FASHOLA TO C of O APPLICANTS: WITHDRAW ALL FORGED DOCUMENTS NOW OR FACE PROSECUTION
…Governor signs Land Use Act Title Documentation Regulation 2012 into law
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) on Monday signed the Land Use Act Title Documentation Regulation of 2012 into law, imploring anyone with pending applications for Certificate of Occupancy and Governor’s Consent based on forged documents to honourably withdraw them and make fresh application to the Lands Bureau.
The Governor who spoke at the Conference Room of the Lagos House, Ikeja added that the State Government will continue to check on all such applications to be sure if there are more of such forgeries, adding that if such are detected, they will be prosecuted by the Attorney General.
The Governor who backed up his claims with examples of three different cases of corporate organizations and individuals who predicated their applications for Certificates of Occupancy on forged documents said the practice must stop.
“Let us look at the case of a company called First Bite Food Limited which claims to have been incorporated on 30th January 1977 and claimed to have acquired the land in question on 17th April 1976, but when we looked at the filer and I directed that a search be conducted at the Company Registry, we found out that the company which claimed to have been incorporated in 1977 was actually incorporated in 1997. Meanwhile, it claimed ownership of land that was acquired 21 years before it was formed”.
“There is also RSK Golden Crown Limited which claims to have been incorporated in September 1974 and presented a false Certificate of Incorporation purportedly signed by U.F. Abdullahi as Registrar. And U.F. Abdullahi did not become Registrar of the Company till the early 90s. So that was what put me on the enquiry and I directed that a search be conducted. We also found out that a company that claimed to have been incorporated in 1974 was actually incorporated on 6th September 1996 whereas it claims to have bought the land well before then”.
“There is also the example of a citizen Anthony Ikechukwu Chinwe. He claims to have acquired the land in April 1976 but from his tax records, we found out that he was born on 19th December 1964 which means he was 12 years old when he acquired the land. These are the things that create a market for forgery and for touting within land transaction and generally give our officials even the very hardworking ones a very bad name”, Governor Fashola explained.
The Governor reiterated that 34 years is enough long time for the transitional provisions of the Land Use Act to have taken place in the country, adding that if people want land in the State, it is available, they should apply and such applications will be processed and they will get allocations instead of seeking to obtain it through false documents.
The State Governor stated that in addition to the new law ensuring efficient service delivery, it will also decommission a lot of touts, a lot of forgers and the people will be better able to interact with the citizens who need the service and get rid of the people who thrive on illegalities.
He explained that while officers of the State Government in the Lands Bureau can improve on their abilities, they are not helped by members of the public who inundate them with forged documents which makes it difficult often times to process the documents because they cannot stand up to public scrutiny.
“We get complaints that it has taken four years for some to process Certificate of Occupancy. They are asking me for money to process C of O, when indeed the reality is that all of the documents or most of the documents that are the foundation of the applications are forged”, the Governor observed.
Continuing Governor Fashola lamented the high rate of such forgeries, noting that government has already started the process of prosecuting some offenders to serve as deterrence.
“In one day alone while processing application for C of Os in a batch of files for about 50, I detected eight that were all predicated on forged documents, forged certificates of Incorporation, forged receipts, tax documents. Apart from the fact that the Certificate of Incorporation of the companies was forged, the names of the Registrars were also forged. I have referred this to the Attorney General office to prosecute those companies because they give us a bad name as a government as if always we are the problem”, he declared.
He said the signing ceremony is a result of many months of backroom work within the Lands Bureau and the consideration of the State Executive Council in order to improve the Government’s capacity to render services to the citizens and processing of land documentation and land services generally.
The State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, Mr. Ade Ipaiye said the background to the new regulation is found in the procedure that a lot of parties to land transactions had adopted in trying to perfect their titles.
He added that what has been witnessed over time is that up until these days; a lot of purchasers of interest in land still come to the Lands Bureau to present receipts that they bought the land before the enactment of the Land Use Act.
