Recent developments have shown that land acquisitions by state governments are becoming punitive rather than blessings, and pit communities against the authorities.
In some instances, adequate compensations are not envisaged, property owners and communities have resisted laudable projects by investors over issues bordering on acquired lands and properties.
Experts say, in paying compensations, government must put the affected people in a better state than they were before the acquisition, adding the problem is that governments still see compensation and development as a favour to the people.
A case is that of the residents and property owners in Ijegun/ Ijeododo/ Abule – Ado in Alimosho local council in Lagos. Owners were at logger ahead with the Lagos State Government over alleged plan to demolish their properties for road construction from Ijegun Bus-Stop to Ijeododo linking Abule-Ado.
They were afraid that government would destroy their properties in the guise of development. The residents in the letter to Lagos State Governor signed by the secretary of the affected landlords, Aboderin S.O, argued that there was a master plan of Lagos state designated for Road Construction from Ijegun Bus Stop to Ijeododo, linking Abule-Ado,
They also said that they did not build on government right of way as alleged and that their houses were wrongly marked for demolition in contravention of Lagos state master plan for the community.
According to them, their property and houses were not under government acquisition, neither were they under High Tension nor blocking the drainage and were not under NNPC corridor.
They further argued that some residence have been there for over 40 years, while five landlords have died out of heart shock, due to the harassment of land grabbers / government agencies.
Speaking on the issue of compensation, former President of the Africa Chapter of the International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI), Chudi Ubosi, stressed that what should ordinarily constitute adequate compensation are two different things.
According to him, under the Land Use Act (LUA) compensation is paid on cash crops on the land, unexhausted ground rent and the value of the developments on the site.
In effect, he said, the LUA does not recognise the value of land because as far as government is concerned all land is vested in the State or Federal Government and so the land really belongs to them.
“They will not pay for what belongs to them. This is where the inadequacy of compensation comes in especially when the land has been acquired from a third party at exhorbitant costs.
“Ordinarily under land or property acquisition minimum compensation payable should be addition of the replacement cost of the assets attached to the land, value of the land & a few other costs tangential to the property owner.
The government should amend the Act so that land value is taken into consideration in determining adequate compensation.
Also, the Chairman, Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria (ESVARBON), Sir Nweke Umezuruike, said the law does not permit private properties to be acquired except for public purposes.
He explained that government as a matter of law, must specify the particular public purposes for which the land is acquired.
According to him, government just says for public purposes and that enables them to keep holding the land until they want to apply it to any other public purposes.
“But, we have been advocating that the particular public purpose for which property is being acquired should be stated in the notice of acquisition and that if public purposes fail, then, the land should revert to erstwhile owners.
“Nobody is respecting that and unfortunately, we are not a litigating nation. If we are a litigating nation, where if any government failed to abide by the law, affected individuals could take government to court, such will not be happening.
“But people are afraid of doing that, so government does what it likes and gets away with it. It is illegal and we are unfortunately looking for better results and that is why we are not getting the principles established.”
Also, a former Lagos State Branch Chairman, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Samuel Ukpong, said Sections 29 to 31 of Land Use Act talked about compensation.
Ukpong said the Act also made provision for the appointment of consultants, recognising estate surveyors and valuers as appropriate consultants for the purposes of enumeration, calculating both the claims that is to be paid for and the head of claims identified, including crops and unexhausted improvements.
He said the law made provision for methods of calculating compensations that need to be paid, while the appropriate officer in the ministry is supposed to determine the rates at which it will be used to compute the crops on.
“Although, there is contention in that because what should be for crops should be what is the market value. If an appropriate officer gives a rate for orange and this orange has a life span of 50 years , what is the yield over 50 years that you will now pay maybe N2,000 and then you say that the people have been adequately compensated. Those are the issues; then the payment of these amount using the consultants that have been so appointed and recommended by law.
According to him, the compensation, which is being paid for now is not adequate .
“If you use the cost method, there is a replacement and reinstatement approaches as the basis of the compensation. Reinstatement means that you put the person into the position he was prior to this acquisition, or you replace what is going to be replaced and in replacing it, most time, they use the rate which will not put the person in that state that he was and that is not adequate compensation.
“If you say for your property that is there , I am going to pay you say N100,000 , that is for the building, where is the person going to get the land to build? Is he going to get the land free? The answer is no but the law does not take that into consideration ,so the compensation that you paid is not adequate, you just paid for the unexhausted improvement without taking into consideration which land the person is going to erect his building and how would he gets it .
“The cost of land acquisition and preparation is quite high, so the law is made as punitive to the people but the government will argue that they are building infrastructure but then you are still building for the people. So you must put the person in a better state than he was before you do the acquisition , not minding the fact that you are doing acquisition. When government sees the compensation and development as a favour to the people that is why they break down on people’s land and said they are giving them compensation because they are bringing development. You ought to bring development , you are not doing them a favour that is the primary duty of government .”
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