26 Jun 2024


Emmanuel Nwafor

Mayor of Housing Not Scared of Difficulties in Rivers Land Acquisition and Administration

  • Says ‘I go where others flee from’

Land tenure system and the menace of land grabbing in Rivers State’s land administration space are not enough to deter dedicated and serious estate developers including the Mayor of Housing, My-ACE China. Instead, the real estate success strategist said in an interview in Port Harcourt that he rather heads to where other investors are fleeing from.

The Chief Executive Officer of Housing and Construction Mayor Limited, who spoke to Kristina Reports, admitted that land issues were actually a big problem, adding that those problems made it impossible for investors to come to the State.

Mayor of Housing, My-ACE China

For him, however, where others are running away from is where he said he runs to. “That is my nature. If you are able to crack that thing chasing others away, you will capture the right to scale. That is why I keep hammering on the revitalization of the Rivers State Geographical System (RivGIS).

He reminded the state that the Land Use Act gave every governor the right to every land in that state. “The aboriginal owners of the land are first owners; the next are the traditional rulers of that area. When RivGis wants to map land, they know the boundaries of the area and the surveyor will map the original land and make sure everybody’s land is registered in the system.” He said this would make it easy for the government manage the land administration however they wanted.

He said where he ventured into, Alesa in Eleme local council area, the government did do that. “I do not need to go to the community because RivGis would have already paid them. RivGis can now advise me that when you get to that community, give so, so type of jobs to the people, etc. I can now have a soft MoU with the community.”

He revealed his driving passion, saying: “The difference between me and others is that they are in real estate but real estate is in me. So, we can’t stop seeking collaboration.”

He used the opportunity to call for sanitization of the estate development subsector to weed out charlatans. He urged the Rivers State government through RivGIS to demand professional membership certificates from those coming in to practise. “Even the EFCC is asking questions. Let RivGis be made strong, let them screen us.”

My-ACE China

Admitting that the state has potentials but is faced with housing deficit, he said Nigeria needs N61 trillion for both the core and ancillary costs to close the 28m housing deficit.  He commended Gov Sim Fubara of Rivers State for starting 20,000 low-cost houses that may be scaled up to 100,000. He however admitted that there were challenges and prospects in the housing sector in Rivers State.

“The housing deficit in Rivers State is worse because it is a one-city state making most persons to cluster in the state capital, the oil city. By this, of the population of about 7m people in the state, over 5m is congested in the state capital, PH. In terms of city congestion PH is second most congested. Other states may have their population spread around”.

He regretted that the fundamental is that there is no agency in charge of all matters relating to lands and housing. In Rivers State, there are about five ministries and agencies looking after the sector: Ministry of Lands, Ministry of Housing, Ministry of Urban Development, the Surveyor-General’s Office, and more. In this situation, none has responsibility to collate all matters and interface with the public. “I would say, return to RivGis idea as way out in Rivers land title stalemate. The way out is to systematize lands and housing subsector.”

The Mayor of Housing said the ease of doing business (EoDB) in Abuja is 100 times faster than in Rivers State. He said The AGIS (Abuja Geographic Information System) has done an excellent work in mapping all the lands in the FCT, settling all the aboriginal owners, acquiring all the lands from the owners and keeping it for the FCT for land allocation, land use, and land purpose. The summary of all this, he stated, is that; “In 60 days, you come and pick your certificate of occupancy (CofO) without visiting any director, any Permanent Secretary, or any Governor.

My-ACE China

“Malicious sale of land would go. You don’t need to carry any file anywhere. No bureaucratic bottlenecks or corrupt involvement is encountered.”

He said lack of continuity in government killed RivGIS. “The failure of RivGis is lack of policy continuity and lack of scale of priority. Without continuity, politics is a liability.  

What attracted me to Gov Fubara:

One of the things that attracted me to the Sim Fubara administration is the humility for continuity. To know you did not start this project but because you have the interest of the people at heart, you continue it, even in the midst of political crisis.

Governance in Nigeria is such that politics is prioritized over valuetics.

And when people are saying that the present governor has scored zero because he continued and completed the projects that his predecessor started, I am wondering what planet these guys are speaking from.

Property is Nigeria’s 2nd most lucrative sector:

The second most lucrative sector after oil in Nigeria right now is property.    

Until RivGis is so digitalized that there is no or minimal human interference just like in the banks, the state will not surge forward in development.

Challenges of estate development:

The Director-General (DG) in the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) is pushing on her own. The governor has said he started real governance in February 2024. We know that things are not where they should be but we are very optimistic they are going to be far better because of the body language of the governor. We in the private sector want to see more PPP initiatives and projects.

The difficulty of having access to property is when you go solo, but when the government partners with you, they make access to land, documentation, and certificates easy, easy.

What investors want in the Fubara administration

What investors want is ease of land papers. As an offshoot from the summit where investors expressed difficulty in getting land papers (certificates of occupancy), access to land, etc. I am sure this governor will follow through. Continuity alone is a boost of confidence for the private sector.

Third: Flag-off and actual start of construction of the 20,000 low-cost housing units under a PPP is also a confidence booster. The project can be extended to 2000 units. 

Advice to Governor Fubara:

My sincere advice to Governor Fubara is to increase the number and size of Public-Private-Partnership schemes. It is not only in projects but in planning. 

