A Land Property in Nigeria

Just Before You Acquire That Property

There’s no telling the wickedness of man! Fix your eyes and ears to the ground and they’d weep from sad, gory tales of fraud and bitter betrayal from people(close and distant) when the subject of, “land” is involved. It’s a subject that pierces the hearts of parties involved and it doesn’t go without saying that the concept of land is one that is perhaps more sensitive than any other matter.

In Land proceedings, many lose their lives or acquire more enemies. We’ve seen cases where later generations take over legal battles from their deceased ancestors. These issues hinge majorly on title to land and trespass to land(encroachment). Is it possible to avoid these battles? Most certainly!

Some years ago, a middle aged man on being paid his pension, journeyed to his state’s capital to purchase a house, settle down and enjoy his successful retirement with his family. The owner of the apartment also had a large compound not too distant from the apartment, that sat about 8 flats with tenants living in all. The man bought the apartment which was without a fence and moved in with his family and they lived that way for many years until a certain man approached the owner of the compound with an interest in acquiring same. He did and kicked off with his project on the land. However, on seeing that the space acquired wouldn’t be enough for his project, he began to encroach on the other man’s space and the result was a legal battle that lasted for about 10years or more. The retiree suffered more as he constantly had to spend from his little pension to pursue the case. Although he eventually won, it wasn’t without pain: physical, emotional and psychological. This is even not always the case! Many times, the lawful owner loses his space to the trespasser.

 This could have been avoided. There’s a saying, “If you are not informed, you would be deformed”. Till date, we still see careless or better still, negligent land/house owners. The first thing to do after acquiring a property is to put a fence round it. Even if it’s a bare land, it is a smart thing to put a fence round the house with a gate first. If there’s no money for a fence and gate, you can do it locally by fixing long sticks round about your land. This would automatically wade off trespassers and give you a good case should an individual try to encroach.

Also, before you even purchase a property, please engage the services of a legal practitioner and be ready to pay for value. Sometime ago, while I was an intern at a certain reputable law firm, a client who wanted to acquire a property walked away because he didn’t want to pay the required 10% professional fees. He had said he would get someone who would do it for a way lesser amount. Would he get? Oh yes! The worry is with the later consequences. What you don’t know is that acquiring a property goes beyond drafting the required agreement/deed. In fact, drafting the deed/agreement is the last step. To put in simple terms, the following steps are required:

  • An application is made to the land registry to conduct a search on the said property upon payment of prescribed fees.
  • Then search is carried out to check amongst other things, title holder (the person about to sell must be seen to have title to the property), how current title holder acquired same( the genealogy of transfer from the original holder down to the present holder must be shown), whether land/property is encumbered/mortgaged, if encumbered/mortgaged, whether same has been discharged etc.
  • Search report is drafted and explained to the acquirer. Upon satisfaction from the legal practitioner that the land is acquirable, then a deed/agreement of transfer of property is drafted and signed by both parties if the same legal practitioner is acting for both parties.
  • If otherwise, the party selling has the privilege of having a copy made available to his/her legal practitioner for perusal, after which he signs.

These processes would not be followed by someone you intend paying little or no money to. The person would simply draft and go. When trouble knocks tomorrow, you’d spend more than what you’d have paid to avoid the problem.

Dear reader, let us be babes at heart but wise as serpent in our dealings with Land. Pay for value! Ask questions! Get a seasoned lawyer!

We trust you found our article informative. We always love to hear from you??

Article by Blessing Okwori (Esq.) ochanya.milan@gmail.com 07087777230

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