s housing deficit is massive.
In its 2019 36 Shades of Nigeria Report, Renaissance Capital equally agreed that 4.9 people on average reside in each Lagos household. Deductively, the state needs at least 4.69 million residential units to cater to its ever-expanding population.
It is important to state here that despite their best efforts, past administrations in the state have been unable to meet up to 50 per cent of the state’s housing demand to date.
While a substantial amount of the state’s residents are quartered in informal settlements, the accommodation shortage has further driven up rental on existing habitable structures.
With the World Bank’s estimate that by 2030, Nigeria would be the third most populous nation in the world after China and India, Lagos would play host to the largest number of persons quartered in a single state going by its burgeoning population.
At the commissioning of a 492-flat housing project named after the first civilian governor of the state, Lateef Jakande, in Igando, last year, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who has so far inaugurated 16 housing projects in three years gave an inkling into how his administration is trying to slash the housing deficit.
“One of the key strategies we will embrace is a global housing policy in which people can become homeowners through an inclusive and convenient financing system based on their incomes. This policy, along with the outright purchase of houses built by the government, will support a sustainable system in which homes are consistently made available to a larger number of our people,” he said at the site of the project, which started in 2012 under the Home Ownership Scheme of the administration of ex-Governor Babatunde Fashola but was abandoned for four years.
The governor maintained that turning around the state’s housing deficit en route to attaining 21st Century economy required exploring innovations and partnerships with private investors.
This submission, however, runs contrary to how the state government has treated subscribers to some of the numerous residential housing schemes, which previous administrations initiated.
Mounting Discontent Over Government
-initiated Residential Housing Schemes
WHILE the state government has partnered with some real estate developers to deliver on major and mini-housing schemes in some neighborhoods across the state, including those that raise the state’s housing stock, it has also been very unfair to subscribers of residential schemes, which it initiated in the last two decades or thereabouts.
Orisan (Oko-Orisan) Water Front Residential Scheme in Lekki Ajah; Ogudu Garden Valley Residential Scheme; Igbogbo Residential Scheme in Ikorodu; Fortune Gardens at Alapere, and the Paradise City Residential Scheme in Gbagada are some of the schemes, which the state government appears to have treated subscribers unfairly and with contempt.
In some, if not all of these schemes, the government collected monies from subscribers as payment for the plots of land and issued them with a Certificate of Occupancy (CofO).
It also collected money to develop infrastructure on them before the subscribers take possession of the plots allotted. This infrastructure included road and drainage networks among others.
But over 10 years after all these transpired, most of these subscribers have neither taken possession nor been reimbursed, even as some of the beneficiaries have passed on.
Tired of being tossed around by subsequent administrations, they are now calling on Sanwo-Olu to clear this blemish, which has become a stigma on the state, and further strengthen his administration’s contribution to solving the state’s housing challenge.
Exactly two years ago, a retiree, Mr. Olutayo Obikoya, lamented how he has been poorly treated by the state after paying for a plot of land in Igbogbo, which he intended to give to his daughter as a gift for a brilliant academic outing in the university.
This was after the Land Bureau, Governor’s Office, in 2009, put up an advertisement for allocation of land at Orisan Water Front Residential Scheme, Lekki, and Millennium Residential Scheme I, Igbogbo, GRA, Ikorodu.
Obikoya explained in an interview with a national daily: “In 2009 when my daughter was about to complete her first degree, I promised to give her a parcel of land if she did well. I bought the land for N455, 412 at the Millennium Residential Scheme I, Igbogbo in her name and gave her after she graduated.
“I got an allocation letter from the Land Use Allocation Committee dated April 18, 2009, stating the money I was supposed to pay. It was fully paid. When my daughter got married, she and her husband wanted to build on the land, but they could not proceed.
“After several complaints, one of the officials at the Lands Bureau told me there was no land at Igbogbo and advised me to apply to another place in Agbowa. He said I would pay additional money.
“I was surprised. If they would take me to another place, they shouldn’t ask me to pay additional money. I told him that I was not sure of getting another land if I paid. He then advised me to apply for a refund,” he explained.
Six years after Obikoya’s daughter applied for a refund in 2016, the state government is yet to effect it. Obikoya’s wife who also bought a plot of land at Igbogbo also applied for a refund that is yet to materialise.
