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Kuramo Conference and Legal Framework for Friendly Land Reform

06 Dec 2010

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Gbolahan Gbadamosi, who was at the recent Kuramo Conference in Lagos, says the key to unlocking the housing market in Lagos may lie in the passage into law of the Law to Consolidate All Laws for the Registration of Titles in Lagos State
 
One of the aims of the just concluded Kuramo Conference which was an international Colloquium on Law and Developments was to identify and examine emerging concepts and new developments in contemporary issues in criminal jurisdiction, economic and social rights, especially at it concerns unbridled corruption among Africa leaders.
The success of the gathering should be located in the implementation of the views of experts and laymen which Lagos State Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN in his address said was to give Africa a voice in global decision making.
One of the critical issues arising is how the State Government should consolidate its land reform policy against the background of the competing requests for the scarce commodity in the state of aquatic splendor; hence the paper jointly presented by Dunn Loren Merrifield and Executive Vice- President Real Estate Lawyers Association (RELAN) Mr. Adekunle Omotola titled, ‘Housing in Lagos State: The Mortgage Financing Option’ stands out.
 
The legal angle anchored by Omotola should be juxtaposed  with the June 7 2010 judgment of the Court of Appeal, Lagos judicial division between INCORPORATED TRUSTEES  OF KURAMO DEVELOPMENT TRUST  AND ATTORNEY GENERAL OF LAGOS STATE AND OTHERS CA / L / 542 / 07 (Unreported).
Omotola, a son of former Vice Chancellor of University of Lagos (UNILAG) and doyen of land law, posited that Governor Fashola has taken giant strides towards confronting huge challenges militating against mortgage creation. The passing into   law of Mortgage and Property Law (MPL) of Lagos State 2010 was described as a bold step in this direction.
While signing the bill into law, Fashola said “the signing into law is a momentous step we have taken in our effort to provide affordable housing for the people of Lagos State… the missing word is not lack of houses but lack of affordable and sustainable housing delivery. This is the only way everyone can have shelter; this is the only way we can stop corruption and other malpractices”.
 
The highlights of the MPL, according to Omotola are: the creation of long term funding, it encourages mortgage creation and home ownership. He drew the attention of the government to the implications and weaknesses of sections 1, 12, 24, 53 – 61.
After identifying the challenges of mortgage finance, among others he recommended that all payments should be done with a single receipt, incomplete regulation document should not be accepted while multiple verification of payment should be discarded.
Deployment of Geo Information Survey (GIS) as soon as possible, significant investment in technology and improved capacity building were some other recommendations suggested.
 
During the Land Use Act Summit chaired by the former Chief Justice Alfa Belgore organised by RELAN in April 2009 in Abuja, Omotola opined that “the process of obtaining Governor’s Consent does not confer any value on the applicant. It does not cure any defect in title. The State takes all the benefits without burden”.
At the same forum, the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice Innocent Umezulike, carpeted the governors on the ways they have been implementing the Act since its promulgation.
Speaking also at the Fifth International Housing finance workshop (IHFW/2009) in Lagos in 2009, Omotola in a paper ‘Learning the failure of the Masters’ among others suggested that consent of the governor should be simplified and timeous, and that members of the Land Use Allocation Committee approved by the Governor should be confirmed by the House of Assembly.
If I may ask: Is there any record for government policy pronouncements on all issues including land reforms? My answer is in negative.
 
Two years ago the Federal Government through Goodluck Jonathan as the Vice President at the Vanguard South-South Legislative Retreat in Constitutional Review in Port-Harcourt Rivers State stated government’s desire to review a variety of laws which according to him have not helped the country to develop.
“Prominent among these laws is the Land Use Act. Let me use this opportunity to reaffirm the administration’s commitment towards amending or repealing of such laws that are not in sync with aspiration for a society governed by rule of law and respect for human dignity,” Jonathan had said.
Alas, the Land Use Act was not an item on the table of the National Assembly at this ongoing ‘Jankara’ amendment of the 1999 Constitution.
 
On how the recent judgment can be of assistance to the Lagos State Government in its drive on land charges, the brief history of the case is as follows: The appellant claimed before the High Court of Lagos inter-alia:
A declaration that the deed of assignment dated 19th December, 2002 made between the Kuramo Development Trust and Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc in respect of a piece or parcel of land comprising of portions of plots 6, 7 and 8 Block 1 of Oniru Family private Layout TPAO 987, Victoria island Extension, Lagos State, more particularly described and delineated in the survey plan No. LAT/355/LA/98 dated 2nd October 1998 is registrable under the lands Instruments Registration Law (Cap. 111 Laws of Lagos State of Nigeria 1994) and under no other law;
A declaration that the registration fee inclusive of any late registration charges payable in respect of the aforesaid deed of assignment dated 19th December, 2002 made between the Kuramo Development Trust and Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc is the sum of N40.33 (Forty Naira and-thirty three Kobo only);
 
An order that the sum of N1,047,709.67 (One million and forty seven thousand, Seven Hundred and Nine Naira and Sixty Seven Kobo only) or any other sum found by this Honourable court to have been paid by the claimants to Lagos State Government in excess of the appropriate registration fee, inclusive of any late registration charges payable on the aforesaid deed of assignment dated 19th December 2002 made between the Kuramo Development Trust and Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc be refunded to the claimants by Lagos State Government and
An order directing the 2nd defendant to forthwith accept and register the aforesaid deed of assignment dated 19th December, 2002.
 
The lower court found that the claimant’s case lacked merit and dismissed it leading to the appeal.
In a unanimous judgment anchored by Justice Raphael Chikwe Agbo Lagos the court held that the deed of assignment dated December 19, 2002 was registrable under the Lands Instrument Registration Laws, Laws of Lagos State 2004 as well as ordering the state government to refund to the company any money left after deducting the said fund the money already paid over.
To avoid this scenario, the Lagos State House of Assembly should reconsider for passage the Law to Consolidate All Laws for the Registration of Titles in Lagos State. 
 
With the faithful implementation of the proposed law if passed, the place of Governor Fashola in the history of unlocking the housing market is assured not only in Lagos State but throughout the federation. Here lies a crucial significance of Kuramo Conference 2010.
•Gbadmosi writes from Lagos

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