In an effort to find solutions to various land acquisition challenges, Gombe State Government recently created the Gombe Geographic Information Systems (GOGIS). In this interview, the pioneer Director-General of the agency, Dr Kabiru Usman Hassan, spoke on how the emergence of GOGIS has changed land administration while bringing succour to the people of the state.
There’s no doubt about land administration issues in the country, what has changed in the state with the creation of GOGIS?
First and foremost, we need to know that land acquisition ownership and management constitute some of the biggest impediments to economic growth and investment opportunity in many developing countries across Africa.
In contemporary times land may be rightly called the source of all material wealth. While the economic prosperity of a country is closely linked with the richness of its natural resources, thus, the importance of land to the peaceful co-existence of the greater world can never be over-emphasized nor can it be allowed to be disrupted.
However, honestly speaking, and to be specific, before now, land administration in Gombe State was in a mess. Then, if you were looking for a certificate, it will take you three years or more before you get your certificate.
In fact, you are first at a loss as to how to even go about it, talking about the direction to even follow to secure the certificate. One person will collect your money and at the end of the day, your file will get missing.
So, we were bedevilled with many multiple allocations. As I’m talking to you, I bought a plot of land twice in Gombe State prior to my appointment; I bought a plot of land in 2016, I still bought the same plot in 2021.
The person who first sold the land to me said since I’m in government, I should solve the issue. But even if I’m in government I have to do the right thing. So for peace to reign, the land I bought for N6.5 million five years ago, I had to pay another N2.3million on it. I am explaining my ordeal to show you how land administration was before the advent of GOGIS.
So, when I came on board, the Governor, Alhaji Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya, decided to do some reforms in the ministry. Those civil servants with the Ministry of Land who were around level 10 downward were transferred to the Geographic Information System, while those above level 10 were asked to report to the Head of Service.
That singular action was very instrumental to the reform. It really helped us because the staff we have now at GOGIS are not embedded in the corruption that held land administration to a standstill in the state.
Today, we have retrained that manpower and they have been completely re-oriented to follow where we want them to follow and to do what we want them to do.
As a result, without knowing anyone, you can convert your customary title to statutory title within two weeks, even less than that and you can get your certificate within two weeks.
The state has designated a special development zone; will residents lose their land to this?
The Gombe State government’s idea of land reform is to ensure every landholder enjoys the social benefit as well as the economic advantage from proper legal documentation.
The Gombe state land reform is aimed at achieving the remodeling of tenure rights and the redistribution of land, in directions consistent with the political imperatives underlying the reform while maintaining a feasible evolutionary policy aimed at improving access and security of tenure for the general public under alternative forms of individual and communal tenure, which do not involve expropriation and compensation.
However, Gombe is a city that is rapidly expanding due to the peaceful and accommodating nature of the people of Gombe and so the government needs to think ahead of the times.
The governor constituted a task force for the implementation of the Gombe Capital Special Development Zone with Deputy Governor Dr Manassah Daniel Jatau as chairman.
The committee is mandated to ensure full and proper implementation of the Gombe Capital Special Development Zone, guide, direct and control physical development within the zone as well as monitor and ensure compliance with its development guidelines.
So, what we did was to stop some activities in some of the layouts, about 13 layouts in all. We stopped all activities; no constructions, no business, no transaction, nothing that is happening there because we are auditing the entire space.
So very soon, in the next two months or less than that, we’ll finish the process. We will call for verification, when you are qualified by verification, we’ll move to another stage which is recertification.
But honestly speaking, we have not been finding it easy because of a lot of criticism from the imams, pastors, land speculators, even the big wigs. They mistake our reform to mean seizing their lands.
When they began to realize that we’re not going to revoke any land, I did one interview three weeks ago in Hausa and I told them we’re not going to revoke anybody’s land except the titleholder violates the uses. Even in that case, we will work out how we can compensate because we do not intend to shortchange anybody.
It was with that explanation that they started calming down. Prior to that, some had even threatened me with death because they felt that I was the one inciting the governor with these ideas. The situation forced the governor to offer me a lodge within the government house.
Since the commencement of this reform, how has it impacted the revenue of the state?
When it comes to revenue, prior to GOGIS, those in charge of land administration could not even raise N5 million per month, but now you can get N14 million per month.
Recently, we sent demand notice, a reminder notice, and all the agreed notices by law to corporate businesses in the state and we told them that failure to comply will have consequences. Some banks dared us and we sealed up their premises.
That is how we did it and they complied, they paid. In fact, within eight months, we raised close to N200m compared to about N15m raised by the previous administrators within the same period.
In fact, I’m very optimistic that if we open the new layout, we can raise N40m monthly.
So if we look at all of these explanations critically, we have significant changes, as well as significant improvement in terms of land administration, which has cleared out all those land speculators and their dubious acts.
So, what is your revenue target for the state?
Honestly, my target is to get N1 billion annually. The land is money. So if your government (talking about state government) is very wise, you have to move in the direction of transforming the land administration system from analogue to digital, because land administration is going to be the highest source of revenue generation in the state.
By merely moving from analogue to digital, Kaduna State generated N3billion while Nasarawa State generated N700million per annum.
So, I’m calling on other states to emulate their sister state. Recently, the Director-General of Zamfara State Geographic Information System called me to inquire how are we doing this exercise?
He sought advice on how to implement the same in his state. So I’m sure people are watching us. They see what we are doing and they will replicate the same in their location.
The agency recently revoked ownership of property belonging to the NNPC, why was that action taken?
Gombe is growing very fast. So many investors are coming to us seeking land, and this NNPC land is over 25 years, no development, nothing, and they were not paying their ground rent. I sent three letters to them to pay their ground rent. No response, nothing.
Failure to pay your ground rent is subject to revocation. So that’s the reason why we revoked the title.
We have received a lot of requests from people that are looking for amusement parks, some people are looking for school plots, some for shopping mall plots, and some people are looking for health estate plots, and we are going to give them. We will even start doing the layout.
In building construction and maintenance, most people prefer artisans from neighbouring countries like Togo, Ghana among others than Nigerians. Why do you think this is so?
I think this has to do with the level of commitment of those artisans from the neighbouring countries, they seem to be more committed and trustworthy because they left their homes in search of greener pasture and as such, they will do all they can to put in their best in terms of time, effort, skill experience and so on.
Despite the existence of professionals like you and others, why are major projects in Nigeria being constructed by mainly foreign firms like Chinese Construction Company, Julius Berger and others? Is it the issue of trust?
This can be viewed from a different angle: It can be that the indigenous company have no such experienced as Nigeria is a developing country. Time delivery: The expatriate has the reputation of delivering projects within the stipulated period agreed upon.
Trust: Building trust is key as the white man has the character of strictly adhering to the specifications. The expatriate usually has the best professionals and mostly delivers a world-class project and Lack of machines and equipment by our indigenous company.
In Gombe state, GOGIS is a dynamic young firm that provides a wide variety of GIS solutions. What is the importance of GIS solutions and why do you think any state should introduce the same in town planning?
GIS stands for Geographic Information system. It is a computer system that collects, analyzes, stores and disseminates geographic information for use by different entities to facilitate informed and smooth decision making.
GIS has important uses in different fields, including in the environmental field. GIS is a powerful decision-making tool for any business industry, firm and organization.
It has become an integrated, well developed and successful tool in disaster management and mitigation. GIS can help with risk management and analysis by displaying which areas are likely to be prone to natural or man-made disasters.
Therefore, in this contemporary world, every state in Nigeria is strongly advised to introduce a GIS agency in their planning department.