By Michael Chibuzo
During the 2023 presidential election campaigns, the then candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu unveiled the Renewed Hope manifesto, which contains a bundle of promises and general policy directions his administration will implement if elected. Majority of Nigerians bought into the Renewed Hope Agenda and freely gave him the job of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on February 25th, 2023.
From day one in office, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has not lost sight of the Renewed Hope manifesto and in line with his pledge to be a doer, the President is gradually turning the promises contained therein into actions. The latest of such promises that is about to materialise into concrete action is in the housing sector where the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development has set in motion efforts to strengthen land administration as well as mortgage and consumer credit reforms in the country in line with pages 24 and 25 of the Renewed Hope manifesto.
WHAT DID RENEWED HOPE MANIFESTO PROMISE?
The Renewed Hope manifesto under the housing policy section promised to review and revise the Land Use Act, streamline and rationalise the land conveyance process and to reduce the barriers against efficient use of land. By putting in place a more efficient land allocation system, the expectation is that it will bolster the housing industry and lower cost for investors and customers.
Also, in line with the long-standing vision of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Renewed Hope manifesto equally promised to undertake a comprehensive reform in the way mortgage is administered in Nigeria while introducing consumer credit into the housing sector to increase home ownership among the low income segment of the society.
THE MAJOR BARRIERS IN LAND ADMINISTRATION
For decades, it is common to hear politicians or industry experts advocating for the review of the Land Use Act 1978 with some describing the Act as the biggest barrier to efficient land administration in Nigeria. I will highlight the issues around the Act as concisely as possible.
The Land Use Act sought to end racketeering and the unending litigations in land transactions due to rising demand for land; make land easily available for large scale agricultural and industrial investments; allow government to acquire land for public development easily; and ensure that land is available to all citizens who need it through equitable allocation of land and not just to the rich and influential in the society.
However, the Land Use Act has not been able to make land use in Nigeria efficient rather it has stifled it in many ways. Two major reasons are responsible for this, first is the Act’s inherent contradictions and defects; the second is institutional weakness and lack of political will in the country to secure a just, fair and effective implementation of the Act.
Today, Nigeria is still bogged down by inadequate land information systems, complex land tenure systems; cumbersome and time-consuming land registration processes contributing to delays and corruption in the system; the lack of a streamlined and transparent registration process discouraging investment and hindering economic development; inadequate urban planning leading to informal settlements congestion and improper land use; and inadequate legal and regulatory frameworks resulting in legal uncertainties. These obstacles make it difficult for individuals and businesses to navigate the land administration system with confidence.
As at today, key statistics on Nigeria’s Land Administration show that:
1) Nigeria ranks 186th out of 190 countries on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business index in terms of ease of registering properties.
2) The land administration system across several metrics includes an average of 12 procedures and 92 days to register landed properties, costing up to 11% of the property value.
3) Nigeria has a score of 8 out of 30 in terms of the quality of land administration. About 97% of the land is unregistered but traded regularly.
4) According to PWC, Nigeria has $300bn in dead capital.
This means that streamlining land administration will unlock the potential of land as an economic resource and a catalyst for economic growth, helping to lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty.
WHAT THE MINISTRY OF HOUSING SEEKS TO DO
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development led by a highly competent industry expert, Architect Ahmed Dangiwa as Minister has been setting the tone for what is shaping up to be the most consequential reforms in Nigeria’s land administration and housing development in many decades. For the first time since the enactment of the Land Use Act, a deliberate and serious effort is underway to remove all the bottlenecks that have made the Act a failure.
The Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Ahmed Dangiwa announced few days ago that the federal government is working to establish a National Land Commission to enhance land administration matters in Nigeria. The Commission will serve as a central institution that will provide the necessary framework, guidelines and regulations operationalising the Land Use Act to achieve efficient land administration in Nigeria. The Act itself is undergoing a comprehensive review that will eventually be sent to the national assembly for legislative action.
As part of efforts to amend the Land Use Act, the Minister met with the Presidential Technical Committee on Land Reforms (PTCLR) led by Prof. Peter O. Adeniyi where he emphasised that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has the political will to drive through the recommendations and assured that the inputs of the Committee will be incorporated into the Land Reform Strategy of the present administration.
The task is definitely not going to be an easy one because the first major hurdle to cross in the review of the land use act is a constitutional amendment where the Land Use Act is extricated from Section 315 of the Constitution, which would then pave way for the repeal of the Act and enactment of a new comprehensive Land Use Law that incorporates all the needed reforms. The establishment of the National Land Commission is a quick win that can be delivered without a constitutional amendment but which will still bring about significant streamlining of land administration in Nigeria.
Fortunately, with a President Bola Ahmed Tinubu that is determined to remove all bottlenecks that stunts economic growth and drives away investors, it is almost certain that he will mobilize all the necessary political machinery to ensure the national assembly pass the reforms and where necessary, State Houses of Assembly affirm them. This is a Renewed Hope promise kept and one which will kick-start the mortgage revolution promised by Mr. President.