A cloud of controversy has begun to form over the Ogun State Government’s Homeowners Charter Scheme as some subscribers alleged rip-off, discrepancies and high-handedness by verification officials processing issuance of land title documents.They also alleged that due to the discrepancy in the title documents for the scheme and regular Certificate of Occupancy, financial institutions such as banks reject certificates from the state.

Property owners claimed that bottlenecks in the scheme have created apprehension among the over 150,000 subscribers, who queried the repeated visits to their property by officials of government which cost them between N5, 000 and N15, 000 for each inspection.

There were also allegations of officials requesting the sum of N5, 000 from subscribers to facilitate the issuance of assessment forms as well as the continuous selling of the forms at the rate of N30, 000 to unsuspecting subscribers with assurance that their forms will be processed along with the previous ones.But, the state authorities dismissed the allegations from the property owners, arguing that, both certificates are the same. Officials also distanced the state from the continuous sale of forms and collection of money from subscribers by inspectors.

The scheme launched three years ago as an integral part of the government’s mission to rebuild the state enjoyed widespread acceptance. It was supposed to provide data for the medium-term planning for provision of roads, schools, hospitals and other essential services it pledged, and promised 85 per cent discount for subscribers to the scheme.

Under the scheme, property owners without the required building approvals, or houses built on land belonging to the state government were given a window of opportunity to obtain building plan approvals, Certificates of Occupancy and other documents that will establish their ownership to the property .

Essentially, interested property owners made an initial deposit of N5, 000, and submitted documents that can be used to establish ownership of the property such as land purchase agreements, deed of gift or sublease, receipts, and survey plans.However, to establish claims to ownership of property, officials undertake an initial visit to the site to confirm that the property is indeed eligible for the programme, and information provided on the form is accurate. Property exempted are those built under Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) high tension cables, those occupying Right-of-way of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline, those on the ‘set-back’ of roads, water bodies and gullies, as well as those built on flood plains or areas under acquisitions.

A subscriber, who gave his name simply as Olaolu Muyiwa said he paid for the form at the cost of N30, 000 and another N15, 000 for their visit to be part of the scheme recently.There were also allegations of indiscriminate sending of ‘fake’ text messages to subscribers for purported visits, in which case officials will identify fault and ask for a fee for rectification.

He said: “ I have gone severally to their office to ask for my assessment all to no avail as I was always referred to Abeokuta. I have not being communicated with on the stage of my application form a year after my property was inspected.“I am not alone on this, because nobody from my area has received any assessment. We are apprehensive that after this year, it will be another government gimmick to raise money from residents surreptitiously”, he lamented.

As their tale of woes continue, The Guardian learnt that only 17,448 Certificate of Occupancies have so far being issued to residents out of 113,000 property inspected.
Official documents show that 150,000 people applied under the scheme, out of the lot, 29,600 of them have already made payment while 71,000 people have been invoiced. Another 42,000 other qualified subscribers are yet to be invoiced.

These figures, another subscriber in Owode, near Mowe said, is an indication that many may not get their C of Os during Ibikunle Amosun administration as stipulated in the form. His apprehension was anchored on the present monthly issuance of 1, 000 Certificate of Occupancies to subscribers.But the Director General, Bureau of Lands and Survey and Special Adviser to the State governor on Lands matters, Biyi Ismail, told The Guardian that there is no course for alarm, saying there are plans to issue 3,000 certificates per month.

He also said that the verification exercise is now being conducted by staff from Ministry of Lands, Urban and Physical Planning as well as Finance, to ensure quicker and proper land measurement, building plans and assessments.The DG stressed that for the 70,000, who are qualified will get their home charter before the end of this administration. “ My advice is that, they have to be patient. It takes time. 70, 000 is huge. They are coming out in batches; a batch was done two weeks ago and we are planning another one for next week.

“Each individual is treated as a unique case. Some times delays come from those that applied but did not provide the necessary documents, “ he added.Buttressing the state’s readiness to issue the certificates to subscribers, the senior special adviser to Amosun on Land, said 70,000 subscribers, who are yet to get the C Of O will get it as measures are in place to ensure that qualified subscribers get their certificates.

According to him, the success of this scheme is the success of this administration. So we are doing everything possible to see that they get it. “We have plans to do 3,000 every month, the number will be exhausted before the end of this administration.

On the alleged discrepancies between the Homeowners and Regular C of O with some bearing certificate of occupancy, while others bear certificate of ownership, the government said, both certificates are the same. “The banks that reject these certificates do not understand the system. It is the same C of O there is no discrepancy.

On the issue of repeated visits, the DG said sometimes, it is being done to correct certain anomalies noticed on the files of subscribers. Ismail also frowned at the allegation of continuous sale of forms when the time frame has elapsed.

He said: “It is illegal to sell form now just as it is illegal for
inspectors to be collecting money from subscribers. I have a feeling that those collecting money from subscribers are fakes who sent text messages that did not originate from our office.”

• The Guardian