Buying Land in Nigeria - How to avoid tricks by fraudulent agents

Posted by Oke Onyehara /  September 26, 2013 / in Buying & Selling

Quite a while I wrote an article on Nairaland relating to property issues and to be honest I've learnt more tricks from land fraudsters in 2010 than I could ever imagined. I thought I knew every trick in the book and how to deal with them but they kept on coming at me like a heavy downpour and I couldn't catch my breath in most situations. In fact it was so bad that I almost gave up handling property matters and questioned my competence in some instances. I have taken a long time to soul search and ponder how to make 2011 more successful and also let people know the tricks and inherent dangers in not doing a thorough search for a property and also lowering your guard in trusting people when it comes to property matters because once they see that slight opportunity that you trust them, they will hit you hard.

Make no mistake about it, no matter how we pray about it or wish it wasn't true, 419 is rampant in Nigeria and its extremely prevalent when it comes to buying landed property in Lagos. These people are tough and cold hearted and they take no prisoners when it comes to making you part with your money. So below are some rules and tips when buying property this 2011 and please learn from them because I also was a victim when I of all people let my guard down.

  1. Rule number one and the most important rule: TRUST NO SELLER OR AGENT NO MATTER WHAT TILL YOU HAVE GOTTEN YOUR DOCUMENTS SIGNED, SEALED AND DELIVERED.
  2. Don’t believe all the Marketing Bullshit adverts from Sellers or Agents till you have done your own personal search to confirm. The more they tell you they have a good track record for sales done properly, the more you should be prepared that you might be the first person where things will go wrong and your money will disappear.
  3. Every land you are interested in, always and i mean always ask for these documents:
    1. The Survey Plan
    2. The deed of Assignment and how the property was transferred from time immemorial to the present day Seller:
    3. Copy of the Original receipt the Seller used to purchase the land and from whom he bought it from
    4. Copy of either the gazette, C/O or governors consent of the land.
  4. If possible visit the property personally or send a representative you trust. Never buy a property directly from a property magazine or website without you seeing it personally or sending your representative to see it and comment on it.
    1. If a seller tells you he is not ready to release a document because it’s a private document, please walk away. Every landed document is a Public document of record that can be investigated and searched. The more they tell you they can't release it, the more suspicious you should be and after demanding it strenuously and its still rejected please walk away fast.

      Sweet Talking by a Seller or Agent will only put you in more trouble. If the Seller or Agent says it will take him time before he gets the document but you should fast track the transaction till he gets the document because other people are interested in the land, let him go and eat the land. Without these documents for search, your only falling victim to these fraudsters.

      CASE STUDY 1 - OKOTA

      A Nairalander contracted me to do a search for him in respect of a land he wanted to buy. He contacted an Estate Agent who introduced him to the owners of the land and they claimed to be family members of the Okota Ruling family. When I got to the Omonile's place of residence, i asked them to identify themselves and they brought out everything including driver’s licences, Nepa bills showing their names and addresses, bank account statements, letters and certificates showing they are affiliated with the Okota Ruling families. In short everything i asked from them in terms of identification scaled through.

      On a further Personal inspection of the land i noticed it was a fenced land and had a small gate man's house there. I asked the Omonile when he bought the land he said in 1978 and showed me an old receipt of the purchase with these old 5 kobo stamps attached to it and he told me to take it to the Okota palace to verify it and even gave me a name to meet there to cross check which i did and the person he directed me to brought out a book showing all the transactions since the 1970s till date and confirmed that the original Okota family sold it to the omonile.

      I asked the Omonile why he was just selling it after 20 something years and why didn't he build on it since Okota was a prime place, he told me he was short of money when he fenced the land and built the gate mans house 5 years ago and abandoned it but he was now ready to sell the land for N6 million. I asked him where he was living now and he said he lives in Igando and i traced his address to the place he gave me as his official address and I couldn't help but try to compare the Okota property he said he was building and owned and the igando squalor home he is living in presently to see the differences. I had serious doubts about the seller but I couldn't find any fault so far. I now decided to up my game by demanding for the documents of the property and he gave me a registered deed of assignment registered in Alausa in the 1980s and upon search it was found to be duly registered in their name and I finally encouraged the Nairalander to do a survey plan search which finally checked out.

      After all said and done, I had nothing else to search and had to endorse the sale for the buyer and the property was going for N6.5 Million but my spirit still wasn't convinced that all was right but I couldn't point out precisely what the problem was and how to detect it. The Agents kept on adding pressure on the Buyer that he should buy the land because other buyers were also interested and in return the Buyer added more pressure on me to endorse it quickly because he didn't want to lose the land because to him it was a steal. On the eve of the night of paying the sum, I felt very uneasy and I took the receipt and deed of assignment and kept on going through it over and over to see if I could pick any faults but I couldn’t.

      Driving home that night I suddenly had that urge to park along the road to review all the documents properly and that’s when God decided to open my eyes. The Deed of Assignment registered in Alausa in the 1980s was a perfect clone from the one I was reviewing. Everything was properly typed out and stamped exactly and dated exactly except one very tiny mistake. The person who drafted the clone Deed of Assignment was an expert forger but he slept off at the end of the drafting and in one small corner he forgot to proofread his work thoroughly. In a particular line of the deed of assignment where it was to be dated 16 of April 1983, he ended up typing 16TH OF MAY 2010. That small error was all I needed to cancel the transaction. I took that same cloned deed of assignment to Alausa and gave it to four experts there and none of them were able to discover the error until I pointed it out and they were extremely amazed at the level of forgery.

      It wasn't discovered due to human power but through God I must confess and when I confronted the Omoniles about the fraud, they simply demanded for their papers and said they weren't selling again. The next day I came to confirm about the owners, I was told they had disappeared and moved out from the place they were staying. I further learnt that they planted a mole in the Oba's palace in Okota and doctored the log book that recorded all the transactions for people who search to be convinced it's real and I finally discovered that the plot of land belonged to professor in The U.S that bought the land in the 80s from a third party seller and was developing his land little by little but didn't know Omoniles were attempting to sell his property at his back.

      So the moral of this story brings out the following tips:

      1. Never trust any Omonile who brings out any document for a property that you can see that is quite new but the documents are old looking.
      2. Always be wary about properties that are fenced. Try to get to the bottom of it why the so called seller fenced the property and he is ready to sell because he might be selling you another man's property.
      3. Whenever you see foundation on a property, always demand for the building plan approval to confirm unless they might be selling you another man's property.
      4. Always demand for the survey plan for a fenced property and try and trace the beacon numbers either on the ground or on the wall and compare them with what you have on the survey plan and compare the date the survey plan was made and drawn and the name on the survey plan.
      5. Never be in a hurry to buy a land and don't let the agents or sellers push you till you have completed your search and convinced all is well unless when you're pushed, you part with your money and you won't see both the agent and seller again.
      6. Always try and visualize a person selling a multi million naira land and his personality. Someone that looks like a person that hasn't counted or seen N500,000 EVER CANNOT CLAIM TO BE AN OWNER OF LAND THAT RUNS FOR MILLIONS.
      7. Please, Please and Please Investigate the Owner and the documents thoroughly. Don’t skimp on the search fees it could save your bank account and family savings. I get it all the time people shouting they can’t pay N50,000 for search but are ready to throw away N2 Million and above and later come back to cry to me where things went wrong.

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