SOME COMMON LAND SCAMS AND HOW TO AVOID THEM
You must be aware of nine extremely dangerous land survey plan scams perpetrated by fraudulent land surveyors. In 2012, I published an article about survey plan scams that went viral. 8 years later, in the year 2020, the need to re-write about these types of scams is just as important as it was 8 years ago so that people are aware of the dangers of possessing a very fraudulent survey plan, given the proliferation of fraudulent real estate companies, especially in Ibeju Lekki. If you have never seen a survey plan and want to distinguish between a real and a fake one, please read this article to learn a great deal about survey plans and how to avoid falling victim to a Survey plan scam.
Being a victim of three to four terrible land purchases involving dishonest and evil surveyors in the past, I am using this medium to expose the lengths to which these terrible surveyors would go to lie, cheat, and produce fake survey plans that already have problems, thereby causing so many land purchase snafus. The majority of those passing themselves off as surveyors are unlicensed quacks. They actively conspire with Omo-oniles, shady real estate firms and land fraudsters to create disorder. These rogue surveyors engage in some reprehensible conduct, including the following:
Distort survey plans, forge signatures, steal (Free from Acquisition) stamps from licensed surveyors, and fabricate square meters to make a piece of land appear larger than it is. However, when the land is measured after the sale, it is found to be a few hundred meters short. They also fail to place the beacon numbers on the land to reflect the beacon points that mark the beginning and end of the property. In addition, they recreate fictitious roads that would never be approved and destroy the entire community’s master plan.
The greatest offense committed by these dishonest surveyors is charting false coordinates on the land, which, in my opinion, kills the potential purchaser. Naturally, a surveyor should take GPS coordinates of the area to compare it with the master plan available from the Surveyor general’s office. However, these quack surveyors rely on the ignorance of everyone, choose fictitious coordinates, and inform the purchaser that the land is free from acquisition, knowing that the purchaser will accept the information without question. By the time the purchaser decides to use this questionable survey plan to perfect his governor’s consent, ratification, or title documents, he will receive a letter from Alausa querying the survey plan, stating that the property is not free from Government acquisition, has incorrect charting coordinates, or that land that should normally be located in Epe will show up as Ibeju Lekki on the master survey plan at Alausa.
In light of this, I will attempt to educate you on the nine advantages and disadvantages of a survey plan, as well as what to watch out for. I will share with you some practical experiences I’ve had in the past so that you can avoid making the same mistakes that many Nigerians, including myself, have made at the hands of these unprincipled surveyors. It is a lengthy read, so grab a cup of coffee and settle in for the journey.
- PROBLEM WITH SURVEY PLAN NAME. The Name is the first element of a survey plan to scrutinize. Without the correct spelling of the property owner’s name, the entire survey plan is invalid. A simple misspelling of the property owner’s name can invalidate the entire survey plan, so it is crucial to examine the name carefully before accepting it from the surveyor.
- NO REGISTERED SURVEYOR’S SEAL. The Registered Seal of the Surveyor who created the Survey plan is the second thing you look for in a survey plan. Without this Seal, the survey plan should not even be touched. Most of these quacks lack the seal, so they show survey plans to unsuspecting land purchasers without it. Those who believe themselves to be intelligent steal the Seal of a licensed Surveyor, but the registration number is not visible. Always request the Surveyor’s Registration Card and inspect the seal, unless the entire survey plan is flawed.
- NO PROPER ADDRESS OF THE LAND’S LOCATION. The Address is the third element of a Survey Plan to be aware of. This is also where you will find numerous instances of fraud committed by the surveyor and Omo-onile. Because the Omo-oniles are dishonest, they will misspell the street, area, and local government designations. Imagine you see a Survey plan with the address (At Ajah) written on it. Where is Ajah? Ajah has over 100 cities and towns. Therefore, when the surveyor writes (At Ajah), there is an issue. If the Land is located in an undeveloped area and there are no visible layouts or perimeter boundaries to locate the area in question, it is permissible to simply use AT AJAH (But the neighbouring community must be added. E.g. AT OKUN AJAH WITHIN AJAH IN ETI-OSA LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA. The Omo-oniles use this to deceive people into buying places they shouldn’t. Because the person is interested in buying a good place they haven’t set their sights on, they fall victim to the survey plan. Nigerians living abroad are the primary target of this scam. Additionally, verify the local government area indicated on the survey plan, unless doing so would alter the entire plan. BOGIJE, for instance, is located in IBEJU LEKKI LOCAL GOVERNMENT and not ETI-OSA. If your survey plan indicates that Bogije is within the Eti-Osa local government or that Ogba is within the Ojodu local government, your plan is flawed. Always check with the local government before purchasing land, unless doing so will incur a fee.
