On June 1st, 2021, the Lagos State Government made the following post on their Facebook page, ‘All payments, fees for property registration now consolidated – HoS’.
To expand on this, the Lagos State government has consolidated all payments, fees, and taxes for property registration into a single demand notice to make it easier, for doing business in the State.
The implication of this is to reduce the time required to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) or a Governor’s Consent from 72 days to 61days. As an extra bonus, these new consolidated processes will also reduce the average number of days for obtaining construction permits from 42 to 28 days.
According to the Lagos State Government the decision was the government’s response to the continuous demand from stakeholders in the ‘built environment’. The post was concluded with #LASG #ForAGreaterLagos.
While there were several praises by the public for this announcement, there were some very disgruntled comments. One particular comment described the current property registration process as, ‘a camel passing through the eye of a needle’. That’s either a very tiny camel, or a very large needle or an extremely complicated situation.
The ease to which title to real properties is perfected is fundamental to harnessing of investments, expansion of business and the growth of economies. The World Bank recognised the importance of title to land in fostering foreign direct investment by including ‘registering property’ as a new indices in its annual Doing Business Report.
Unfortunately, in the 2016 Doing Business Report published by the World Bank, Nigeria is ranked 185th out of 189 countries globally with respect to ‘Ease of Registering Properties’. This is a clear disincentive for foreign and local investors.
The initiative by the Lagos State Government to ease property registration by reducing the number of days required to obtain a C of O is deemed necessary and most likely, long overdue.
As much as we applaud this new narrative being set for the registration process, an announcement on the Lagos State Facebook platform versus the realities of implementation by the Lagos State Lands Registry are two very different scenarios. Some may consider this initiative impossible when putting into consideration the long and cumbersome process involved in obtaining a C of O or Governor’s consent. As a matter of fact, it can be argued that the current 72 days being reduced is also not being adhered to by the Lands Registry. What purpose will the reduction of days required to register a property be, if the entire registration process is not reviewed and revised for true effectiveness?
This implies that the number of days isn’t the only issue to address when trying to implement an efficient registration process. In practical terms, obtaining a C of O takes approximately 6 months to a year to process in Lagos State. I write from a position of experience in this regard. Other states have complained of it taking several years, depending on the level of bureaucratic procedures in the relevant State.
In the same vein, another matter to address is the costs associated with the perfection of title when laid in comparison to other global real estate markets. In the UK, the registration process takes approximately 2 months and 3% maximum cost or Thailand that takes 1day and 1% cost. Nigeria is set at a practical minimum of 6 months at 15% maximum cost.
Credit should be given to the Fashola-led administration that attempted some major reforms to the perfection process. Where the Directorate of Land Services in Lagos State issued a guideline referred to as, “The 30-Day Governor’s Consent to Subsequent Transaction of Land’. The guidelines regulate the entire perfection process. It can however be seen that these guidelines are not being adhered to.
Other attributable factors to add to a weak registration system include, “obsolete laws, weak governance framework, fragmented regulatory structures and administrative malpractices”.
It is therefore clear that the Facebook post will only remain as social media content unless the reforms are real and quantifiable. This can only be achieved by strict adherence to reforms and strict sanctions for non-compliance.
As Africa’s biggest economy with a GDP of about $510 billion, Nigeria has the potential of becoming one of the world’s most admired real estate hubs. However, this cannot be achieved without new laws, impactful regulations, and compliance to reforms and guidelines.
A reduction in the number of days in the registration process is only the start to the conversation of improving our global rankings. The real question is, ‘will Lagos State be willing to continue the conversation? #LASG #ForAGreaterLagos.