By Sunday Iduh
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom has directed that, all properties both residential and commercial in Makurdi, Gboko and Otukpo should be certificated within six (6) months or face certain penalties.
Governor Ortom gave the directive Monday during the inauguration of Benue Geographic Information Service (BENGIS) Centre in Makurdi.
The governor, who was highly elated, disclosed that the completion of the project will address the bottle neck in land administration in the state, with the state government also meeting international best practices.
“The inauguration of this edifice, a component of the Benue Geographic Information Service, BENGIS Digitization Project marks a milestone in the history of my administration, and could not have come at a better time, given the increasing role of Land Assets in the socio-economic development of our people.
“With the regular reports I am receiving since the introduction of Geographic Information System in Land Management, the numerous challenges that were associated with Land Administration in the State have been reduced to the barest minimum. Infact, since the commencement of the BENGIS Project, the Land Digitization initiative has greatly improved urban planning, infrastructure development, environmental management and encouraged private investment
“With the commissioning of this historic project today, we have achieved the International Best Practice in Land Administration in the State. I am optimistic that this Project will attract the World Bank’s Grant of USD$2.5Million through States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Programme to be applied for developmental projects in the state”
He explained that the Land Use Acts gives governors powers over lands.
“The Land Use Act Cap L5, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2007 vests all land in the territory of a State on the Governor of the State to be held in trust and administered for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians in accordance with the provisions of the Act.
“Therefore, the powers given to the Governor in connection with this trust and administration include; control and management of all land in the urban areas, designation of urban areas, granting of Statutory Rights of Occupancy, granting of easements, demanding and revision of rents, power to enter and inspect, power to give consent for mortgage and other transactions, power to revoke Rights of Occupancy, and power to delegate.
“The above functions of the Governor as it relates to Land Administration in the state cannot be realised without the availability of geospatial information. It is against this backdrop that the state government in February, 2020 awarded the contract for the creation of a modern Benue State Geographic Information Service (BENGIS) to GIS Transport Ltd.
“The choice of this International firm for the project was informed by its track record of excellent performance both in Nigeria and other countries of the world in this highly technical sector. Today, I am impressed that the decision of my administration to invest in this project is already yielding positive results with renewed interest of our people in land matters, as well as accelerated processing of Certificates of Occupancy (C of O), a process that can now be accomplished within few weeks,” he stated.
Speaking during the ceremony, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who inaugurated the project, described Governor Ortom as the defender of the downtrodden. He congratulated him for the project, describing the project as a very important one.
“You can see a government that is willing to work, a government that has not more than five months to leave is still committed to completing the projects that are very impactful, the projects that will move the state forward. My dear brother, I am very much happy with you and that is why I thank God almighty that our paths crossed each other.
“All over the country and in the world, land administration has been a crucial issue, but what you have done today will be able to reduce the burden of land administration, and I can assure you that, the revenue it will generate will add value to the state. For your administration to carry out this project shows your interest for the development of the state,” he said.
Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Solid Minerals, Bernard Unenge, in a remark thanked Governor Ortom for conceiving the laudable initiative of reforming land administration in the state through the introduction of the BENGIS project.
According the commissioner, “BENGIS is a system of land administration in which ICT is deployed through digital platforms and software for seamless management of land administration such as processing of C of Os, systematic and efficient land recertification, regularization and registration of titles, warehousing of land documents in softcopies and hardcopies, automated and transparent system of revenue generation which eliminates leakages, amongst other functions.
“The process of transfer of land ownership has also been streamlined for greater efficiency that has drastically reduced incidences of land disputes. Today, I am pleased to announce to you that the processing of Certificate of Occupancy has been reformed such that it takes just a month or two to get a C of O at the Ministry.
“Aside the use of technology to process documents, His Excellency, the Executive Governor, has also been graciously signing C of Os in line with the powers vested in him by the constitution. Indeed, Governor Samuel Ortom has today through his bold policies in the Lands sector, placed Benue State amongst States using GIS technology in land administration,” he stated.