Mr. Rotimi Adeniyi has recently stopped using the mirror because his reflection scares him – hollow eyes, wrinkled face and all the external signs of ageing. The mirror reminds him of how gray he has gone and it worries him.
In another year, Adeniyi will be 60 years old and also bidding farewell to his life as a civil servant. So what really scares him is not the mirror but the reminder of a dashed hope that has kept him as a tenant. He has spent the better part of his life teaching at public secondary schools in Lagos. A state government policy has ensured that in the last few years, he never spent more than six years in a school.
If Adeniyi was asked about 10 years ago if he was still going to be a tenant at his current age, he would have dismissed the notion outright with a wave of the hand. It would have sounded silly to Adeniyi because he had a plan in place to become a landlord and he was saving to ensure that the dream became a reality.
But today, he looks back at how his hope of becoming a landlord in his lifetime is being threatened by the Ogun State government.
In the hope of becoming a landlord, Adeniyi had joined a co-operative in the school where he worked at the time – Itire Community Secondary School, Surulere, Lagos.
The co-operative – Itire Community Secondary School Teachers Welfare Fund – had bought land measuring 13.288 hectares at Gaun-un town, close to Magboro, along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Ogun State for interested members and Adeniyi had quickly subscribed to it.
For Adeniyi, it felt like everything was falling into place at the right time. He bought two plots from the land, hoping that one of them would become the dream residence for his family and the other his retirement benefit.
“I was so happy that I bought two plots; I wanted to build a school on one of the plots. I thought that the school would be where I would retire to after my years in public service. I was saving N10,000 per month with the scheme and the co-operative bought the land on our behalf.
“The land was approved by officials of the relevant agencies in Ogun State government and we spent so much money to do the survey and allocation to divide the land into plots for all of us. The state government asked us to pay about N23m to get Certificate of Occupancy for the land and we paid all the money, but since 2013, the government has not given us the certificate.
“This has really affected us as it has prevented us from building anything on the land. The issue of ownership and documentation is not clear and nobody wants to invest money in such a place because without the proper documentation, government can choose to demolish any structure there later,” he said.
It was learnt that when the Ogun State government in 2008 announced that all owners of land in the state should ratify the land titles, the co-operative was given approval by the Director of Lands Ratification under the Bureau of Lands and Survey in the state and encouraged to pay the sum of N23, 242, 000 as condition for the granting of a Statutory Right of Occupancy over the land.
A letter dated December 21, 2012 from the bureau stating the breakdown of the amount that was required to be paid to the government purse was given to the co-operative, a copy of which was obtained by Saturday PUNCH.
The letter was said to have been issued in respond to an application made by Itire Community Secondary School Teachers Welfare Fund on December 30, 2008.
The letter, which was signed by Isq’eel Aboaba, the Director of Lands Ratification on behalf of the Special Adviser/Director-General (Lands), said, “I am pleased to inform you that the state governor has graciously granted provisional approval for the ratification of your right of occupancy in the parcel of land/property lying, being and situate at Gaun-un town, measuring 13.288 hectares.
“Consequently, you are hereby granted a Statutory Right of Occupancy over the said land/property subject to the following terms and conditions.”
According to the letter, the conditions include paying a sum of N23.2m to cover for Premium, Annual ground rent, Preparation fee for Certificate of Occupancy, Registration fee for Certificate of Occupancy, Government survey fee, Capital contribution and others.
It was, however, learnt that in July 2018, some officials of the state government informed some executives of the co-operative that the delay in issuing the C of O was as a result of the discovery that the said land fell within a proposed satellite town in the state to be called Akute City.
“For many years, we were going to Abeokuta (Ogun State capital) to inquire about the status of application for Certificate of Occupancy after paying over N23m and all we were told was to come back the next day or the next week or be patient. But just last month, some government officials told us that the state governor had not approved the Certificate of Occupancy for us because our land fell within Akute City.
“But nobody told us that when they ratified the land title and asked us to pay over N23m to get Statutory Right of Occupancy over the land. We paid the money in 2013 and after five years of wasting our time and government holding on to our money, they are now saying a different thing.
