Stories by Maduka Nweke,
[email protected] 08034207864, 08118879331
Everything that happens in a modern societies follows a particular sequence. If no sequence is followed, there could either be breach of order or hiccups at the end of operation. A provision in the constitution is clear to the extent to which governments own land. This is why many a time people who failed to cross checks before buying land end up loosing their resources on the ground that it has been marked by government for certain projects.
Also, land speculators locally branded ‘Omoniles’ have got a lot of tricks up their sleeves as most of them pose as landowners for the purpose of defrauding would be investors. The experience of this is currently playing out in Ogun State along the Lagos Ibadan expressway where a lot of lands belonging to private investors are resold by the Omoniles to the detriment of the investors.
Following the creation of 2nd Niger Bridge at Asaba, Onitsha, Ogbaru and other coastal areas, a lot of plots of land are being forfeited by individuals to government through fraudulent means. Many of those who have their properties along the road have not been compensated while government officials are saying all have been compensated. The implication is that government may have wrongly paid the compensation due, to wrong hands thereby claiming that the compensation obligation has been concluded.
As the government makes its plans for expansion and improvement of publicly maintained roads and utilities, it determines which private parcels will be affected. Once it makes that decision, the government will work with its own appraisers to determine the appropriate price for the necessary property interests. When the government has established its estimation of the property value, it may offer the landowner a particular price for the property. If the property owner agrees, the government buys the land. If the property owner disputes the government’s valuation and they cannot agree on a price, the matter will go to condemnation proceedings.
During condemnation proceedings, the property owner will get to offer his or her own valuation for the property. Typically, the property owner will work with an attorney and an appraiser. The attorney will protect the property owner’s legal rights respecting the involved property, and the appraiser will work to establish the property’s fair market value. The property owner may also oppose a forced sale by contesting the government’s proposed use of the property.
As long as the use is proper, however, this type of challenge will fail. As an alternative, the landowner may also claim that the extent of the property the government is attempting to condemn is too great and that its purposes can be fulfilled with less intrusion. Generally speaking, the government is only allowed to invade the property rights of individuals to the extent necessary to accomplish the intended public purpose.
Most condemnation proceedings turn on the value of the property at issue. How much a piece of property (or an interest in property) is worth depends on many factors. For a piece of undeveloped land with a single owner and no exceptional or unusual features, establishing the property’s value may be fairly straightforward. The zoning of the property and the value of surrounding tracts will provide useful guidance for the calculation. In urban settings, however, the property is likely to be developed.
In this case, the current use of the property, the structures upon it, access to the property, the interests of any lessees, and many other issues will complicate the value determination. The many unique characteristics of the property often result in a different estimation of value between the property owner and the government. In addition to an appraiser and an attorney, each side may have additional experts, such as engineers and architects.
Factors that are considered in property valuation include: its size, how it is zoned, what kinds of buildings and roads are on it, what it’s currently being used for, what it could be used for, how accessible it is, what other businesses or land uses are adjacent or nearby, and whether there are tenants or other leaseholders involved. The property may represent the owner’s livelihood, so that to the owner it is worth everything he or she has invested in it, and all that can be derived from it.
To the government, however, the relevant value is the property’s market value — what an interested buyer who is not obligated to buy might pay to an interested seller who is not obligated to sell. The valuation is also made as of a particular date. This is because property values can fluctuate over time. To arrive at one price, the determination is established as of one date.