The political landscape in Plateau state, recently distorted by sectarian -cum religious conflicts, is taking a shape of its own as Governor Simon Bako Lalong approaches the challenges of land administration through the commissioner for Land and survey, Hon, Barr. Festus Faunter gave a breakdown of government activities this interview with Yakubu Busari.
Now that the gross maladministration of overbearing family and friends governance have weighed heavily on the citizens, the commissioner applaud the bold steps taken by Lalong to effect rural /urban certificate of occupancy to remedy hardship of obtaining loan.
Can you tell us your name and the functions of your ministry?
My name is Barriers Festus Fauntier the commissioner for Land Survey and town planning in Plateau State.
I am a lawyer by profession, I worked with the Plateau Radio Corporation before subsequently joined the services of Jos International Breweries. As regard to your question relating to the functions of the Ministry of Land and Survey, as the name implies, is the ministry that is saddled with the responsibility of administering land in the entire state on behalf of the state government for the benefit of the state.
As usual, we deal with survey of the land. We deal with town planning, land administration which is the basic reason for the establishment of the ministry.
May we know the level of decay before you resumed office as the commissioner in the ministry?
I assumed office here when the people of the state have lost total confidence in the land administration in the state.
This is owing to the fact that for the past (10) years, no land title that had been issued to any land owners in the state or to any corporate organizations that applied for R of O or C of O. For that reason, In fact, I resumed office when the activities in the ministry are at its lowest ebbs. Before I was made the commissioner, you remembered the then governor of Plateau State Dr. David Jonah Jang had the cause to withdraw about 100 staff from the ministry for sharp practices and other related activities that was centered unproductive to the success of land administrators.
Being a campaign promise, the present administration has made promise that on assumption of office, he is going to return everybody back to work. So with his success at the poll, everybody was return back to his work. But on assumption of responsibility here, I discovered that most of the problems we are facing is as a result of the look-worm attitude of some of the staff and the sharp practices which was earlier complained by the last administration was much very attendant which was the main reason I call for the stakeholders meeting and I made a commitment that we are going to listen to a wide counsel and we are not going to spear our staff, where we found them wanting, and where we found them responsible for making it very difficult for land owner to get title for their land on time.
The level of fraud in the ministry is quite high, but I know with time we are going to weed out the bad egg, we are going to separate the shaft from the grains, and then people will be able to have smooth administration of land and planning in the state.
What mechanisms did you put in place to ensure effective land administration in the state?
There are quite a numbers of measures:
First among them is the launched on the 10th of June 2016 the Plateau Geographic Information System. You know on assumption of office, I inherited the ongoing contact more or less abandoned contracts for the delivery for the Plateau Geographic Information System which basically the digitalization of the land administration regarding to what we do here. So I decided to do a technical audit of the contract because a contract of 1.5 billion and the last has already committed 1.1 billion. We could have just allowed it to wait, in view of the kind of money the government had already committed in that, so I did technical audit, got people from various technical related fields from different state of the federation to come out and do technical audit of the viability of the contract that was issued. We discovered that it was contract that worth it, which we can actually sort for money and finish it for the benefit of the state. We do just that, and the contract was concluded and we launched it on the 10th June, 2016.
Since the launch of the product, we tried to make sure, we help the system on the applications under which was delivered under land title. That had come to bare, with several signing of land application titles as regard to applicant.
This is something that has not happened for the past 10years. So gradually, with time we are beginning to build back confident in the mind of our applicant in the field. One of the thing I would have thought we should adopt as a ministry is the need to call for immediate stakeholders meeting so that we can be able to interact and have one on one interaction with our stakeholders, ranging from lawyers, surveyors town planners to all the related individual or corporate organizations that have one thing to do with land administration of cause owner of house and undeveloped plans.
So we had an interactive session which turned out to be an informative and quite educative as far as getting land title and application for land is concerned. We saw the need to commence public awareness on the need for title document, we discovered that the awareness is very low, we discovered in our ministry, out of 54 thousand title document we have, less than 5% are owned by indigenous people.
So, there is need to educate them, the need to have those documents as an economic documents not necessary as a security for their properties.