“The situation has caused me so much pain; it is as if my life has been at a standstill. It appears that all my life savings are going down the drain before my eyes and there is nothing I can do about it. I hope Ogun State government will quickly clarify the situation and give the Certificate of Occupancy for the land so that we can start building on it before our time on earth comes to an end,” Adeniyi said.
Similarly, the clock is ticking for Mr. Idowu Ajagbe, who is set to retire from his teaching profession in another two years.
According to him, the situation serves as a warning that his days in retirement might be spent in regret.
“I bought a plot there with the hope that someday, I would leave the life of a tenant and become a landlord. My plan is to build a small house there and have a shop where I can sell goods after my retirement. My retirement is just two years away and that dream is looking more and more impossible to realise.
“For long, many people have said that the reward of teachers is in heaven but some of us thought that we could change our story and have our reward on earth. I believe that the reward of teachers should be on earth and not in heaven as some people say. But now, we don’t know our fate over the land. It brings the feeling that the future is bleak. It is as if there is no hope. Ogun State government has dashed our hopes,” he said.
There are 186 plots on the land with about 100 owners. It was learnt that some interested persons who were not in the teaching profession were also allowed to buy from the land when the co-operative needed to raise the N23m required for the Statutory Right of Occupancy over the land.
One of such persons is Mr. Wale Ogunfemi, who was a banker at the time; though, he is retired now.
“I heard about the land from my brother who was a teacher at Itire Community Secondary School at the time. So I bought a plot each for my wife and me there, paying N600,000 for them. Since then, we have paid more for other expenses like the Certificate of Occupancy.
“We are afraid to build anything on the land because whatever is put there can be demolished by the government if there is no proper documentation. We have been on the matter for many years now. It was only recently that we heard the state government was claiming that the land fell within a satellite town,” he said.
Ogunfemi had also planned to build a house on his land and resettle his family there but the delay caused a setback for him.
“Some people who bought land in adjoining communities years after I bought my land are already living in their houses. My plan was to build a residential place to live like a normal Nigerian but with the problem with documentation, nobody will want to take the risk of investing money there,” he added.
A former President of Itire Commmunity Secondary School Teachers Welfare Fund, who has been handling the matter on behalf of the members, Mr. Marcus Bello, told Saturday PUNCH that some of the affected members had been demoralised by the situation.
He said the co-operative wrote a letter to the Governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun, in 2016, pleading with him to look into the matter but that neither was there a reply nor was any action taken to resolve the issue.
A copy of the letter obtained by Saturday PUNCH read: “We hereby write on behalf of the above named association to appeal for the issuance of C of O of the parcel of land at Gaun-un town as shown in the government agency survey attached.
“The approval of the said land was issued on December 21, 2012 and the total amount payable of N23, 242, 000.00 has been fully paid from the society’s contribution since 2013.
“All the teachers had moved to the land to develop their plots only to hear that the state government wanted to re-acquire the estate.
“We hereby appeal to you to use your good offices to ensure that our lifetime efforts will not be in vain.
“The appeal letter was written two years ago but there was no response whatsoever and nothing was done about the problem. We appeal to the state government to look into our plight,” Bello said.
Efforts made to speak with both the Director-General of Ogun Bureau of Lands and Survey, Mr. Biyi Ismail and the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Dayo Adeneye, on the issue proved abortive.
One of our correspondents visited the office of the DG on two occasions. When our correspondent visited the office located within the secretariat at Oke Mosan, Abeokuta on Friday August 10, 2018, he was unavailable and despite a note on the land matter left with his secretary, nothing came out of it.
Our correspondent repeated the visit on Wednesday August 15, 2018, and this time, the DG was in the office.
Our correspondent filled the visitor’s form at the front office which was passed to the DG’s secretary. After some few minutes, the female secretary emerged from her office and told our correspondent to go and speak with the Commissioner for Information and Strategy.
She said, “You need to go and see the Commissioner for Information and Strategy.”
Our correspondent had earlier called the Commissioner for Information and Strategy on the matter but he declined to make any comment.