3 things you should know about FG’s new electronic C of O for buying federal lands

Godfrey Elimian
3 things to know about the new FG’s Certificate of Occupancy obtaining process

In case you missed it, on Saturday, May 13, the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, announced and unveiled a new Business Process Automation of Certificates of Occupancy (C of O) for Federal Lands.

The event which took place at the Ministry’s conference room, Mabushi, Abuja, saw Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola, the Minister for Works and Housing unveil the Business Process Automation of Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) for Federal Lands.

According to him, the manual processing of applications for and signing of C of O which used to be cumbersome and time-consuming would stop with the introduction of this digital platform. This would effectively end the era of carrying several bags of files of C of O for manual endorsement at home even on weekends.

3 things you should know about FG's new eCofO for Federal Lands

He said:

“Our digital platform is meant to make life better, the thing that used to take three months will now be available in 24 hours. I, as the head of the Ministry, will stop carrying Ghana must go filled with C of O’s from Abuja to Lagos or my house, I can now sign many of them on the system within some hours. I think that’s where Nigeria as the biggest black nation should be.”

The minister also revealed that about 2,276 files have been digitalized.

In his remarks, the Director Overseeing the Office of the Permanent Secretary, Engr. Folorunso Esan said that the project was awarded on February 17, 2022. He commended the Ministry for the successful implementation of the initiative and restated that the project will boost public consumption and also enable easy payments.

Read also: 4 things Nigerians stand to gain as FG approves eCustoms project

Nigeria’s Land acquisition process before now

In developing nations like Nigeria, where the state controls access and title ownership, land acquisition and use remain a crucial issue of significant policy relevance.

3 things you should know about FG's new eCofO for Federal Lands

In Nigeria, the process of acquiring C of O has traditionally been characterized by those who have undertaken it as being not only time-consuming but also packed with several criteria that are essentially superfluous, delaying what should have been a simple one with the appropriate technology application.

The process of obtaining a CofO in Nigeria is also expensive. To fully describe the process, it involves submitting an application to the relevant state government agency responsible for land matters. One would also be required to submit supporting documentation such as a survey plan, proof of payment of relevant fees, and other requirements.

The government agency will then conduct a series of checks and inspections to verify the ownership of the land or property, including site visits, verification of the survey plan, and other relevant documents. This might take months.

Perhaps, this is the most exciting thing that comes with the latest introduction by the Ministry of Works. Described as one of the many benefits that come with the online C of O, the minister said that “the process, which is known to take three months, will now take about 24 hours.”

However, when I tried to get a first-hand experience of the newly created platform, I could not go beyond the number verification which typically involves getting a confirmation code sent to your registered phone number.

We cannot determine if that challenge is perhaps one of the many initial challenges that come with state-owned platforms. However, we hope that it is a problem that will soon be fixed so that Nigerians can access the platform.

What the new digitalized process brings

While unveiling the platform and the digital process, Mr Babatunde Fashola expressed excitement and noted a few solutions that the platform would bring, which would solve many of the challenges associated with the manual process.

Babatunde Fashola unveils eCofO

Digital Approval

The requirement for the Minister’s permission or signature, which certifies the certificate provided to applicants as valid and serves as the highest authority when it comes to Federal lands in Nigeria, is likely one of the fundamental yet significant issues associated with the manual acquisition of C of O.

“The Application will offer the Minister an opportunity to digitally approve multiple C of O documents using biometric authentication… the Ministry has [also] successfully integrated with TSA-Remita and FIRS platforms for seamless payment of land charges & stamp duty…”

Babatunde Fashola, Nigeria’s Minister of Works and Housing

With the new digital process, applicants can have their certificates validated and signed online, doing away with the requirement for the typical document compilation found in the civil service. The C of O’s, which are hard copies of the documents, are typically compiled to a manageable quantity before being presented to the Minister, who will then approve thousands of documents at once.

Perhaps, even the minister would be happy for the reduced luggage always attached to his carriage.

Payment and tracking digitally

With the new digitalised process, individuals can now pay for charges and fees attached to their applications online without having to go through the rigorous method of generating receipts manually.

As with many other online platforms, the e-CofO platform has been configured automatically to generate the fees and charges attached to the process and a channel for payment. S, individuals can see and pay for the payable amount electronically.

But the platform does not only support electronic payment, it also helps the said applicant to monitor his or her applications to know the stages it currently has scaled through. Unlike before, they get to know that their application is active and scaling the necessary stages.

C of O verification

The recently developed digital portal offers a free way to check the validity of CofOs issued in Nigeria. Until now, the legitimacy of the signatures on the certificates granted to applicants has determined the authenticity of CofOs, despite the fact that signatures are susceptible to fraud.

This guarantees that people will no longer have to question the legitimacy of these credentials. If so, there is now a well-established, simple approach to confirm or dispel such uncertainties. Additionally, the issued C of O may be quickly searched and located for additional validation and re-issuance in the event that their owners misplace them, thanks to cloud storage and indexing.

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