A friend once came to me with the problem of having been swindled by dubious land sellers and he lost quite a huge sum of money. I also know that a lot people fall prey to this schemes daily. It is no longer news that the lagos metropolis is filled with various independent agents usually called "omo onile" meaning "children of the land"who parade themselves as rightful owners of property to unsuspecting purchasers.
This article is a brief summary of what every land buyer should know when contracting in landed properties. When a purchaser intends to buy land orperharps a building, inspection of the property is quite important but it's also as important as investigating if the vendor has a power to sell the property or if the property is subject to undisclosed incumbrances, for instance if the property is the subject of an existing mortgage.
Under the Registration of titles system, anyone who has rights in landed property, either as owner or mortgagor must register their rights with the land registry. This allows a purchaser to discover from a mere inspection of the register whether the vendor has the power to sell the land and whether or not there are interests on the land that may be investigated.
The property register contains detailed description and gives other information of the property that is registered while the proprietorship register contains the name, address, and description of the registered owner of the property. It also contains cautions, inhibitions and restrictions affecting the right of the proprietor to dispose the title.
When buying property it is important you do the following:
i. Inspect the property with the vendor to ensure that is what you agreed on.
ii. Insist on collecting a copy of the land certificate from the vendor. The land certificate contains the particulars by which the property will be identified at the lands registry.
iii. Employ the services of a lawyer who would investigate at the land registry whether the purchaser has the power to sell the property.
Only after being satisfied by the results of your enquiry should you buy the property,if not you may fall in the hand of swindlers. That is not all though, immediately after buying the property it is mandatory that you also register your interests with the land registry as that will also serve as proof of your title.
It is important to note that a mere receipt collected from a vendor is not conclusive proof of ownership of land. Conclusive proof however is registration with the land registry. Many Nigerians in a bid to avoid paying the legal services of a lawyer or maybe due to their ignorance always take the risk of purchasing land without professional guidance and more often than not they always get swindled by 419 agents.
Adedunmade Onibokun Esq.