The Edo State government has approved a two-month penalty-free period for real estate developers to regularize their applications and approve layouts.
Isoken Omo, Commissioner for Land Use Planning and Urban and Regional Development said this over the weekend during a stakeholder meeting between members of the construction industry and the state government in Benin City.
Omo said the pledge was to inform property developers to operate within the law; ensuring that all real estate developments are approved and in accordance with the master plan, as well as protecting the public in real estate investment decisions and raising awareness of government policies.
The commissioner, while noting that the findings revealed that most people involved in real estate developments do not have approved development plans before starting their project, urged them to use the grace period to obtain the approval or risk sealing their succession.
“We are engaging with you because we want you to be aware of government policies. We have to make sure that investors put their money in the right place and make sure that your accommodations are approved and if they are not approved it means that it is an illegal transaction and everything you build is illegal. You cannot build without layout approval.
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“We are not here to punish you, but to bring common sense back into our environment and ensure that our master plan is not distorted and that you are integrated into it. We want to work with you as partners. We’ll give you a window to regularize, and the governor has approved a two-month penalty-free period. After these two months, we will charge the penalty.
“Normally if you started without permission you will pay a penalty but we will waive that. And if you don’t get approval we will take action by first declaring all unapproved layouts illegal. We will then insist that every unregistered layout does not use our ad slots, and if it becomes necessary, we will seal,” Omo said.
She also said that as part of the “Edo Operation Plan”, a new development and data collection initiative, her ministry has cordoned off 50 properties and visited 20,294 properties in the past two months to ensure that buildings and developments across the state adhere to government regulations in accordance with the 30-year Edo Regional Development Plan.
Giving the breakdown, she said: “Over the past two months we have visited two local government areas which are Oredo and part of Ikpoba-Okha. We visited six communities outside commercial areas and spoke to approximately 81,000 people in various forums. In addition, we have data on the property to be demolished. If we continue like this until the end of the year, we will cover the entire state.
“What we do is visit each community, ask what they need, the particularities of the community as well as the issues that affect them. Some communities are suffering from erosion problems and they will be happy if we stop the situation, but we cannot know that if we do not communicate and engage with you. We need this data to plan.”
For his part, Francis Evbuomwan, Director General of the Edo Geographic Information Service (EdoGIS), who said that the government led by Obaseki wanted the investments to be made in a formal way, suggested that those who hold plots of land reserved by the government will soon be dispossessed of their land.
Chris Ebbih, a property developer, in his remarks said the engagement was timely and would trigger a process of good relations between those in the construction industry and the government.