Land for Sale in Lagos – When Property Dispute Turn Fatal
Property dispute is common in Nigeria with Lagos as the epicenter. This is understandable because land is scarce in Lagos if availability of land is compared to the demand for housing. The role of land-owning families with the ever present “Omo-onile” in property disputes in Lagos is central to why this problem has persisted. It is common for unscrupulous family-members or heads of these families to sell land to an individual who on attempt to take possession of the land discover that the same piece of land is being claimed by another person who has proof of purchase like him. So, when you see land for sale in Lagos signs or adverts, first thing you should assume is that there is high chance such land already belong to someone else or the government. From destruction of fences, demolition of uncompleted structures, and destruction of survey beacons, to carting away of construction materials from building sites, property dispute is not for the faint-hearted. The objects used by warring parties and their hired thugs in land disputes vary from guns, machetes, charms, broken bottles, to heavy-duty excavators. Therefore, following through with a land for sale in Lagos advert is a leap of faith and require high level of due diligence in order for a prospective buyer not to end up in a hospital or worse off in the grave. That may sound alarming but there are several stories of physical injuries and fatalities from the nefarious activities of land grabbers across Lagos and other parts of Nigeria.
One of the most recent incidents happened in the Anthony area of Lagos on the 11th of April 2019. According to a story on Punch news site, three workers were shot dead at a construction site by individuals suspected to be land grabbers who reportedly came to the site in two buses dressed in masks. They allegedly shot indiscriminately at the workers in spite of the presence hired policemen and attempts by the policemen to fend of the attack. Reports indicate that the land in question has been a subject of litigation and dispute among three different families for several years. There are too many accounts like this. There are rules of thumb when transacting land or when taking actions to pursue a deal for a land for sale in Lagos.
Demand to see proof of ownership: you should demand to see documents that a land seller must possess in order to confirm that you are dealing with the genuine owner. These include a receipt, Deed of Assignment, and land survey plan. Land sold directly by families must have receipt that display the name of the land-owning family with the name or stamp that show the name of the representative head of family that is part of the transaction. You should demand to see these documents before attempting to see the land.
Avoid land or properties that are subject of litigation like a plague: properties that are subject of court cases are very common in Lagos. Normally, a property that is a subject of litigation are not to be sold or transferred but this has not stopped parties involved in property dispute to attempt selling such land.
Never visit a land without conducting due diligence: following an agent to check out a piece land you are interested in buying seem to be a pretty harmless activity. Ideally, it is a normal thing to do but what if someone somewhere is already laying claim on such land and the individual is working in concert with land-grabbers to keep an eye on potential trespassers. Before following an agent to check a piece of land, ask questions about the history of the land, family ownership, presence or absence of Omo-onile activities around the area. Once you are in vicinity of the land ask to see a family-head or family-members with current or previous ties to the land. Use all available resources and online tools find out if the land has a history of trespass, unlawful entry, unlawful or lawful demolition or any activity that may suggest likelihood of dispute. Most importantly you should consult a lawyer and carry out land verification.
Watch out for warning signs at the site: as you approach the site, look out for clues that may suggest if land disputes is a common problem in the area. If several fences or buildings in the area are marked with “X” sign, then it’s obvious that there could be issues with properties around the area. In some cases, these kinds of signs are inscribed on properties by individuals that are trying to enforce a favourable court ruling. Once on the site look out for survey beacons in order to confirm if the beacons are damaged or destroyed. A damaged beacon may suggest ongoing ownership dispute. Next, look out for destroyed fences and walls. It’s common for fences and walls of uncompleted structures on a piece of land to be destroyed during property disputes. Simply walk off the land once you observe any of these.
Avoid physical confrontation in case: if it happens that you are accosted while visiting a land you are interested in buying, do not attempt to confront individuals that show up on the land with claim of ownership. Physical confrontations over properties can turn fatal or come with life-threatening injuries. A piece of land is not worth a human life.
If all is good and you decide to complete the land for sale in Lagos transaction, ensure that payment is made through a bank with records of payment, and a receipt issued to you. Never make payment with cash. All transactions should be overseen by a lawyer with a deed of assignment and survey plan in place.