To date, more than 100 allottees of the Igbogbo scheme are either waiting for their plots to be allocated or for a refund to be made. They share a similar fate with subscribers to the Orisan (Oko-Orisan) Water Front Residential Scheme, who have not been issued with their C of O for seven years on. The scheme redesigning has been going on since it was initiated.
In the Ogudu Garden Valley Residential Scheme, allottees got their C of O, but the allotted plots remain inaccessible.
Fortune Garden Residential Schemes Allottees Move To Salvage Their Fortunes
LIKE Ogudu Garden Valley Residential Scheme, allottees of Fortune Garden Residential Housing Scheme, Alapere, Ketu paid for their allotted plots of land, and were issued with C of O, but are still being denied access to their plots 12 years on.
Also, the over 130 allottees paid millions of naira for the development of road and drainage networks on the large expanse of land. Now in the 12th year, none of these infrastructures has been provided.
After waiting for several years for the actualisation of the scheme by previous governments, the allottees who said that they were appreciative of the Sanwo-Olu-led administration’s contributions to addressing the state’s housing deficit are appealing to the incumbent to come to their aid, and ensure that they take possession of their plots and commence development after the state government must have fulfilled its part of the bargain.
In the last couple of years or thereabouts, the aggrieved allottees have had a couple of meetings with the state government representatives from which nothing other than tonnes of promises have come out.
As the wait continues, wives of police officers from nearby police barracks have continued to encroach on parts of the land where they are carrying out farming activities to date.
Still, on the expanse of land of the proposed Fortune Garden Residential Housing Scheme, a block-making industry has sprouted up, just the same way that a certain Police Catholic Church construction is taking place. In addition to that, several shops are also being built on the place, in addition to what looks like an extension of the nearby police barracks.
On November 5, 2019, the worrying allottees wrote to the Commissioner of Environment & Water Resources, Tunji Bello, complaining about the government’s failure to execute its part of the bargain after charges including “drainage special levy, capital contribution,” as well as monies for the construction of the roads and lighting up the estate had been fully paid up.
They, therefore, implored him to cause the relevant government agencies to attend to the demand for infrastructural development of the estate, adding that members were ready to work with his office and relevant officers to realise the project.
Like with previous meetings and letters, nothing came out of the November 5 letter, so they renewed their case last year.
The pro tem coordinators of the allottees, in a May 10, 2021, dated letter to Governor Sanwo-Olu titled, Lack Of Infrastructural Development at Fortune Garden Residential Scheme, Alapere, Lagos, explained that plots’ allocation “to our members took place from 2007 through to 2011.
“Unfortunately sir, since the allocations were made, allottees have been unable to access their respective plots because of environmental challenges occasioned by lack of drainage/canal for proper channelisation of the flood.
“In addition to this serious flooding problem, is the failure to provide roads and sundry infrastructure as contained in our respective letters of allocation. Sir, it is imperative to point out that as part of the conditions for the allocation, each allottee paid an average of the following amounts for each plot between 2007 – 2011 to the coffers of the state government: Ground rent registration, conveyancing, survey fees, N1.8m; drainage special levy N1.0m, and capital contribution of N2.5m.”
They continued: “We were further assured that the said amount was to, among other things, cater for the construction of roads and electrification of the estate. Unfortunately, these promises were never kept by past administrations despite the series of representations that we made.
“It is on record that on June 7, 2017, we wrote to the esteemed office of the former governor, who was gracious enough to refer the matter to his Special Adviser (SA) on Urban Development. Meetings were held with the SA towards perfecting all arrangements, but nothing became of our efforts. Incidentally, the scheme is well strategic in that its development will enhance the aesthetics of the city of Lagos.
“As residents of the State, we are well aware of the dire housing challenge that she faces, especially given the fact that more than 500, 000 people move into this emerging megacity every year. Indeed, it was in the light of this reality that we showed interest in the Fortune Garden Residential Scheme, Ogudu, Alapere, as our modest contribution to addressing the housing challenge.”
They prayed that “as this administration engages a higher gear in its realisation of a megacity status for the Centre of Excellence, as well as in the provision of decent housing for residents, which is a crucial component of sustainable development, we respectfully make a passionate plea to use your exalted office to resolve this puzzle. Currently, the proposed site of the scheme is like a hideout for miscreants and other shady characters, while land grabbers are also hovering around with the aim of dispossessing us of the land that was legally granted to us.