The Attorney General also said a closer look at the applications and the files showed that some of the applicants were not born as of 1978 and they purport to have bought the land before 1978, adding that it is apparent that a lot of forgeries, a lot of misrepresentations goes on in the process of seeking the Governor’s Consent or a Certificate of Occupancy.
He stated that the State has looked closely at the cause and in trying to ascertain why people do it this way; it appears that they want to eagerly fulfill the requirements of the Land Use Act which entitles anyone who held land prior to the commencement of the Act to apply to the Governor for Certificate of Occupancy.
“Now again our review says this practice is not even necessary. It is borne out of ignorance. The Land Use Act has already made provision for people that purchased interest in land after the commencement of the Act, so it is really not necessary for anyone to tell lies or forge documents in the course of applying for Certificate of Occupancy or Governor’s Consent.
“We also recognize that a lot of people who acquire interest in land and who took possession in 1978 or later actually did not have the valid deed of assignment which is also borne out of ignorance. They merely take a receipt from the assignor or take a document which evidences the transaction and shows that there have been sale of an interest in land. But they do not couch it in the manner required by law so as to qualify as a deed of assignment”.
He said the reason for the proposal in the regulation is to enable the Governor to give assent to a format whereby all of those who do not have the proper documentation on their land but are desirous of perfecting their titles could come forward, obtain a form which will include information about how they came about the land, for how long they have been in possession and if that possession had been disturbed by any third party claiming interest on it or not.
He said the form also constitute a declaration on oath as every applicant by filling out the form is testifying on oath to each of the details included in the form, adding that when it is submitted, the State Government will take the additional step of advertising the application because it will then constitute an application for Governor’s Consent.
Mr. Ipaiye explained that the proposal is that six months after the commencement of the regulation which comes into effect on August 1, for six months thereafter the form will be made available and the Lands Bureau and anyone who had acquired land and who had been in undisturbed possession will come forward, fill out the form, testify to all the information supplied and the State will advertise the information so that anyone with objection will come forward and if there is none, the Governor will give consent on the land.
The event was witnessed by members of the State Executive Council including the Commissioner for Education, Mrs Olayinka Oladunjoye, Commerce and Industry, Mrs Sola Oworu, Information and Strategy, Mr. Lateef Ibirogba, Special Duties, Dr Wale Ahmed and Permanent Secretary in the Lands Bureau, Mr. Hakeem Muri-Okunola and Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Otunba Nurudeen Ojora-Adejiyan and senior government officials.
The Permanent Secretary in the Lands Bureau, Mr. Hakeem Muri-Okunola shedding more light on the provisions of the new regulations later in an interview with newsmen, saying the implication of the new law is that people will now have title for documents and they can vouch for the integrity of same.
“It also means that the proper procedure and due processes will now be carried out and instead of such people applying for Certificate of Occupancy they would be applying for Governor’s Consent which should be the proper procedure”, Mr. Okunola added.
He said among the benefits to individuals is that they can now approach or deal in their land in a more genuine fashion and manner while in terms of duration subject to the provision of documents that the integrity of is not in doubt, the Lands Bureau will be able to process within the normal 45 days duration period.
He added that if however there are no supporting route of title documents, the application will be advertised for about 21 days minimum to attract objection or no objections before it is processed, stressing that in addition to the 21 days, one should look at about two months to process the application.
Also speaking, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ade Ipaiye emphasized that the new set of regulations creates a six months window for anyone who today does not possess a proper deed of assignment adding that thereafter the government will insist on the normal deed of assignment to be processed for Governor’s Consent.
He informed that secondly, government is henceforth taking steps to prosecute those that have been apprehended, adding that it is also a golden opportunity for anyone who has submitted but who has not been apprehended to come forward and withdraw such documents because henceforth anyone that presents forged documents to Lands Bureau stands the prospects of facing two things.
“One, Lands Bureau has been specifically conferred with authority here to reject any document that they are not satisfied with at their discretion and secondly if such is submitted and it is proved to be false documents, such a person would be prosecuted”.
“For punishment, it is in the criminal law, you could get up to a year imprisonment for forgery. It is the same. This does not create a separate offence. It is the same as has always been in our criminal law”, the Attorney General emphasized.