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The Edo State government has approved a penalty-free period of two months for real estate developers to regularise their applications and approval for layouts.

Isoken Omo, commissioner for physical planning, and urban and regional development stated this at the weekend during a stakeholders’ meeting between members of the building sector and the state government in Benin City.

Omo said the engagement was to intimate real estate developers so that they will operate within the ambit of the law; ensure that all estate developments are approved and in line with the master plan as well as protect the public in property investment decisions and raise awareness of government policies.

The commissioner, while noting that findings have revealed that most persons who are into real estate developments do not have approved layout plans before they commenced their project, urged them to utilise the grace period to get approval or risk sealing off their estate.

“We are engaging with you because we want you to be aware of government policies. We need to make sure that investors put their money in the right place and to ensure that your layouts are approved and if it’s not approved, that means it is an illegal transaction and whatever you are building is illegal. You cannot build without layout approval.

“We are not here to punish you but to bring sanity to our environment and make sure that our master plan is not distorted and you are incorporated into it. We want to work with you as partners. We will give you a window to regularise, and the governor has approved a penalty-free period of two months. After that two months, we will charge the penalty.

“Normally, if you have started without approval you will pay a penalty but we are going to waive it. And if you don’t get the approval, we will take action by first declaring every unapproved layouts illegal. We will then insist that every layout that is not registered will not use our advert spaces, and if it becomes necessary, then we will seal,” Omo said.

She equally said that, in furtherance of the ‘Operation Plan Edo,’ a new development and data-gathering initiative, her ministry has sealed off 50 properties and visited 20, 294 properties in the last two months to ensure that buildings and developments across the state adhere to government regulations in line with the 30-year Edo regional development plan.

Giving the breakdown, she said “In the last two months, we have visited two local government areas which are Oredo and part of Ikpoba-Okha. We have visited six communities aside from commercial areas and we have talked to about 81,000 people in different fora. Also, we have data on the property to be demolished. If we continue like this till the end of the year, we will cover the whole state.

“What we are doing is visiting each community, asking what they need, the peculiarities of the community as well as issues affecting them. Some communities are suffering erosion problems and they will be happy if we arrest the situation but we can’t know this if we don’t communicate and engage with you. We need this data to plan”.

On his part, Francis Evbuomwan, managing director, Edo Geographical Information Service (EdoGIS), who said the Obaseki-led government wants investments to be done formally, hinted that those with plots of land in government reserved will soon be dispossessed of their lands.

Chris Ebbih, a property developer, in his remark, said the engagement was timely and would trigger a good relationship process between actors in the building sector and the government.

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