Tuesday, June 3, 2014 3:09 pm
by Abiodun Onafuye
Abeokuta – One of the five cardinal programmes of the Ibikunle Amosun administration in Ogun State is affordable housing and urban renewal. And one of the agencies saddled with accomplishing this is the Ogun State Property and Investment Corporation, OPIC.
Until the advent of the present administration in the state, OPIC focused primarily on opening up areas within its estates and a few other key development investments.Upon his assumption of office, however, the governor, in accordance with his slogan, “Mission to Rebuild”, initiated a comprehensive review of the agency’s operation, culminating in a focused re-orientation and overhaul of the corporation’s operating strategy, and the institution of a new management direction.
The new OPIC, under the leadership of a lawyer and estate developer, Mr. Babajide Odusolu, has within one year, turned the story of the agency to what many have described as, “From Zero to Hero”.
The law establishing the agency gives it wide-ranging authority, and is designed to ensure that it delivers the twin objectives of fast-tracking development of the state’s viable locations and delivering dividends to the state’s revenue account.
OPIC, directly and through some of its subsidiary companies, owns and manages over 10,000 hectares of land in Lagos and key areas of Ogun State.
The new, reorganised OPIC, under Odusolu, is primarily focused on the creation of new master-planned cities, development of investment grade commercial property assets, creation of gated communities and development of similarly oriented assets that broaden the assets base of the state and opens new frontiers for direct private investments.
In June and July 2013, most of the organisational restructuring and staff re-orientation were done, while field work was not affected. And by August, same year, issues of security challenges across OPIC’s estates were reviewed and a total crackdown was launched on the land grabbers, notoriously called Ajagungbale in all the estates. Most of them were arrested and prosecuted and, as at today, have become history.
Commenting on the activities of the land grabbers, Odusolu said the government has been able to claw-back over 300 hectares of land in the in Agbara area, adding that, the major focus of the corporation is to create an enabling environment for investors, who will make returns through tariff and taxes.
According to the Managing Director, “In Agbara when I took over, what they told me was that we had just 200 hectares out of 3,000 hectares. In one of the prime locations in Agbara, Area 4, I was told that all we had left was about two hectares. [But] as of today, in Area 4, we have over 20 hectares claw-backs. In Area 8, I was told we had about 20 hectares available; in that area we have over 150 hectares claw-backs. People were not stealing, but inefficiency, negligence and lack of understanding [were rife] because lands were being reserved for people when the affected people had even forgotten having a property in the area.”
And to ensure enhanced performance, in September 2013, OPIC’s operations were merged with those of Gateway City Development Company Limited, GCDCL. Towards the end of the same month, total demolition of illegal structures within OPIC estate in Agbara was carried out successfully and the government was able to acquire back many of its landed property. And in October and November 2013, enumeration of the remaining illegal structures for amnesty was done and by January this year, work was completed on 18 bungalows at the estate.
Speaking with this magazine, the Managing Director of the agency, who doubles as Special Adviser on Property and Investment to the Governor, disclosed that the corporation is working hand-in-hand with other relevant government agencies and ministries, including the Bureau of Lands and Survey, state Housing Corporation and the Ministry of Housing to ensure that the urban renewal programme of the administration is achieved.
In pursuance of the urban renewal objective of the Ibikunle Amosun administration, four new estates with 600 housing units are being developed in the three senatorial districts.
During his address at the recent Ogun State 2014 Investors’ Forum in Abeokuta, Governor Amosun reiterated his administration’s ultimate desire to intervene in the housing delivery process and ensure that all the citizens own or have access to decent, safe and affordable housing.