By Akanimo Sampson
Worried by the escalating number of Nigerians falling prey to dubious real estate developers in Abuja, and other parts of the country, Housing Development Advocacy Network (HDAN), a civic group, is currently pressing the Buhari administration to regulate this strategic sector of the nation’s economy as part of its anti-corruption war.
HDAN Executive Director, Festus Adebayo, says the only potent medicine that can abort the activities dubious estate developers is regulation. His group is already bracing to work with the authorities in exposing perpetrators of such heinous acts. HDAN is also warning that perpetrators of such evil acts will be named and shamed to face the full wrath of the law.
While acknowledging the good work of Lagos State Real Estate Regulatory Authority which according to this property rights activist, ‘’is one of the most commendable initiatives of Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu’’, he adds, “We hereby call on President Muhammadu Buhari and FCT Minister to establish Real Estate Regulation Agency to check cases of real estate frauds in the Federal Capital Territory.”
The Lagos State Real Estate Regulatory Authority is however, concerned with regulating real estate transactions in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria by identifying persons eligible to be licensed as real estate practitioners, and provides for the issuance or renewal of annual permits, as well as collating and registering real estate transactions in the state.
Specifically, the Authority has the responsibility for maintaining a register of Licensed Real Estate Practitioners and sanctioning of unlicensed Estate Agents in the state. In its bid to sanitise and promote transparency, the state is keeping a database of persons dealing in real estate transactions, regulating and monitoring the activities of all practitioners. Interestingly, the Sanwo-Olu administration is ensuring strict compliance and adherence to the law in its efforts to protect citizens and rid the commercial heartbeat of Nigeria of unethical practices in the sector.
The HDAN’s advocacy for a regulatory agency in Abuja for the sector is coming following findings by Premium Times, an online newspaper that there are many Nigerians who are keying into one or more housing plans with different estate developers who are yet to get what they paid for, and who do not know where to lodge their complaints.
Those who spoke to the newspaper said they sacrifice all their hard-earned money and took loans to offset their housing plan which is yet to be delivered to them. Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) is however, claiming that it regulates the real estate sector in Abuja. Its Director of Mass Housing and Public Private Partnership, Emmanuel Oluwadamisi, says “we do serve as mediators between developers and clients when things don’t seem to go well, and by the grace of God we have been able to resolve many of such issues whenever they arise.”
According to him, the people having issues with developers can take their complaints to his agency. “They can always reach out to us”, he said.
Adebayo, the HDAN chief does not seem to be persuaded. ‘’Rising cases of unwholesome activities in the sector are so disturbing and alarming’’, he told this reporter. Adebayo is however, a banker, lawyer and media guru. He is a graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University, with Masters in Business Administration from University of Lagos, and a member of Nigeria Institute of Management. He is a leading promoter of housing development in Nigeria, and has received commendation awards for his unparalleled contributions to housing development from Nigeria Institute of Town Planners and Nigeria Institute of Building.
He is lamenting that dubious elements in the industry are taking advantage of the over 22 million housing gaps to exploit innocent Nigerians and thereby defrauding them of their hard-earned money, pointing out that as an advocacy group, HDAN will be working with the Nigeria Police and Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to sanitise the industry.
Continuing, he said the group is aware of the cases against most of the perpetrators of fraud in the industry, promising, ‘’we will be working closely with Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN) to ensure the passage of the Real Estate Regulation Bill into law. The increase in the number of Nigerians that have been scammed under the pretext of providing a house for them is alarming. Our investigation shows that some of the dubious developers are having many cases with the police and the EFCC. As an NGO, the issue of consumer protection is top on our agenda. We will support and collaborate with appropriate agencies in achieving this.’’
Purpose of regulation in Lagos
Lagos State Estate Agency Regulatory Law, Cap L28, Laws of Lagos State, 2015 presently in operation in the state, empowers it to do the following: Monitor, regulate and keep a data of all Real Estate Transactions in the state; register, issue permits and keep a Register of all Real Estate Practitioners; register Property Developers (individually) and their projects[ monitoring foreigners activities in real estate transactions in the state; and appoint a Committee of Inquiry to investigate complaints of the public on the misconduct of Real Estate Practitioners in the state.
Others include, revoke permits either by administrative means or through the courts; ensure protection of citizens from illegal transactions; prosecuting errant Real Estate Practitioners accused of defrauding citizens of the state; and eliminate impostors, fraudsters, sharp practices connected with persons who claims to be accredited agents but whose sole objective is to defraud the residents of the state who engage their services of renting, leasing, buying, selling property development and other related activities.
In addition, it will ensure that any real estate transaction in the State is extremely transparent, gain market confidence, and dislodge fraudulent Practitioners and eliminate any type of property fraud in the state. Its objectives include and are not limited to the following: Enhance transparency in Real Estate investment transactions; elimination of unethical Real Estate Business transactions in the sector; improve real estate investment business in the state; conform to global best practices; liaise with Inter- related MDAs while collating a database on Property transactions and newly approved developments; and ensuring/confirming the payment of fees, taxes or charges on property transactions.
In furtherance of its objectives, the agency launched a portal for the registration of the practitioners in property market and real estate business. The online platform was unveiled by Governor Sanwo-Olu, on October 30, 2019 at a grand event in Victoria Island.
The seamless and robust platform was put in place to gather data of genuine stakeholders in the industry for the purposes of planning and promoting ease of business. More importantly, It is also a way of addressing the issue of unethical practices and lack of transparency in the sector and the responsibility of government in the protection of lives and properties.
BENEFITS TO STAKEHOLDERS
It is helping to eliminate touts in the real estate business, enhancing transparency in real estate transaction by discouraging fraud, misrepresentation and deceit, security of investment in real estate transactions, creating a new societal value that will sustain Lagos position as an investment destination, and providing necessary support to prospective investors in real estate.
It is equally improving ease of doing business in real estate, conforming with global best practices, assisting in mediation with erring parties, giving technical supports from conception to final development, training and Retraining of registered members, giving technical advice and support by collaborating with other agencies of the state government such as Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning & Urban Development, Lagos State Building Control Agency, Lands Bureau among others, giving technical advice and support by collaboration with others, and keeping of Data for various need/requests of the large populace home and abroad.