Press Room

Property owners on edge as Delta wields the big stick

APBN threatens court action over CofOs nullification
There’s trepidation in the air for property owners in Delta State, following the alleged nullification of all Certificates of Occupancies (CofOs) by the authorities.

The move has drawn the ire of stakeholders and professional bodies who have threatened to drag the state government to court.

The Deputy Governor, Kingsley Otuaro, recently announced that Delta state had nullified all Certificates of Occupancy and directed property owners earlier issued C of O to register afresh.

But, the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN), Delta state chapter, comprising over 30 associations has condemned the directive, saying that the implications of the nullification or cancellation of all certificates in the state was enormous.

The APBN is particularly miffed that all efforts to get the state goverrnment clarify the directive had been rebuffed.

According to the Chairman of the Delta Chapter of the APBN, Gracious Omatseye, an engineer, the wholesale cancellation or nullification of all the CofOs in the State has several unsavoury implications.

The APBN warned that the directive was capable of jeopardizing the economic development and industrialization of the State because of the uncertainty in the term or duration of the Certificate of Occupancy.

He stressed that investors would be scared to come to a State where there is uncertainty in the term of the lease given to them by government, which thereby pose insecurity to their investment.

Omatseye noted that banks in and outside the state will henceforth be reluctant to accept the certificates issued by the Government of Delta State as collateral for facilities or banks loans and that it would be difficult to service existing loans as existing certificates currently deposited with mortgage banks as collateral would automatically become worthless pieces of paper.

Secondly, there will be chaos, confusion and litigation between the new and old holders of Certificates of Occupancy over the same piece or parcel of land as the original holders will not accept eviction by the new holders.

He said, the cancellation or nullification of the CofOs goes beyond the economic implications. Arguing that government is a product and derives its authority from the Rule of Law and cannot be seen to violate the Law.

The APBN chairman said: “As responsible professionals, we have waited for the Delta State Government to clarify the above statement in order to have a clear understanding of the policy direction of the Government in this respect. In the absence of such a clarification up till date, we are constrained to assume that the said statement made by a very high ranking member of the Government of Delta State ostensibly on behalf of the Governor of Delta State is the current policy position of the Delta State Government on the subject.

“As a body of professionals in several fields of professional endeavour in Delta State, we would be affected by this current policy of Government. The general populace who would also be affected, look to us for direction and in discharge of this responsibility, we have decided to bring the implications of this policy to the attention of the press and the general public.
“Our democracy is based on or derived from the respect and strict adherence to the Rule of Law. It sends the wrong signals to the international community that the Government of Delta State has no respect for the Rule of Law and that it does what it likes on any issue including violation the fundamental rights to own interests in property.

“In view of all of the foregoing and bearing in mind that we as professionals are very important stakeholders in the Delta State project, we have before now, taken steps to engage with Government by writing to His Excellency, the Governor of Delta State as well as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice and his Lands, Survey and Urban Development colleague with a view to reversing this policy, which clearly suffers from a deficit of support whether in law or in economic realities.

Originally published in The Guardian

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