There is no gainsaying the fact that corruption is very endemic in Nigeria. Otherwise, the menace will never have featured in electoral campaigns in this part of the world. If there is no corruption, there would be no need to establish anti-corruption agencies, such as the Police, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal, and the Bureau of Public Procurement, among others.
One sector in Nigeria that is reeking of corrupt practices is land and housing. Try purchase plot of land from individuals in Nigeria’s urban centres and you’ll be lucky not to be duped by greedy landowners and their agents who, in many instances, sell same plot of land to many prospective buyers.
This ugly phenomenon, which is most pronounced in Lagos State, has spread to many other towns and cities across the country. Buying land from private developers is not without its own headaches as the many attractive land offers sometimes turn to be a hoax. If not, the cheap offers end up being very exorbitant after all manners of administrative charges are leveled on a purported cheap parcel of land.
While it is best to buy land from the state government, getting genuine land title documents becomes a serious challenge. There are syndicates operating in the precinct of Ministry of Land and Housing that specialise in extorting prospective land title seekers. Getting a genuine Certificate of Occupancy and other land title documents is like a camel passing through the eye of a needle. If a prospective land title seeker is not ready to grease the palms of unscrupulous officials of the ministry, one may never get his or her land title documents processed.
There is hardly anyone, except those who probably know the governor or commissioners or other VIPs in government, who will not have to pay above the official rate for processing of land title documents.
If you pay hefty bribe and get genuine land titles in Nigeria, I congratulate you. Why? It is because you are among the lucky few. Many are issued fake land titles, even after paying all the official and unofficial levies. The land owners may not know this until they start developing the property and officials of the Ministry of Land come around for inspection. By the time they request evidence of official approval for the building under construction and you provide your land deeds, you may be informed, matter-of-fact, that the documents in your possession are fake land papers. Many people have fallen victim to this scam.
Corruption is so endemic in the administration of land titles that once a prospective land title seeker is ready to cough out sufficient bribes, he or she can get approvals to build in unauthorised places, such as right of way, water plains, areas reserved for recreational purposes and indeed, under PHCN high tension wires.
On the other hand, there are reported cases of officials of the Department of Development Control in the Ministry of Land and Housing going to building sites to extort land owners, even when such landlords had genuine approvals.
The corruption chain is equally manifest in building projects. Most times, artisans employed to work on such projects are skilled in milking property owners. They inflate the prices of building materials and even end up buying inferior ones. There have been reported cases of bricklayers stealing bags of cement from project sites, especially when the property owners did not hire somebody to supervise the workers. When there is strict monitoring, they may decide to waste the materials in order to “teach the owner of the property a lesson”.
Carpenters on building sites also engage in their own sharp practices. They over-quote and under-supply building materials. If they don’t under-supply, they will buy woods and planks that are not insect resistant. As such, no sooner the house is built than the termites will eat off the roofing planks and woods, thereby necessitating substantive repairs.
Many of the welders, the electricians, the plumbers and other artisans engaged in the building industry are merchants of corruption. They inflate the cost of materials and still end up buying substandard products. Many building contractors are masters of this ignoble game.
Apart from site workers, there are also street urchins, popularly called ‘Area Boys’ or Omo Onile, literally meaning ‘children of land owners’, unlawfully going around to demand cash payments at different stages of the building project. They collect money during the foundation stage, roofing stage, and other stages of building construction. Failure to part with the demanded sum may lead to stoppage of work or destruction of work done.
There is, therefore, a nexus between corruption and the flurry of building collapse incidents being experienced all around this country. Building houses and other edifices with substandard products is a disaster in waiting. Bribing ministry officials to obtain wrong approvals also contributes in no small measure to the spate of building collapse. Unless and until corruption is rooted out of the land and housing sector, there may not be an end to the heartrending incidents of building collapse.
Talking about building approvals, it is important to use this opportunity to sound a note of warning to approving officers in all the federal and states Ministries of Land and Housing to be aware of the provisions of the recently signed National Disability Act.
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, January 23, 2019 signed the National Disability Bill into an Act. The Act provides for a five-year transitional period within which public buildings, structures or automobile are to be modified to be accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, including those on wheelchairs. The Act further provides that: “Before erecting any public structure, its plan shall be scrutinised by the relevant authority to ensure that the plan conforms with the building code.
“A government or government agency, body or individual responsible for the approval of building plans shall not approve the plan of a public building if the plan does not make provision for accessibility facilities in line with the building code. An officer who approves or directs the approval of a building plan that contravenes the building code, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of at least N1m or a term of imprisonment of two years or both.” I do hope the creeping corruption in that sector will not render this provision of the Act as a toothless bulldog, which can only bark but not bite.
Source: Jide Ojo