Buying Land in Nigeria - How to avoid tricks by Dodgy Surveyors

Posted by Oke Onyehara /  November 04, 2013 / in Buying & Selling

CASE STUDY NO.1 (DODGY SURVEYORS)

Everyone knows that I have been a foremost promoter of doing a survey plan search with a surveyor before buying and if possible going to the land with an Alausa Surveyor to confirm whether it is free from acquisition or not. Well I also fell victim of dodgy surveyors I recommended to people that ended up colluding with the omoniles to decieve buyers and me. Such instances occured in Okun Ajah, Mopo Ibeju, Sangotedo, Ikorodu, lafiaji, Eputu, Akowonjo and Mowe.

These surveyors have found a way to beat the system because of their greed and its almost next to impossible for a buyer or me to know where they have gone wrong. If it is a familiar place they have been and they have met the owners of the land before and upon their search they have found out that the area is not free from government acquisition, they end up colluding with the omonile and the omonile ends up promising to give them a free land or induce them with money far above what the buyer will give them for surveying the land. So when they are to go to the land to investigate it with their GPS, they will search the coordinates and come back with a favourable report that the land is good. Because they are authorities in this department, you have no choice but to accept their word. You end up giving them the contract to do your survey plan and later on when you bring another surveyor there to investigate the land you realize that the land is committed or not free. Even on the survey plan of the land you have bought, they will be so bold as to stamp FREE FROM ALL KNOWN ACQUISTION but in reality your land could be sitting on a Pipeline or Coastal road for all they care. You confront them and all you hear is SORRY or that the instruments they used then were faulty blah blah blah.

The Omoniles have learnt to use them thoroughly to their own advantage since they know you might want to do due diligence. The truth is that it’s very rare or let’s say BIG MANISM that will make a Registered Surveyor follow you to the site to do a routine land search. They usually send their boys and whatever coordinates the boy writes for the oga, the oga just stamps it as being okay without even seeing the land sometimes. Some of The Alausa surveyors I trusted last year really messed me up at times and I had to give up recommending anyone again. Most of the time the buyers end up blaming me for introducing them when in reality I had no idea this was what they were doing to buyers and collecting money plus free lands from the omoniles to distort the truth. This Greed and Fraud extends to all sectors of our country and its getting more difficult to see who you can trust.

When I confronted a past surveyor general of Oyo state on this issue, he told me point blank that such practices will not stop unless they change the procedure of checking land coordinates in Survey General's office and the buyer is ready to pay the right fees for a thorough survey check.

He says the law on survey check states that a survey plan must be done on the site personally and after that a LAND INFORMATION WILL BE PRODUCED WHICH COULD TAKE UP TO A WEEK AND THE SURVEYOR GENERAL WILL SIGN ON IT TO SHOW WHETHER ITS FREE OR NOT AND IF IT ENDS UP NOT BEING FREE BUT IT WAS ERRONEOUSLY SIGNED AS FREE, THE STATE GOVERNMENT WILL COMPENSATE THE BUYER.

But the flaw in this system means that the proposed buyer must shell out almost a N100,000 or more to do a survey plan and register it before the Land Information is drawn up and gotten and if at the end it is found that the land is not free, the buyers money goes into the drain and he performs this process all over again till he gets the right property to buy.

The question is, how many people will be ready to go through this process? Virtually 1% of buyers. So we still have to rely on these Surveyors doing their thing and hope for the best that they are competent enough, loyal enough to you first and trust worthy to deliver.

So despite the Ups and Downs of 2010 with some dodgy Surveyors, I promised myself not to introduce anybody to any surveyor personally again again but I have also found out that not helping other people because of a few dodgy surveyors means am not fulfilling Gods work to assist because of my anger of the system and untrustworthy surveyors. I have now found 2 surveyors that I can alternate with to introduce people to help with their various searches. I can only vouch for my own work that its almost perfect and I take blames for my own short comings but not the short comings of other people because I introduced them to you. While I believe they are morally upright people that SHOULD DO YOUR JOBS PERFECTLY, still have it at the back of your mind that they are human beings and can also go hay wire so they must be monitored seriously. Remember RULE NO 1: DONT TRUST ANYBODY.

So the Moral of this story brings the following TIPS:

  1. Once I introduce you to the surveyor, whether private or Alausa, make sure you know his office and where he works. Your not paying me money and I dont share their money, so you must know who your giving money to and if your satisfied with him. Its not enough anymore for you to say ' LAWYER INTRODUCED ME TO HIM OR HER'. That excuse died with 2010 and I am no longer taking liability for a surveyors job. I have my own office, my law firm duly registered and my documents to back me up when called upon located in Ikeja. So also get to know where the surveyor works and know what works he or she has done I can only recommend based on previous good works and monitor them for you but your the one paying them.
  2. Also when a surveyor is going on a search, make sure you ask him or her about the GPS to take the coordinates. Most of them have computers where the whole coordinates is stored in so once they punch the coordinates in the system, they should have the answer in minutes. Please try to make them show you the coordinates through the system personally or scan it out to you. It replaces the land information to an extent since your coming through the back door to be 100% sure of what you’re buying. If your surveyor can't give you concrete facts to back up his case, please abandon him in a Jiffy. Don’t get sentimental. I was a victim in 2010 because I was sentimental. This 2011, Mr. Sentimental has Died. No Dulling!!!
  3. Most surveyors charge exorbitantly but one thing I will advise from now on is this. Never pay a surveyor his full money until he has done the survey plan and has placed the beacons on the land. Also demand for the red copy after the survey has been done and pay that extra money for land information search to cover you. PENNY WISE POUND FOOLISH is the cause of so many landed problems and i vow to be very hard on them on behalf of buyers who can’t have access to them because of distance or work schedule. 2010 Has made me tougher to understand their tricks and I won’t let them get away with it in 2011.
  4. Talking of the beacons: Make sure your surveyor places these beacons on the ground after the survey has been drawn. The absence of beacons lead to boundary disputes and gives omonile the opportunity to steal lands because it cannot be identified properly. Don’t let lazy surveyors take advantage of you this 2011.