Secondly, I decided that plateau as a the civil service State, with over 18 thousand people working in the state and local government, everyone is supposed to have title for his house or for his land so that at the time of retirement, you can use the document to asses loan and start business before your entitlement are paid. Such entitlement takes 3 or 4 years to come. One should have expected that all the civil servant in the state have a titled document of their properties. What I did was to get the head of service to get all the civil servants in the state to summit their names and the number of their properties and process the title document and give it to them and spread the cost – across their salary for the period of 10 months that can be deducted instrumentally.
Because I think is because of the cost that was scaring them. We had also talk with the governor the need for downward review of the cost of charges on land. He graciously agreed, he approved the 50 percent waver, discount on all the land charges that process is ongoing. This is only proper for every country that is facing economic recession.
There is a need to reduce taxes because taxes are not supposed to be primitive measures; they are supposed to be something people should be able to afford. There is no point changing someone for what you know he cannot be able to pay.
Thirdly, we have looked at the rural population. There is a need to have titles for their farm land and title for their house.
We gave them flat rate, we gave them 120 thousand naira, we are now slashing it to 80 thousand naira for those in the local council to come forward and have title for their land and house. This same title can also be used to get facility from the bank and continue your farming activity.
I think the title document is not for security to your property, but also can also be used for economic purpose.
Awareness campaign to that effect?
Just few weeks ago, we concluded stakeholders meetings. One of our line – up awareness campaign is going to be religious organizations.
We intend to meet J.N.I to speak with leaders of their various sects, educate them on the need to have title document. If you check, there is this reduction, people might not know, if you check, some people may not have be listen to radio or watching televisions. When they get home, Mosque or Churches, these religious leaders might educate them. Religious bodies like C.A.N, organize labour, J.N.I, Driver Association Union.
The second leg of our awareness campaign is going to be traditional rulers. We need to put the traditional rulers in good state.
One of the reasons people find it difficult to go and buy land is that along the stage of your documentation, there are one form of chief or the other demanding for 20 percent of the cost of the land. That has discouraged them a lot. We have spoken with the chairman traditional council in the state Da Jacob Gyang Buba who is the Gwong Gbom Jos and he is calling a meeting of all the first class chiefs in the state where we will also sit – down with them and educate them of their roles and responsibility. We also educate them to educate their subject on the need to own title document. These are the few things we hope to do in terms of public awareness campaign. We also hope, with time, we may organize streets show to raise sensitization on the need for title document, so these are some of the things we are hoping to do.
How many title documents were you able to process since coming on board?
Yes, coming on board, I think we been able to process 4,000 title documents most of these 4,000 were not collected because of the fear of high rate for payment.
Now that the price of processing the document have been slashed from 200 thousand naira to 80 thousand naira, people are responding as the reduction has taken effect, we have being able to process 4,000, we hope to reach 15,000.
Land encroachment of land in the urban areas, with this introduction of title document, will this be put to rest? What about the rural area that is face with similar problem.
Yes there are issues of encroachment ranging from those encroachments that were necessitated by the crisis. You discovered that during that period of the crisis, the predominant area that fall on Christian area were encroached upon by Christians. So also the area that fells on Christian that fell on Muslims where encroach on by the Muslims. We have looked all that since is an inclusive government, we will look into that. Let me give you an instances like “Fili” Suqa area and some of those areas, are supposed to be government layout not yet paid compensation to the owner of the land, of course as you all know, are now areas that has already be built. I called all the people that built upon the land which compensation is yet to be paid, for the need to pay the compensation on the land they build upon to the original owner without necessarily demolishing such buildings.
Because we believe very strongly that demonstration might not bring the much needed peace in the land.
So, if you know you build on the land which the necessary compensation is yet to be paid, you have to paid compensation to the government where it will in-turn paid to the original owner of the land.
There are many instances like Sadauna College where we decided to allocate new land to J.N.I to build Sadauna College while the government now pursues those that encroach on the land and collect the appropriate compensation and give it to J.N.I so that they can be able to build the class rooms they intend to build for Sadauna College.
We are looking at the peace that has return to Jos Visa – vie the crisis which demolition of the encroached land will cause.
What will be your advice for the people of Plateau State?
My general advice to the good people of Plateau State is that everybody should make sure that they have title for land and their houses. They should come forward and collect the form, fill and collect their land document. Title document is not only for security but for economic instrument for you to use. I am calling on the people of Plateau State no matter how small your land, it’s important to have title document.