October 9, 2014

Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Links Economic Growth to Security of Land Rights at Thomson Reuters and Atlantic Council Event

Washington, D.C. — In a presentation hosted by Thomson Reuters and Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C. on October 8, 2014, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy for the Republic of Nigeria, said security of land rights is critical to unlocking the potential of the housing and agriculture sectors in her country.

These two sectors, she said, are primed for a ‘revolution’ in Nigeria, a country of 170 million people with the largest economy in Africa.

An estimated 97 percent of lands in Nigeria lacks documented land rights, and Okonjo-Iweala noted that in Nigeria there exists an unmet demand for 17 million housing units.

The country lacked a formal mortgage finance market until the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Corporation was created in 2013. “Can you imagine a country of Nigeria’s size didn’t have a mortgage system?” she asked.

In relation to the security of land rights, she noted the critical need for more efficient and modern land registry systems. The World Bank’s “Doing Business” survey has ranked Nigeria 182 of 185 countries — the lowest in Africa — on its ease of registering property. “Land registry must not be done in years, but must be done in weeks,” Okonjo-Iweala said. She cited Cross River state and Lagos state as two jurisdictions which have made significant strides modernizing land registries.

Beginning in 2010, Cross River partnered with Thomson Reuters to implement a new digital land registration system.

Brian Peccarelli, president of the Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters, introducing the event, noted that since the new Thomson Reuters Aumentum software was implemented, the land registration process now takes a week to complete – not the months or years previously required.

Registration volumes and online search queries have increased steadily since the system was implemented, as the process became considerably easier and more transparent for citizens. “More search and registry fees were collected in just two months when the system was implemented than in the entire four years before the onset of the Cross River land reforms,” Peccarelli said.

Okonjo-Iweala noted that land as an asset has yet to be monetized in Nigeria and emphasized that land reform needs to be completed in a methodical manner. “It gives small holders an asset to take to the bank,” she stated. This is particularly important for farmers as they may use the land as collateral to improve the productive capacity of their lands by, for example, obtaining a loan to invest in improved irrigation.

“Home ownership gives you a stake in society,” she said. “It puts a roof over your head. It gives you an asset. It makes you feel you have accomplished something. This is a common wish that everyone has.”

To date, 66,000 home mortgage finance applications have been received in Nigeria. “We will make fast progress of this economic asset [land],” she concluded. Additionally, Nigerian states are realizing that if they want to reform – and attract investment -- they need to build stronger land administration institutions.

Thomson Reuters has deployed land and property information systems for than 1,000 jurisdictions worldwide, enabling governments to support sustainable growth, optimize revenue generation, and improve services to the public.

To view the entire event, visit: http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/events/webcasts/webcast-conversation-with-he-ngozi-okonjo-lweala.

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