In every sane society, construction projects are regulated and controlled by special authorities or agencies saddled with such responsibility. These regulations and controls are put in place to secure health, safety, and aesthetics as well as meet town planning goals.
One of the statutory requirements for the realization of the security and safety of housing construction projects is obtaining planning and development permits.
From the above, it can be reasoned that the exercise of obtaining permits for construction development projects is intended for the good of the people. Ironically, despite the motivations behind it, the average Nigerian developer and contractor deliberately avoids or dodges undergoing the expected due processes for obtaining the permit. This has resulted in a whole lot of disasters, ranging from building collapses to, demolition of structures and lots more.
What then are planning and development permits all about?
A planning permit is an official approval issued by a government agency that allows you or your contractor to proceed with construction or remodeling projects on your property, whether residential or commercial property. A building permit or approval is issued after the planning permit has been obtained and it is all about what is permissible on the site. Building permits ensure that building regulations are followed and that key structural stages of the project are independently inspected.
Now the question being asked is: Why would any right-thinking individual intentionally flaunt laid down rules and procedures that are intended for the wellbeing of both the client, contractor, and development end users?
In this report which directly affects the well-being and lives of the Nigerian masses, PropertyPrice intends to bring to the limelight, the perspectives of some practitioners in the industry as well as draw the attention of authorities saddled with the responsibilities of issuing those approvals on loopholes in their practices. Below are the views:
Waheed Adebajo (not real name), a landlord in Lagos explained that the bureaucratic bottleneck encountered in the process is frustrating.
Hear him: “The procedure is too frustrating and cumbersome. You know the way they behave in the ministry. Once it has to do with the government, everybody behaves the way they like as nobody is monitoring them. There are different stages your file will have to pass through and you know what that means. If you don’t settle them very well, your file can be in a particular office for months.
“Let us just pray that nothing happens to the building by the end of the day. You can be pursuing building permits for more than one year. Meanwhile, the official duration period for it is just two months. If you see people bypassing it and going ahead with their housing construction, please don’t blame them. I am speaking from experience.”
A building contractor (names withheld) confessed that besides the outrageous cost involved at various stages of getting the approval, the process is tedious. He noted that should all land owners and clients wait for the approval, they (contractors and site workers) would die of hunger.
“As if that is not enough, if you do all those wahala and you don’t see the money to finish your building within two years, the permit will expire and you will have to go back again and start the process all over. How many people can afford that.”
He went ahead to ask how many houses in Lagos, except high rise and those in the Central Business District, have planning and development approvals. It’s not that Nigerians don’t want to do what is right, the government which is made up of those agencies and civil servants, is not encouraging us to do the right things, he said.
However, Lekwa Ezutah, the immediate past president of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), understandably, has a different opinion on why people evade obtaining the necessary permits for their housing construction projects.
According to him, after buying the land, people just don’t want to pay money to process the required permits for construction.
“It’s just like taxes, the average Nigerian, if given the opportunity will not want to pay taxes. If you don’t force them, they will not want to pay. People don’t want to make further monetary commitments after purchasing the land. They just want to start building,” he said.
While concerned individuals were still worrying over the disastrous implications of bypassing the collection of permits for construction projects, the Lagos State government went ahead to increase the cost of its planning permit. The current increment is the third such in a space of two years.
Now, they are asking for the whereabouts of the professionals in the built environment, who should have the ears of the government.
Nathaniel Atebije, current president of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), during an interview, expressed his concern by stating that the immediate implications of the rates hike were that it might encourage illegal and poor construction activities and developers would, more than ever before, cut corners, get permits through fraudulent and corrupt practices, especially in Lagos, where there aren’t enough personnel and equipment to monitor developments.
“The frequent increase in approval fees is counterproductive to housing development in a country where the housing deficit is very high. The increase will create more difficulties for monitoring and control in Lagos,” Atebije said.
Also reacting, Gbadebo Olugbemiga, a real estate consultant complained that doing business, especially real estate, in Lagos was becoming tougher and tougher as the state government is making the cost of getting necessary permits and approvals increasingly unaffordable and difficult to access due to the encumbrances on the way.
“The rate increase would affect house prices just as it would affect government revenue as some developers might not apply for planning permits due to the high cost. Even before the rates were increased, many developers, particularly single dwelling owners in such places as Badagry, Epe, Ibeju- Lekki, Ikorodu, and others have put up buildings without planning permits.”
For the records, in our next write-up, PropertyPrice will take you on a step-by-step procedure on how to get your building plan approval/permit in Lagos.