CASE STUDY NO.2 IKORODU: (How to Detect Land Owned by Another Person that is being offered for sale)

A Friend of mine saw a bungalow he was interested in and decided to buy it in Ikorodu. Upon search we found out that the Seller was the true owner and had all the documents to back it up. In fact he was living in that bungalow for the last 2 years after he just built it and put it up for sale for N7Million. My friend was really interested in it and he had an agreement with the seller that he would pay him N4Million as the first installment and the remaining balance of N3Million for the second balance in 2 months time. Everything was agreed to and the first N4Million payment was made to the seller in his lawyers office and as an extra security for my friend i said the seller should collect the keys of the bungalow to move in and after he settles the final balance, the original documents such as the survey plan, deed of assignment and original receipts including the building plan will be given to my friend. The seller agreed and handed over the keys and took the N4Million and a contract of sale was drafted and signed in his lawyer’s office and witnessed by a lot of people.

My friend immediately took possession of the bungalow and moved some of his things in to show intent / immediate ownership and hoped that before the end of the 2 months he would balance up the remaining amount owned. Due to the nature of his job off shore, he was away for about a month and a half and when he got back to his bungalow; he noticed the bungalow has been over taken by another person who had moved into the bungalow.

The place was repainted and totally newly furnished and all my friend's loads and properties had disappeared as if they never existed . The new owner claimed that he bought the same property from the Seller 2 weeks before my friend came back for N10 Million Naira and he paid at once and in exchange he was given the survey plan, deed of assignment and receipt by the Seller and when he moved in he did not see any property in the house to make him realize that it was being inhabited by anyone previously. All attempts to locate the Seller till date has proved abortive to either arrest him for fraud or sue him for fraud and breach of contract. The lawyer and Agent kept on denying that they haven’t seen the Seller but because of the pressure on the Seller's family, the N4Million was refunded but my friend lost a lot in terms of other fees he paid to get the property i.e survey fess, legal fees, agency fees, miscellaneous etc and all his belongings he left in the house but at least he was fortunate to get his original capital paid.

The Moral of this Case study provides the following Tips to learn from:

  1. Be very careful before you attempt to enter into any installment payment. Look at the people your dealing with. Investigate them properly. Cover all your lose ends. More especially if you can pay at once to get the property please follow that route. There are so many bad people in the property business that are ready to exploit that loop hole especially since if a second buyer comes forth they can resell that same property to him for a higher price and refund your money if they are kind enough or deduct from it and tell you stories.
  2. Also if you’re buying a land, always try and look out for signs to show that land doesn’t belong to the omonile. Once you see it has been newly cut as if they want to start construction work, immediately know its a stolen land because nobody will cut his land today and sell tomorrow.
  3. Also learn to know how to identify fenced lands and the blocks used. If a seller is telling you that he just fenced the land but the fence looks very old with the blocks as if it has being molded in the last 10 years, know the seller is trying to trick you to buy another person’s land.
  4. If the fenced walls looks new, ask him why he wants to sell so soon after spending so much to fence it and try to get the architect who fenced it for him to confirm. Use that trick that you need the same architect to assist you in constructing a structure on the land and when the seller begins to dilly dally about the whereabouts of the same architect that built his own fence then you know he is a scammer.
  5. Also when you get to a land and you see beacons around the land; ask immediately for the survey plan to compare the name on the survey plan with the sellers name and the beacon coordinates with the ones on the ground. Also check the date the survey plan was made and the surveyors address on the Survey plan to confirm and cross check whether it was the same surveyor that did it. If the seller is playing games with providing the survey plan for the same land that has beacons then you should just walk away.

To be honest there are so many stories and tricks I learnt last year that I can fill the property blog for days with, but I have to stop here for now and learn too from these tricks to become a better and smarter Property Transactional Lawyer. Also please i implore you to learn from these tips too to perfect your property transactions. Before you part away with your money perform these searches or contact me. I have become very very good at this in spotting fraudulent landed deals, although not perfect and still learning new scams everyday but this year i hope to save people millions and millions of Naira especially those living abroad that do not have access to know what is going on here and how to go about it and pray these land fraudsters change their ways and learn to get a job instead of scheming on how to steal and defraud people's money.

Next time I would add more tricks I learnt when people want to sell Government Schemes, Omoniles who resell other people's lands bought and how to protect your land from being resold and why its necessary to document your papers in Alausa after you have bought it to prevent land scammers from playing on your intelligence.

Cheers

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