By Benjamin Omoike
The Lagos State Government says one important way it hopes to bring sanity – in terms of regulation – to the real estate industry in the state, is by adopting a holistic approach, one of which is to engage Nigerians in the diaspora, to participate in the sector.
This much was revealed by the Special Adviser to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Housing, who equally doubles as Chief Executive Officer of the Lagos State Real Estate Regulatory Authority, LASRERA, Mrs Toke Benson Awoyinka.
According to her, one major step which the state government has taken, and which is yielding positive dividends is the setting up of a working portal by her Agency. She says the response has been huge from people, especially those in the Diaspora.
“We’ve had situations where even Lagos State Government officials have come in here, and they were referred by their family members and friends in the Diaspora, that they know of a Real Estate Regulatory Authority platform, which they have gone to, that has told them what the Lagos State Government is doing in sanitising the industry, and that they would have confidence if they can actually come in and check out what we’re doing.
“At the same time, we have almost resolved a particular issue, also which was a petition from the Diaspora, with a big time developer in Lagos. We are at the verge of that resolution right now. We’ve had online meetings between the practitioners and the public, who had made the complaint. So, in the Diaspora, I think we have done very well, and its mainly on the platform and advocacy. We’ve also had people in the Diaspora, who have called in, asking us to recommend developers for them, that they’ve listened to all our advocacy telling them that for you to deal with a developer in Lagos, you ensure that he’s registered with government, and government has done due diligence on those developers and real estate agents. So, in that line, the Diaspora has really caught the fire.”
She adds that real estate practitioners and the general public back home, as well, have not been left out of participation on the portal, which is evidently making a huge impact.
“On the side of the practitioners, we launched our portal on the 11th of June, and since then till the 9th of July, we had over a thousand people who had started their registration process on the portal. So, I would say that’s a huge acceptance by the public and also by the practitioners. Since then, we’ve had various petitions come in – land dispute matters, encroachment matters, agency matters. We’ve had petitions here that we have actually resolved, because we’re going to come up with a committee of enquiries, which is being set up as we speak. It’s going to deal with petitions in-house, so we can do resolutions here before we transmit any, if necessary, to the law courts.
“We’ve had, also, people of the Media come in here, we’ve had Channels TV come in here reporting an incident in Abraham Adesanya, of 158 people who were defrauded of a 50-unit building. We’ve taken it up as well, the case in being transferred to the office of the DPP in Lagos State, so that Lagos can join that suit and prosecute on behalf of the citizens of Lagos. So, talking about acceptance, I can reel so many instances for you of petitions that have come in, and we have taken up and we’re actually working on these right now,” she said.
On similar cases that have been brought to the fore, and are being tackled headlong by her Agency, the S.A cited a particular incident which occurred in Ajao Estate.
“I will give you the instance of the matter in Ajao Estate. About 244 people were defrauded in Ajao Estate. We took that matter to court. The court forfeited that property to us, we’re in the process of disposing that property, and we’re going to be returning the money back to the individuals who were defrauded. And we have not collected a dime to prosecute that matter.”
She stressed that the state government is not resting on its oars in ensuring the provision of more affordable (low-cost) housing units for the the citizens, in its quest to bridge the housing deficit in the state. “I’m not sure we’ve been building in Ikoyi or Victoria Island. So, what we’re doing is social housing. And we’ve tried to bridge that gap by some of the various developments that we have done.
“In October last year, we commissioned 492 units in Igando. Igando is a highly-densely populated area of Lagos, and I would say it’s not for the upscale, it’s for people who live in those neighbourhoods. It is very affordable. Apart from it being affordable, we have the Lagos State Rent To Own Scheme, where all you pay is five per cent, you’re pre-qualified, you have a monthly income, we do the rent for you, you pay your five per cent deposit, and something is worked out for you, and you pay over the next 10 years.
“So, we are looking at the sounds of time, and we’re making sure that we’re doing everything to mitigate that issue on housing. So, that Rent To Own Scheme is what we’re doing in Igando. We have 492 units, like I said; we have 360 units coming up in Igbogbo, Ikorodu. We have 660 units coming up in Agbowa, in Epe. Also, fits that category of people you’re talking about. We have some units, also, I can’t place a figure on it, in the heart of Epe town. We have in Ajara, Badagry, coming up, hopefully, for the end of next year.”
“We have 1,300 units coming up in Sangotedo area of Lagos. So, if you put a total to that, we are adding about 5,000 units to the stock, and all these areas that I’ve told you, are places where social housing will thrive.”
Awoyinka adds that private partnership is another key area the government is exploring, as, according to her, government cannot do it alone.
“Like you said, all over the world, there’s a deficit in housing. We are partnering with the private sector because government can’t do it alone. One of our private partners, Messrs Ecostone, delivered 120 units in Badagry about two months ago. So, we have such strategic partnerships as well. We have about 1,500 units coming up in Tolu, Ajegunle. We have 500 units coming up in Ikota, through the private sector. We are inviting private sector practitioners who have the funds. Lagos State has the land, we put the funds together, but the condition there is that, it must be affordable to our people,” she said.