People are building shanties and call it estates.  We should take advantage of virgin areas to do modern planning. Government can get that done through RivGis to develop a master plan. Let there be a system that stops the desecration of that masterplan.

Economic summit: Bring out white paper

The governor needs to as a matter of fact sit down with group leaders especially captains of industry and technocrats and develop a white paper from the summit’s panel discussions. The governor can ask and find out those who can execute needed tasks in certain sectors such as expertise in mapping Rivers State and plan it vis-à-vis the part that has not yet been developed. This map should be in the public domain.

Why land grabbing is rampant in Rivers:

Why there is a lot of land-grabbing at the moment is because there is no system now.   When there is crisis, things are not organized, fraudulent people take advantage

Do you know that in this state, people sell one land to over three buyers? This is because there is no system to track land transactions in the state. Nobody knows who owns the land and who buys. If RivGis had been made to work, these things would be a thing of the past. All you needed was to go to RivGis, confirm who owns the land, pay, and come back to RivGis to do documentation.

Hard truth: Lagos and Abuja are being bought up by people from Rivers and Bayelsa:

The hard truth that may shock you is that over 70% of those who buy property in Abuja and Lagos are from Rivers and Bayelsa (south-south). I know one of the biggest developers building estates in Lagos and Abuja. I came here and asked him why he was not building here, he said he was not ready for the headache.  This has caused capital flight.


One of the biggest marketers of any location is local direct investors (LDI). We that are on ground get many calls from faraway investors asking us what the government is truly doing and our experience on hand. So, the governor needs to rally those of us that are here, work with us, solve our problems, then we can naturally and gladly tell the FDIs that Rivers State is good to invest. 

These are the things LDI talk about and if the conditions are good, their talks attract outsiders to come and invest and do business.

I follow the body language of the Governor:

When it comes to government bureaucracy and policy, I tell you I always look at the body language of the governor. We are very hopeful of the outcome of the economic summit. Government expands and contracts on the body language of the principal person in any society, in this case the governor.

One thing I think will blow Rivers State to big proportions

I want to plead with the Rivers State Government, especially the governor, that we are sitting on a very unique opportunity that must be exploited immediately. Recently you have been hearing of demolition in Lagos. That is a huge opportunity for Rivers State and South-South in general. For every house you demolish, you have de-marketed 35,000 interested property buyers, investors, and prospective businesses in that location. Now, people are looking for where to go to from Lagos. People in the Diaspora are looking for where to invest apart from Lagos, where to put their moneys in property other than Lagos. This is a huge opportunity.  

‘Anything goes’ is only here. I have done business in other places and for five years in Abuja. Sir, nobody buys from AGIS and it is demolished. Nobody buys land without AGIS and Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA).

As a matter of fact, you don’t need to know anybody in Abuja to buy land. All you have to do is to go to AGIS and pay what they call a ‘Legal Search’. It will show you the original owner of the paper you have and tell you who to deal with. Besides, they have an EFCC unit there. If you come with paper belonging to another person’s land, the EFCC will arrest you right there.

Investment confidence:

There is need for such a system here in PH to create investment confidence. We live in a world where anything you want to do has been done somewhere. You are not inventing any wheel. You do not need to go far. Copy and paste what AGIS and FCDA are doing, simple. Know it that Rivers State has more real estate potential than Abuja.

Create building materials hub in Rivers:

Government can do an industrial park, somewhere close to the waterways, and say, this 10-hectare area is for an industrial park. Government can then create road to it, remove tax, give 24-hour power supply system through gas power since there is right to states to do power. Now, sell power half the price. People from China and other places will flood the hub because they know power is cheap there. They know they will not pay tax. Many steel industries are dead but the government has refused to privatise them.

Only few people are allowed in the cement sector. So, these cause huge rise in building materials and cost of housing. Rivers State can pursue this and become the hub for low-cost building material in Nigeria. Look, everything in a house is imported. 

Mortgage is alien to Nigeria. What is innate in Nigeria is cooperative and thrifting. South Africa fought their own by finding a way to produce brick. Nigeria has much of that. If you want to bring down housing costs, bring down building materials.  

Earning capacity is low. A person earning N30,000 per month will need 150 years to pay a mortgage.

My heart bleeds when people raise this matter. This has been my passion in real estate. When I joined this business, we had about 20m housing deficit in Nigeria. The size of a problem determines the size of the reward from it. Right now, we started from the high-end which is easier to finance and to sell. We are the first company to engage the full services of a green architect, a minimalist architect, and we have research fellows in the UK and Turkey to see how we can do away with imported raw materials. What we can generate locally can compete with what we have such as using solar to burn clay and produce clay bricks so they are better and cheaper.

The key things are to reduce the foreign raw materials to local ones; and reduce the structural density of a house. Some can do with less spaces and facilities. We are cueing into what our people know such as cooperative and thrifting to do crowd funding.

One of the things that motivate me is that the tallest building in Nigeria is the Cocoa House in Ibadan. It was not built on the back of mortgage but cooperative.

But, if I don’t breathe, I cannot do an experiment because if it fails, my money goes. So, we want to make money in the luxury space and plough back to low-cost or alternative raw material buildings.

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