As a result of the signing into law of the Nasarawa Geographic Information Service (NAGIS) bill last week, land administration in the state has recorded a defining milestone. DONATUS NADI examines the implications of the law as it affects land administration and revenue generation in the state.
Land administration in states across the country is wrought with problems such as inability to meet the land requirements of the public, cumbersome process of getting the right-of-occupancy and Certificates of Occupancy (C-of-O), frequent changing of public officers and government policies, poor record-keeping and inability of government to pay compensation in respect of acquired land and failure to harness land potential for revenue generation, among others.
To tackle these challenges, Governor Umaru Tanko Almakura, on assumption of office in 2011, sought to create a robust pattern for land administration, physical development and revenue generation unprecedented in the annals of land management in Nigeria.
This gave birth to the Nasarawa Development Platform, which has NAGIS as a major component maintaining a Geographic Information System (GIS) and Land Information System (LIS) to enhance land use and management in the state which, until recently, operated without legal backing as a corporate entity of government.
With the law in place, NAGIS has the mandate to compile and collate geospatial information and provide products and services derived from that and other information to the government and the general public.
It is also expected to create and compile electronic land registry and carryout electronic registration of instruments while regulating the standards to be applied for the compilation of geospatial data in the state.
As a corporate agency of government, NAGIS is established by law to be the repository and manager of survey information, cadastral maps and datasets in a well-structured GIS environment, in addition to providing support to the Land Use and Allocation committee.
In providing this support to each of the 13 local government areas, NAGIS is to also offer administrative and technical support for the processing of grants of customary rights of occupancy.
The agency is also mandated by its establishing law to process grants of statutory rights of occupancy, issue letters of grants, process and issue Certificate of Occupancy (C-of-O) and process grants of consent to all transactions from a data driven GIS and LIS environment.
Given the latitude with which the agency is expected to cover in land administration in the state, it shall provide such other services as are incidental to the maintenance of geospatial data and land information, land files and geospatial records as are provided for in the regulations made within the ambit of the law establishing the agency. It shall also create, produce and scale each type of map for the use of the state government and for the sale to the general public.
Some of the other duties of NAGIS include ensuring that land administration and management supports the development of social and economic rights in the state and make sure that they conform to national standards and requirements concerning geospatial data as well as comparable international, supranational and regional standards.
This entails that it is the duty of the agency to ensure that efficient and reliable services and secure products are made available to all stakeholders and to advance good governance and transparency in the state.
Consequently, NAGIS, as a corporate entity has the powers to acquire, own, dispose, charge and otherwise alienate, in part or whole, interests in immovable property, just as it can also bid for and accept grants made by international development agencies and to act as the delivery agent for GIS based projects.
In order to keep pace with global best practices in land administration, NAGIS has the legal backing to enter into collaboration with reputable academic institutions within Nigeria and internationally for the purposes of research and to ensure continuous technical competence of its staff. Such collaboration may also be for the purposes of sharing knowledge and obtaining professional training of its staff in key technical operations.
The law however clearly spelt out that: “NAGIS shall not accept any gift or donation or technical assistance or equipment, if the conditions thereto by the person or foreign governments or academic institution making the gift or donation of technical assistance or equipment, are inconsistent with the functions of NAGIS”.
However, the agency shall have the right of access to all relevant geospatial data records of any private person or corporate body within the state.
It said: “NAGIS may by notice in writing, served on any person or corporate body, require such person to furnish or cause to be furnished geospatial data or other similar data held by or available to such persons on such matters as may be specified in the notice’.
The enactment of this also means a major restructuring of land administrative mechanism in the state. As such, the state ministry of Lands and Survey or Lands and Town Planning, as it has previously been known, ceases to exist or perform any such duties as regards land management in the state.
The Lands and Town Planning ministry has, by this law, dissolved into NAGIS with its chief accounting officer being the Director General (DG) who shall be responsible for the execution of its policies and management of its day-to-day business and administration.
The DG, will also be responsible for the implementation of the business and budget of the agency and shall hold office for a period of four years in the first instance “and renewable for another term and no more”.
This restructuring is expected to ease the process of acquiring titles which was hitherto very cumbersome and spans endlessly into years.
With the current restructuring, rights of occupancy are processed within a day while certificates of occupancy can be processed within a few weeks.
To improve on this even further, NAGIS is backed by law to keep 10 per cent of the total revenue it generates in order to discharge its activities and fund its operations.
The law states: “A maximum of 10 percent of the revenue generated by NAGIS from its operations shall be appropriated to NAGIS and applied towards the funding of its operations, provided that any funds that may accrue above the actual budgetary allocation to NAGIS for the year shall be transferred to the state treasury”.
Reacting on the assent to the law by Governor Umaru Tanko Almakura which underwent legislative scrutiny for over a year, the commissioner of Lands and Town Planning, described it as a milestone in the developmental strides of the state.
He said it would present opportunities for sustainability of development taking into cognisance the natural resource endowment, economic base, population growth and opportunities that abound in the state.
Agassi enthused that the law would guarantee a robust land administration in the state and give the agency the legal backing and latitude to guarantee digital, safe and secured operations on land management and other matters connected therewith.
He said the law would go a long way in streamlining land administration in the state which has direct bearing on internally generated revenue and ensure its smooth operation.
He said the goal of the law is to present opportunities for sustainability of development taking, into cognisance the natural resource endowment, economic base, population growth, opportunities and threats.
Agassi explained that the NAGIS law mandates the agency to, among other things, “compile and collate geospatial information in the state and provide products and services derived from that and other information to the government and general public”.
The Speaker of the Nasarawa State House of Aseembly, Hr. Hon. Ibrahim Balarabe- Abdullahi, said that the NAGIS law would not only check the proliferation of illegal structures across the state but would also seek to modernise land tenure system.
He maintained that the law will enable NAGIS to perform the function of preparation of planning scheme for resettlement of acquired land and from natives after adequate payment of compensation.
“As we are all aware that NAGIS will perform its functions with ease especially granting planning permission for development of structures, monitoring of development, street naming as well as provision of site, services and facilities”.
“The law would put the state in the limelight of globalisation to facilitate easy access to information and transactions on land matters as well as boost the efficiency of land administration and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state”, he said.
The House committee chairman on Lands, Hon. Hashimu Gurku, in his remarks said that it would reduce the frequency of litigation on properties, increase revenue accruing to the state and add value to property as a result of proper documentation.
He said, “It is equally important to stress that the law provides for what obtains in modern policy drive where detailed land use platform is harnessed to drive social change and economic prosperity.”