Proper documentation, using professionals instead of quacks, is the best form of security for your landed property
Investors in landed property have lost fortunes pursuing their life-long ambition due to their failure to observe some simple but basic rules of dealing in land.
All over the world, investment in land is a risky affair that is capable of yielding multiple dividends if handled well. But, at the same time, it is capable of ruining careers and family ties if one is unlucky to fall on the wrong side of land transactions.
A story was told of a former head of the legislative arm of the Lagos State who got enmeshed in a land controversy that led to his being a guest of the security agencies in charge of financial crimes.
According to details of the case, the legislator facilitated the sale of a large expanse of land to some big-spending investors, thinking that the deal was done. However, a statutory survey and charting on the government map showed that the land allegedly sold to the investors was located right in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!
Another tale had it that a top civil servant upon retirement invested his gratuity in a large expanse of land with the intention of partnering with developers to build a highbrow estate.
Before work could commence on the estate, somebody else moved in and took possession to the consternation of the retired public servant. After many rounds of bloodletting, the case was eventually taken to the court; but the initial claimant lost out! While the second claimant was able to present genuine survey plan and other documents, the ones presented by the original buyer turned out to be untenable in law because when the survey plan was charted on the government map, the land in question was discovered to have fallen on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway! Today, the first claimant is in a sorry state of health, having lost his entire life savings.
Surveyors have confirmed that the above true-life stories are mere examples of the terrible things that happen to unwary investors in land, nothing that they arise either as a result of the failure of the investors to get proper professional advice or where they do, they have turned to quacks.
The first thing for anybody interested in buying land should do is to contact experts in land matters to obtain necessary “land information” from the government, giving every detail about the piece of land.
After this, determine the identity of the land. A surveyor should be engaged and taken to the site, and using his/her expertise and instrumentation, determine the location and physical boundaries of the land and prepare the “Survey Plan” to indicate the location of the land.
The survey plan is a vital document that shows the size and location of a parcel of land meant for physical development. It is used to delineate the land and distinguish it from its neighbours. Besides, it is a basic document, alongside the Certificate of Occupancy, that banks rely upon to determine whether or not to extend a loan facility to an applicant who is pledging the land/property as collateral.
The failure of many land investors to accord priority attention to this document had led to serious conflicts, purchase of disputed land and land under government acquisition, without the buyers knowing.
Where litigation arises on a piece of land, the court relies on the survey plan prepared by a duly licensed surveyor to determine its location and tilt judgment in favour of any of the contending parties.
It shows the relative and absolute position of the land. For land documentation, a survey plan must be attached. No meaningful development can take place on land without the survey plan.
Every location on the surface of the earth is defined by a coordinate, which is established by a set of controls – reference points whose values are known by government. The surveyor is expected to tie his/her work to government controls to serve as reference points.
After preparing the survey plan, the surveyor would submit the original copy popularly called “Red Copy” to the Office of the Surveyor-General of the state, while the duplicate is handed over to the landowner.
The plan will then be charted to determine the location and the authenticity of the work and the suitability of the land for the proposed development.
The survey plan must bear a plan number carrying the name of the surveyor, his/her life signature on every page of the document, and the address; and must be duly stamped.
Cautions must, however, be taken against the use of unqualified people to handle survey jobs, nothing that a shoddy work is as dangerous as not doing any survey job at all.
The Surveyor-General’s Office must ensure that in whatever information that is given out, the interest of the government must be protected in order to avoid problems. So, it is good to get land information before parting with money during land transactions.’