Several documents are seen to pose as stumbling blocks to developers and their projects, eventhough many often do not consider them while planning construction jobs. Some of these documents are to be obtained before ownership of the land is certified while others are secured while the project is ongoing.

One of these documents is building permit which specifies whether the land on which the project is to be sited is already marked by government for a would-be-project or an area reserved as pipeline route. In the event of omitting this, you are sure to lose the land no matter how much younpaid for the land.

A building permit is an official approval to proceed with a construction project. It is also intended to ensure that the project plans comply with local standards for land use, zoning and construction. These standards are intended to ensure the safety of current and future owners and occupants and enforcement of zoning and land use policies.

Specific issues the building permit process may address include structural integrity, zoning, sanitation, water and sewer lines, fire resistance and electrical service.

In some cases, you might think you could handle a construction project without bothering to obtain a permit, even though you suspect you might need one. If you get caught you will pay a hefty price. So it would be a better option to get the necessary permits for whatever you want to do.

For example, if and when you try to sell your house, the buyers’ inspection may not cover remodelling or additions that were not properly permitted and may not be completely up to code. This can prevent you from selling the house and may require that you undo the previous work and start again – this time with a permit.

You would likely need a building permit and possibly other permits, to build a new garage or convert an existing garage into living space. You would probably not need a permit to add drywall or shelving units to an existing garage. When in doubt, call your building department. Although in some circumstances, authorities, for reasons best known to them, deny permits that are genuinely sought, this, at times, confuses the public on which way to go. In a recent example, an organisation sued the Lagos State government over non-issuance of building permit. The organisation was asking the court to order the state government to issue it with building permit for its plot of land on Victoria Island, having paid all necessary fees assessed by the state in respect of the planned structure with an assertion that the claimant is the lawful owner of the said Block 1, Plot 21E, Victoria Island Annex Residential Scheme in Eti-Osa Local Government Area.

In order to attract the attention of the state government, the claimant joined as defendants in the suit, the Lagos State Governor, Attorney General, Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Building Control Agency, Physical Planning Permit Authority, and the Task Force on Environmental Sanitation.

The claimant, through its counsel, averred that it acquired the property in 2003 with Certificate of Occupancy No. 68/68.199AR from Habib Nigeria Bank Ltd. The organisation said it secured an approval for change of use of the land from residential to institutional (place of worship) via a September 7, 2004 letter and that its application for a building plan approval was received, processed and assessed for payment for various sums of money, which the claimant said have been paid. The claimant said she applied for and secured land clearance from the defendants by which the claimant was confirmed as the assignee of the land. All these efforts are to ensure that at the long run, all her efforts in having the project completed would not be in vein.

The claimant said the defendant demanded and received a total of N4,590,132.99 as Land Use Charge and other payments to allow her continue with her project, when suddenly the defendant posted a contravention notice, dated January 20, 2014 on her fence, alleging absence of development permit as ground of seeking removal of the building on the land within two days.

According to the claimant, the defendant allegedly posted another two-day notice on January 21 and “demolished part of the fence without any lawful justification and in bad faith”. She said the defendants, by two letters of July 27, 2010 and June 25, 2011, admitted it lost all documents submitted by the claimant and demanded another set of documents and fees, which the claimant obliged.

The organisation is therefore seeking, among others, a declaration that the defendant’s acts on or about January 21, 2014, amounted to trespass, illegal, unconstitutional and contrary to Section 43 of the 1999 Constitution. She also wants a declaration that the sealing of the claimant’s property since April 2014 by the 4th defendant is wrong, illegal and unlawful and an order directing it to unseal the property.

The claimant is going through the stress because it will be better for her to slug it out prior to the construction time than to wait after construction, when she may have spent a whopping sum to have the building demolished and land taken over from her.

By Maduka Nweke,

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