“We wish to further state that attempts by individual allottees to access their plots in line with the terms contained in our respective C of O have been frustrated by the aforestated environmental challenges, which only the state government can address.
“Accordingly sir, we implore your good offices to cause relevant government agencies to address the serious infrastructural lacuna in the estate. Let us reiterate here that our members are ready to work with your respected office and relevant officers to accomplish this noble cause,” they concluded.
On June 2, 2021, the state Ministry of Justice, in a letter marked “Without Prejudice,” and titled, “Re-Lack of Infrastructural Development at Fortune Garden Residential Housing Scheme, Alapere, Lagos, also reacted to the May 10, 2021 letter of the allottees to Sanwo-Olu.
The letter signed by Seun Okusanya, of the Directorate of Advisory Services, and Judicial Liaison, on behalf of the commissioner for justice and attorney general, wrote, “I am directed to acknowledge your letter dated May 10, 2021, in respect of the above subject matter.
“Please be informed that the issues raised therein are receiving prompt attention,” the letter ended.
Nine months after the letter and no concrete action, the allottees on March 10, this year, also wrote to the Executive Secretary, Land Use and Allocation Committee (LUAC) Lands Bureau, Mrs Lolade Ajetunmobi, regarding the drainage and infrastructural challenges within the scheme.
In the letter signed by protem chairman and secretary, Mr Bosun Falore, and Mr Goke Olasoko respectively, they thanked Ajetunmobi for the January 26, 2022 meeting to discuss the drainage and infrastructural challenges, and recalled the key resolutions of the meeting to include the Lands Bureau organising a meeting with the Office of Drainage Services to find ways of resolving the drainage in the scheme, and also liaising with the New Town Development Agency (NTDA) to create alternative access to the facility to enable allottees to gain access to their plots without any police harassment.
The association also recalled that the issue of police harassment of allottees and government officials who visit the site would be taken up at the level of the monthly State Security Committee meeting for a final resolution.
The allottees also used the opportunity to point out that “it is now about seven weeks since we had the meeting that produced these key resolutions, and we shall be grateful to hear from you on the steps taken so far in carrying out the resolutions.”
Sadly, it is now six months after that meeting was held, and no progress had been made in the drainage/road development, as well as the allottees’ quest to take possession of their plots and develop the same.
Distressed by the long silence from the LUAC, the association in an August 8, 2022, dated letter to Mrs Ajetunmobi entitled, “Failure To Provide Requisite Drainage and Infrastructure at Fortune Garden Residential Scheme,” wrote, “Further to the meeting held between your good selves and the representatives of allottees of Fortune Garden Scheme on January 26, 2022, and our subsequent follow-up letter of March 10, 2022, we are amazed that there has been no response neither from your end nor an indication of any developments on the decisions reached during the January meeting.
“Please accept this letter as a reminder of the decisions reached at our joint meeting over six months ago.
“We shall be delighted to receive from you, the latest developments on this issue,” the letter signed by Falore and Olasoko read.
Residential Schemes’ Subscribers Would Soon Possess Their Plots- Govt
WHEN contacted on the delay in handing over the slots to the beneficiaries and the general state of things on the numerous government residential housing schemes, the Director of Public Affairs, Ministry of Housing, Mrs Adeola Salako, simply retorted, “Please reach out to the Lands Bureau.”
The Guardian, last Friday, at 3: 34pm also contacted the NTDA, which the Lands Bureau said it was liaising with to create alternative access to the facility.
After being informed that the views of the general manager of the agency, O. J. Aboyeji, were being sought regarding the agency’s failure to execute the assignment to date, the lady that picked up the call via phone number 08026269223 asked The Guardian to call back in minutes to be connected to the boss. All attempts to get through afterwards came to nought as the operator kept saying that the mobile number was unavailable.
At the Lands Bureau, Ajetunmobi the executive secretary assured us that soon all allottees would take delivery of their plots.
“We are working towards ensuring that every allottee takes possession of plots that belong to them. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you exactly what we are doing.”
Asked to put a time frame for when the plots would be delivered, she responded: “I’ve told you the much that I can tell you, but I can assure you that very soon everyone would take possession of their plots.”
Also commenting, the Commissioner for Information, Gbenga Omotoso, said he had “nothing to say other than what the head of the Lands Bureau has said regarding the residential schemes. What you are saying happened before we came on board. There is nobody that the Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led government has sold land to that has not taken possession of the land.”