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Mitigating obstacles to right-of- way acquisition in Nigeria

cover-2Many Nigerians have been bruised, tortured, maimed, refused adequate payments and even killed for taking the law into their hands in tampering, vandalizing and destroying government development or infrastructural facilities in an attempt to claim due compensation for land or properties forcefully taken from them by the authorities at the local, state and federal levels.

The scenario, analysts say, is posing serious danger to the country’s quests to rapidly develop its infrastructural needs to meet global best practices.

Little wonder that stakeholders in real estate development sector have continued to sound it loud and clear that time has come for all concerned to come to a round table discussion in finding lasting solution to easy acquisition of Right-of-Way [ROW] that will spell out adequate compensations for land owners that have been illegally taken.

The Stakeholders has complained severally that the current laws put in place by government are making it difficult for easy acquisition of right of way by those concerned all of which has become the bane of her economic development.

A developed economy therefore, is that which can boast of massive infrastructure of good road and railway networks, constant supply of water and electricity, good airports and marine services, affordable houses for the people, mechanized agriculture, adequate security of lives and properties, provision of high level equipment for educational institutions and a well trained man power that could put these factors together in achieving maximum infrastructural transformation of society.

No doubt, real estate infrastructures are perhaps, the most reliable assets in an economy. Nevertheless, a reliable infrastructure base requires access to easy acquisition of the Right-Of-Way (ROW) that is conclusively managed and maintained even after the commissioning of concerned projects so developed and installed.

Right-Of-Way is a legal instrument allowing operators to deploy infrastructure on Federal or State roads, power transmission lines, railways etc at a fee, unfortunately, these same fees are not fixed and it varies from State to State, region to region, agency to agency.

Right-Of-Way acquisition for infrastructural development can be expensive, time-consuming, socially sensitive and conflict-infested and therefore, its acquisition requires skills, expertise and training by those that handles it.
It is noteworthy that the ROW for various infrastructure cannot be accomplished unless it is conclusively acquired and in timely manner too.

Here in Nigeria, the public has grown weary of watching needed infrastructural projects delayed for years as a result of conflicts or disputes arising from compensation assessment and payment between the project affected persons [PAPs] and the acquiring agencies or companies.

Analysts have equally testified to the fact that basic infrastructure such as electricity is considered a catalyst to economic growth and development which can only be provided when right-of-Way is conclusively acquired for it professionally and in timely manner.

Nigeria has been passing through different phases of developments, necessitating huge investments in the construction of different types of infrastructural projects mentioned above, so order to carry out these projects with minimum hitches, the project initiators in most cases government Ministries, Departments and Agencies [MDAs] must obtain right of way from owners of land in which the projects will pass through. The granting of the ROW always necessitates the payment of compensation to land owners.

Right-Of-Way acquisition therefore, has become an integral component of the overall planning and implementation of highway and transportation projects. This process has become more complex, expensive, time consuming and socially sensitive over the last few years.

The valuation of the parcels and the negotiation with property owner are extremely important aspects in the process and their success comes with variety of benefits to both the acquiring and project implementation agencies.

The dual objective of every Right-Of-Way activity are to ensure security of the assets and to guarantee that the assets be sustainably managed such that income streams can finance costs of capital over time, it is therefore, only acquisition that are developed and managed in robust environmental and social governance structures that can accomplish these objectives..

Incidentally, Nigeria presently have laws that have become inimical to easy acquisition of right of way by land and property owners, these includes, the Land use Act 1978, oil pipeline act 1990, the petroleum Act cap350 of 1990 and the Nigerian constitution [Section 44], just to mention a few.

The quest for excellence and to be abreast to globally accepted best practices in the acquisition of Right-Of Way for public and private sector projects, informed a group of Nigerian professionals to come together where they gave birth to the International Right-Of-Way Association,  [IRWA] Nigeria Chapter 84, having satisfied all necessary requirements.

IRWA was therefore, formally inaugurated in 2013 as the first chapter in West Africa and second in Africa after South-Africa with the vision to create awareness, trust and confidence in right of way professionals [Drawn from across the various professions] that are set to build a better world.

Speaking at the Educational Seminar on ‘’Best practices And Emerging Issues In Right Of Way Acquisition And Compensation’’ organized by IRWA Nigeria 84 in Abuja recently, stakeholders recommended that a total abrogation of the Land Use Act of 1978  would put an end to problems associated to right of way acquisition..

Estate Surveyor Peter Ozili, IRWA member, said that the way forward is for the 38-year old Land Use act be expunged from the constitution, amended and incorporate protection of private property rights to enhance economic growth and development.

Ozili who presented a paper ‘’Tripartite Aspects of Right –Of-Way,-As An Activity,- Legal Rights and Global Profession’’  stated that the unique challenge Nigeria faces as a nation demands that we make a break from the past and begin to chart a new path going forward by adopting professionalism in all dealings especially, in the ROW profession.

“RWPs as stakeholders in the management of the infrastructure real estate field should be proactive and alert to developments in local and global events and apply the principles of pragmatism and dynamism to cope with any change in our economy, whether positive or negative.’

According to him, any country that wants private development must assure prospective investors that they will be protected, this is one of the antidotes for attracting local and foreign investors and one of the ways to recover from the current economic recession.

Also in his paper, ‘’Achieving Best Practices in Right of Way Compensation Valuation,-Issues and Challenges, Austin Otegbulu  called on Estate Surveyors to put their house in order with respect to valuation standards and practice that needed to be done in line with international best practices.

“The current Laws and guidelines on compensation valuation practice follow a command and control framework, they are neither based on market incentives nor popular participation, prompt, fair and adequate compensation is a fundamental right of every person deprived of his property, Section 44! A prescribes prompt payment of compensation while Section 44 1B gives to any person claiming such compensation a right of access for the determination of the interest in the property and the amount of compensation to a court of law tribunal or any other body having jurisdiction in the area, efforts should be made for claimants to be around when their property is being inspected to enable them to provide all necessary information.’’

Also in his paper, ‘’Performance gaps in Right of Way Acquisition Practice in Nigeria—the appraiser’s Perspective’’, Adamu Kasimu called on Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government in charge of managing land acquisition/compensation process in each state to be encouraged to produce and make available ‘’Land Acquisition and Compensation Manuals’’ that clearly indicate approved/applicable system where records of rates are either hidden or treated as confidential documents in files and memos impedes on the  appraiser’s bid to properly benchmark applicable rates with market values of assets’’.

Similarly, the IRWA past International Director and 2nd Chapter in Africa, Gersch Henshaw threw his weight behind the amendment of the Land Use Act of 1978.

Henshaw said that the present laws impedes the practices of righ of way globally, ‘’If the land use act is amended, it would improve our economy even as the various World Bank projects will be fully executed to specification and to time’’.

Earlier in a welcome address to the seminar, the President, IRWA Nigeria Chapter 84, Kenechukwu Onuora  task government to address the major issue by way of having right of way specialists in every infrastructure development in Nigeria to ensure that the country’s infrastructure development growth is sustainable and inclusive.

“In line with our traditional strength in infrastructure development, we remain committed to strengthening Nigeria’s infrastructure development sectors that are critical for a vibrant investment climate.’’

In this article:
IRWAPeter Ozili


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