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Prevention they say is better than cure. In the light of this, this essay is an attempt to tack together, some salient and not so salient points to note and where possible to avoid while shopping for a real estate. It takes an old hand to swiftly decipher loopholes or issues that may rear their ugly head after a prospective buyer of a property may have taken the plunge.

  1. You may have heard this old maxim, it still holds true - if a deal looks too good to be true, it damn is! Imagine you been asked to pay five hundred thousand naira for a plot of land that you know is worth at least two million naira even when the seller claims s/he has some financial challenge challenges. probe further, there may be more than meets the eye.
  2. Installment payment plans and promos - This concept is becoming popular by the day in Nigeria. Prospective property bjyers are are promised they are pay in installments over some specified number of years. In reality, this arrangement seldom pans ouy as envisaged. There is always a tendency that the goal post may be shifted at the middle of the match. For one, we lack institutional frameworks or checks and balances that will guard against such sharp practices. Untill proper checks and balances, and an avantgarde mortgage regime, regulation is in place across the country, some experts are of the view that it is adviceable for one to pay for a property at a go and obtain the relevant receipts, documents immediately to forestall cock and bull stories. An Igbo adage goes thus: 'it is not what people say while going to the farm that they say while returning'. For instance, there could be gobbledygook clauses in the terms of sale that the prospective buyer may have overlooked but which will come haunting him later. In other cases, You risk losing your down payment if another person dangles a higher bid to the seller. If you have no choice or the prospects of installment pay plans appear attractive to you, please by all means, look before you leap.
  3. Awaiting government gazette/government acquisition lands - Some of the trick fraudulent land dealers deploy in scamming prospective property buyers in Nigeria is by narrating how the said property is still "awaiting govetnment gazette". Please take care to ascertain this claim.
  4. Buying an uncompleted building or a property under legal contention: As I said ealier, try to find out why the seller is poised to dispose of the property. Is it that he needs money to invest in his business or to cater for some domestic issues? If the property belongs to a family i.e more than one person, are they all in agreement that the property be sold? Should the seller bandy a court order to you as proof of ownership of the property, ensure there is no appellate judgement that invalidates that of the lower court.

You can see why due diligence is extremely important before investing not just in real estate but also in other businesses.


As I wrote in Part (1) of this series, there is a plethora of nasty tales resulting from paucity of due diligence before buying or renting a property in Nigeria. As we say in our local parlance over here, "shine your eye well well" before you part with your hard earned money for a property or before you sign the dotted lines. Here are issues, booby traps you must consider and sort out before you take the plunge:

  1. Before you pay for a property, politely request for the Tax Clearance Certificate of the person selling the property to you and make sure it is up to date. This will assist you when you want to process a 'Governors Consent'. Failure to get his/her tax clearance certificate entails you paying for the sellers accumulated Tax as well as your own before your property's document will be duly perfected.
  2. Land Use Charge or Ground Rent - Properties with a C of O (certificate of occupancy) usually attract an annual "land use charge or ground rent". More often than not, property owners seldom pay this charge and can be inadvertently inherited by whoever buys the property.  Now imagine where this charge have accumulated over the years.
    Again, this underscores the importance of doing a detailed check at the tax office prior to paying for a land or a property to ascertain whether there are outstanding charges, fees that the prospective buyer risks inheriting.
  3. Similar to the foregoing are sundry charges, fees charged by so-called omoniles (for those buying properties in South Western part of Nigeria, especially the Lagos axis). These fees come in different guises: "foundation fee", "signing fee", "community development or neighborhood improvement fee", "youth fee" and so on and so forth. These sundry fees invariably adds to the real cost of the property and must be factored in. It is worthy to note that one can negotiate for discount on these fees.
  4. Another dicey issue, pitfall that is worth understanding and considering, is that of "service charges". This is prevalent in most "housing estates" scattered across Nigeria. Typical service charges include: Security charge, refuse disposal charge, electricity charge amongst others. Please do seek for clarifications regarding these sundry service charges otherwise they will shoot up your budget at the long run. You may need to consult a legal expert to help you breakdown the terms and conditions of a "contract of sale" because sometimes a lot of unfavorable or implicating clauses are masked in the 'fine prints' of most legal agreements.



The wanton incidents of prospective property, land buyers been duped of their hard earned money can be attributed to the paucity of doing a due diligence investigation prior to paying for the envisaged property or parcel of land. This is because many survey plans, deeds of assignment, certificates of occupancy, government allocation letters, and government gazettes bandied about by fraudulent property sellers out there, are forged. It takes an expert to figure this out. There are nasty tales of people falling prey to the whims and caprices of desperate and unscrupulous so-called land sellers, omoniles, and quack surveyors. Prospective land buyers are strongly advised in their own interest to stringently investigate the genuineness, validity or otherwise of a property before parting with their money.

A survey search on a property will reveal whether for instance, that area has been designated for any specific purpose in the near future by the government. For instance, a piece of land mapped out for agricultural purpose is definitely a no-go-area if you look forward to building a residential apartment. You will have yourself to blame if you unwittingly purchase any of the so-called "committed lands or government acquisition". It takes a good surveyor to ascertain the precise coordinate of a piece of a property and to figure out whether a land gazette or any other document is fake or not.


If feelers from the Lagos State Government is anything to go by, the State is poised to launch a state-of-the-art Geographic Information System (GIS) which it believes will facilitate issuance of Land titles such as Land Information Certificate's, Consent Letter's, Certificates of Occupancy (C of O) amongst others.

This system promises to put an end to the nefarious activities of unscrupulous quack surveyors and omoniles who engage in faking land documents because henceforth such information, documents will be computerized. Data from the Land registry, the Land Information System and the GIS will be seamlessly integrated and can be accessed in real-time from any part of the world through the Internet using a Card System. Geospatial Information System, Digital Maps amongst others are some of the novel equipments that will aid the proposed electronic computer verification system. The die is cast because all of these equipments have been purchased, just some finishing touches before roll out.


Here are some things to consider before you buy any piece of land in Nigeria.

1. Due Diligence /Investigation

It is crucial to engage the services of a legal professional to carry out investigation at the land registry and surveyor-general's office to verify if the co-ordinates have not been flown (falsifying the survey plan by doctoring co-ordinates to read as free from all encumbrance whilst property falls within a government committed land) or if you're buying from the natives (Omoniles) make sure you are dealing with the principal/accredited members of the family.



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.


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.


As a foreigner living in Nigeria or a potential buyer wishing to build a new house, you will often find things are not done quite the way you are used to, and buying land is no exception. The first hurdle is understanding the system of land measurements in Nigeria.

In Nigeria, land is measured in Hectares, Acres, Meters and Feet. These measurements are affected by factors which includes but not limited to, economic investment and development patterns, human and environmental factors which could lead to mass migration and artificial scarcity of lands suitable for development.


There are a great number of things to look out for and keep in mind when buying a new home or land property especially in a place like Lagos Nigeria. The following 6 steps are crucial and will serve as guideline while you make that investment in property in Nigeria.

1. Understand the Nature of the Property