The Homeowners’ Charter, an initiative of the Ogun State Government to ease the process of obtaining building documents, has been marred by irregularities, subscribers have alleged.
Some subscribers to the scheme also alleged that government officials have turned it into a money-making venture by requesting to be paid before carrying out thier duty.
The Homeowners’ Charter was inaugurated by Governor Ibikunle Amosun in 2013 as an intervention to ease the process of obtaining building approvals from the state’s planning authority.
The initiative aimed at helping homeowners to obtain Certificates of Occupancy within nine months and at discounted rates of about 75 per cent if they apply within six weeks, has, however, been generating controversies in the last two years.
Although the state government has issued a few thousand documents since the process began, many subscribers whose houses have been assessed over one year ago, have yet to get their Cs-of-O, while others are still awaiting for assessment almost two years after application.
A subscriber, Mrs. Adetoun Adebayo, said she applied in 2013, paid about N86,000 for her three-bedroom house in Ota the following year, but had yet to receive her C-of-O or any form of communication from the state government.
Adebayo said she recently parted with N10,000, which was given to an official to help fast-track the process.
“My file was found somewhere where many others were stacked. We were told we would get our documents after eight months but it is almost three years since I made the payment, which was done in three instalments and nothing has been done,” she said.
Another subscriber alleged that many files had been left for students on industrial training with the state government to handle.
“I don’t think the governor will be able to sign all the documents before his tenure expires,” the subscriber said.
A subscriber in Mowe area of the state, Ibrahim Onifade, said he paid N210, 000 in 2016 after his house was assessed.
According to him, when he visited the Bureau of Lands in Abeokuta, he was told he could only complain after nine months.
“It is 17 months since I visited Abeokuta, no communications whatsoever from anywhere,” he said.
Onifade, who described the initiative as a good intention by the government, however, said it was beginning to look fraudulent, adding that after the end of the Amosun administration in 2019, a new governor might not be interested in continuing with the scheme.
Some subscribers have also alleged that there are disparities in the fees charged by the state after inspection.
A subscriber, Akin Olaniyi, told our correspondent that he was asked to pay N285,000 on his three-bedroom house within 30 days, while his neighbour paid N110, 000 for the same kind of building in three instalments.
He said he submitted his application but was only given a bill two years later, after he had given an official some money.
A civil servant, who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said Amosun meant well for the state when he introduced the programme but that the number of people who applied was more than envisaged.
According to him, after the closing date, many civil servants were bribed to bring in more applications by subscribers, making the process cumbersome.
A surveyor who has knowledge of the process, said there had been reports of bribery but no one had been caught or prosecuted.
“The government is aware that people were extorting subscribers, but it has not been established. When the work load became too much, contractors were employed to help out, maybe that was when the problem started,” the surveyor said.
Efforts to get the state government to react to the development proved abortive as the Commissioner for Urban and Physical Planning, Ronke Sokefun, did not respond to our correspondent’s text message or pick calls made to her mobile telephone.
* The Punch