We have successfully gone through a most interesting season of elections. Several landmark changes occurred and now we have a new President elect. This was possible because of our citizens, the Nigerian people. There will be no elected officers if there were no citizens therefore, citizenship is at the core of our nationhood. Now is the time to push the fundamental core of our citizen rights/benefits as a major policy trust of this new administration by achieving a “people based housing policy”.
One of our defined rights in the constitution is the right to own property in any part of this country, the constitution guarantees us this right. However the steps to accomplishing this dream is totally at variance with the spirit of the constitution. The reality today is that less than 17% of our citizens own their own properties, compared to other countries even in Africa, we fair terribly bad. South Africa has 56% while Kenya has the highest rate at 73% according to the recent studies of (QSRBN) 2014.
Our study reveals that nearly all citizens in this country can lay claim to a certain portion of Real Estate or land as theirs either through inheritance, aboriginal rights or joint family ownership. Still that does not convey ownership as ownership has a legal requirement which must be evidenced by the possession of a title over the land or Real Estate granted by the consequent government exercising authority in that area.
Arming our citizens with legal title and documented rights over our lands today must form the main policy trust of this Government. It is simple, just ensure that all lands in the country has legal documented title. We propose this exercise as a matter of urgent national emergency as it is the key to a catalytic change in the dynamics of developing, owning and provision of adequate affordable houses for the population. Just as all citizens can acquire international passport, all lands in Nigeria should have title.
Title to land is the first basis for economic value. So many people with various inheritances in different areas can free up some of these Real Estate to the ones who need them or can hold as land bank, awaiting the right time to put them to use and realize their investment in different places where they live which can enhance both their economic well-being and grow their capital base and wealth creation.
This call is urgent. The Government must help us to realize our capacity to satisfy the obligatory right in our constitution to own property. Von Da Bella, a renowned Land Economist and Valuer in his well-researched work in the development of Rome posited that, “You indeed did not live, if while you lived you never owned a piece of God’s earth to your name”.
This writer is a development consultant/Valuer and Realtor. He has consulted for governments and agencies across Africa and other continents.