Most portions of the Land Use Act are antithetical to real estate business, Mark.

Most portions of the Land Use Act are antithetical to real estate business, Mark.

Dr. Emmanuel Mark is a fellow of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers and a former president of the International Right of Way Association (IRWA). He discussed the Land Use Act, commercial real estate, and the impact of inflation on the built environment with Journalists

The right of way on federal roadways has long been a source of contention in the United States. How can we ensure that rules against encroachment on highways are followed?
In fact, protecting the Federal Government’s Right of Way (ROW) has been a key source of contention. The underlying idea is that without authorization, no individual or entity may lawfully occupy or utilize the ROW (land/property) that has been lawfully obtained.

Encroachments occur when an unauthorised object occupies a portion or all of the acquired roadway right of way. They typically endanger motorists, cause damage to state property, and, in some situations, result in adverse possession claims.

Most successful right-of-way protection relies on early, consistent, and explicit right-of-way design, according to experience. Most of the time, the most effective way to enforce the laws is for the acquiring authority to take control as soon as the right of way is acquired and paid for. In addition, government agencies in charge of protecting the right of way must be aware of their responsibilities and avoid indiscriminate encroachment on acquired areas.

In more serious circumstances, the acquiring authority may erect a fence around the property to protect it against encroachment. Fences are typically chosen depending on the type of ROW, the ease of installation and maintenance, and the relative benefit to the authority.

There has been a push for the Land Use Act to be revised to correspond to the generally accepted acquisition and compensation standard. What parts of the law are antithetical to real estate practice? What exactly are the problems?

The Land Use Act’s (LUA) main goal is to make land more accessible and inexpensive for development. However, the Act’s objectives have not been met after 40 years of implementation and administration.

Land whose Certificate of Occupancy (CofO) has been revoked is the unfair area of the law when it comes to acquisition and compensation. Only improvements to the land and ground rent paid in the year of acquisition are eligible for compensation.

This means that if you paid N50 million for a plot of land in Port Harcourt’s Government Reserved Area (GRA) phase one and the land was purchased for public use a year later, you will only be eligible to compensation for ground rent paid in the year of acquisition. You will not be reimbursed for the purchase price you paid. It is completely unjust to property owners.

The legislation also states that if you are given an alternative to your acquired property and the value of the alternative is greater than the value of your property, you will be required to pay the difference. You will not be entitled to the difference if it is lower.
The premise of compensation, we were told, is to put you in the same situation you were in before your property was acquired. That is something that the aforesaid law (sections) cannot do.

This LUA, particularly the portion on compensation, is in violation of the constitution. “No person’s property should be acquired without adequate recompense,” according to the 1979 Constitution.

Most sections are inimical to the real estate practice. An example is where; banks and other financial institutions will not accept bare land as collateral for loans and advances, despite the high price paid to purchase it. This is also as a result of the compensation clause in the Land Use Act, which has nothing for the owner of bare land if C of O is revoked.

The situation has also been a source of serious concern for those who have land and will like to use it as collateral for loans either to develop the land.

The value of the land can be greater than the value of the development on the land in most high-end locations. It is therefore not right to ignore the value of the land and pay compensations only on the land. As a practitioner, this is one of the ways the LUA is inimical towards real estate development and practice.

Infrastructure has been used as a tool to stimulate growth of human settlements in many urban areas. Is this the case in Nigeria? What has been the hindrance to urban development in the country?
Before any settlement could be termed developed, it must have infrastructure services like power, transportation, telecommunications provision, water and sanitation, including the safe disposal of wastes, which are tools to simulate growth in most human settlements.

Policy makers have used infrastructure systems to attract private investments for housing and economic development. In fact, research has shown that there is a relationship between levels of infrastructure and land values and prices.

In emerging markets, inadequate infrastructure can be a substantial barrier to growth. Today, Nigeria is experiencing a rapid growth in urbanisation, which lacks regulations and proper administration, leading to high population density, inadequate infrastructure, lack of affordable housing, flooding due mainly to blockage of canals and waterways by developers, pollution, emergence of slums, crimes, poverty and others.

The challenges to urban development are connected to lack of development and absence of spatial planning policy framework for guidelines and standards for urban as well as regional developments.

Nigerians are feeling the impact of high inflation in the country, especially in the built environment. What’s the likely effect on residential real estate?
Today, inflation rate in the country is over 15 per cent and its effect on real estate is considered a major concern for long-term investor. Inflation certainly has a real estate related side effects, some of which are higher mortgage rates and increase in asset prices, while long-term debts get devalued and construction gets more expensive.

However, real estate has been said to be a hedge against inflation, especially in the residential property market. In most circumstances, an inflationary environment leads to higher rents and increase in asset prices, as real estate is considered a great hedge against inflation because the value of property rises with inflation and the debt on asset is devalued when the value of that debt decreases.

The effect of inflation on residential real estate is usually positive; it offers the most attractive return characteristics and should be considered in the inflation protected portfolios.

The effect of inflation on the market is usually positive for property owners – the value of their property rises with inflation; for investors when you invest, especially at the period that rates are low, while paying the same fixed rate, the return on investment will soar.

Office vacancy rates have continued to peak due to the COVID-19 pandemic induced work-from-home model. Do you think the commercial real estate will bounce back this year and what are your expectations in that segment of the market?
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on real estate is an indirect one; as pandemic affects humans’ activities and these in turn impact the real estate market.

It is evidenced that office-using employment declined while vacancy rates for office space increased significantly. How office property asking rents have responded to the pandemic remains unclear. Due to the long-term required for commercial leases, landlords are unwilling to lower rents, because they expected that market conditions would soon improve.

However, at present, office rent remains relatively stable and in most cases record increased occupier activity, because some offices in the central areas prefer to relocate to suburbs and more affordable locations.

Businesses have since resumed as usual due to the opening up of the economy. I look forward to a more robust office property markets.

The right of way association is little known among Nigerians. What are the aims and objectives of the professional body in the built environment?
The International Right of Way Association (IRWA) is a global, member-led organisation of dedicated professionals within the right of way industry. It was established in 1934 as a not-for-profit organisation and acts as a platform for members to have global industry-wide recognitions, designation and certifications and to elevate the role of right of way professionals by strengthening their industry relevance.

It is a global body of over 10,000 members from over 15 countries around the world. Though not popular like professional bodies in the built environment, our members have been involved in most infrastructural and real estate projects in Nigeria.

The organisation was inaugurated in 2013, as the first chapter in West Africa and the second in Africa. IRWA’s purpose has always been to improve people’s quality of life through infrastructure development.

Our chapter consists estate surveyors, land surveyors, engineers, lawyers, town planners and others involved in right of way acquisition and management. Our clients now appreciate our roles in the right of way acquisition project.

Though not as popular as we would want, the present executives are doing a lot in the area of public enlightenment, promotion of the association and its activities.

Source: Africanhousingnews

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