- VARIATIONS IN THE SIZE OF THE LAND. One of the most important aspects of a survey plan is the Land’s Area or size. This is one area where these fraudulent surveyors cause the most damage to the landowner. Because they lack the proper equipment to measure the land, they are unable to obtain the exact square meters of the land. They either shorten or add unnecessary meters to make it appear larger than usual, or they fabricate corner pieces. At this point, every potential landowner must sacrifice time to measure the land in person or send a representative. Normally, after measuring the coordinates, a surveying instrument is used to calculate the square meters, but I don’t trust these boys. The outdated measuring tape is acceptable. You will know precisely what to expect. The only reason you should not go there is if you have faith in your surveyor. Other than that, you must accompany him. One meter subtracted from your land will be added to another person’s land, triggering an immediate border dispute. There are numerous cases involving this issue, and I’ll tell you about a humorous one that occurred in Sangotedo.
- Typically, the size of a piece of land determines its value, the amount of space required to construct a structure, and the amount left over for the right of way/setback. Due to this, shady surveyors conspire with landowners to fraudulently exaggerate the size of the land so that they can profit financially from the Vendor. Also, a false size of the land will alter the manner in which you are evaluated for your Governor’s consent/Building Approval, so you must be vigilant to avoid being duped by these individuals.
- ABSENCE OF A SURVEY PLAN NUMBER. The Survey Plan Number is an additional element of the Survey plan that requires your attention. This is an old con employed by some surveyors to deceive individuals. They will draft the entire survey plan, but will conceal the Survey Plan number. In the absence of a survey plan number, your survey is effectively useless. Probably, your child’s cartoon drawings are more valuable than your survey plan. Without that Survey plan number, it cannot be submitted to the surveyor general’s office for record purposes, it cannot be used to draft your agreement, it cannot be used to trace the red copy, and it cannot be used as evidence in court during a real estate dispute due to its initial defect. It is always located in the lower left corner of a survey plan, but because these shady surveyors do not intend to lodge the red copy, they fail to assign a Survey plan number. They will tell you it has been filed, but it has not been filed because no record file exists. Check the Survey plan number at a glance at all times.
- FRAUDULENT BACK-DATING OF A SURVEY PLAN. This is the most egregious of all the Survey plan scams you can imagine, and it is the date the Survey plan was created. This deception is referred to as back-dating of a survey plan. Normally, if a survey plan is being completed today, the date should be the 23rd of April 2020, but sometimes you’ll see a survey plan that was completed on March 25, 2001!!!! You would be left wondering when the land was acquired or when the area was designated as c/o. If you take this survey plan to the surveyor general’s office, you won’t see ANY COPY of the lodged survey plan because it has been fraudulently back-dated to make you believe it was completed a long time ago, but if you check carefully, you’ll discover that it was completed just last year. This scam is expertly executed by the Owner, the agent, the surveyor, and Omo-onile to dupe you into purchasing the property. Implications are limitless.
- When authorities discover a backdated survey plan, it will be very difficult to process your paperwork, and you won’t know the true history of the land, as it could be someone else’s land that they’ve stolen to deceive others into believing it’s an old property free of defects. Please direct your gaze here!
- THE SURVEYOR’S SIGNATURE AND LOGO ARE MISSING. In addition, when conducting a survey search, you should always look for the Registered Surveyor’s logo and signature. Without the signature and logo of the individual who designed the survey plan, you are in possession of a worthless document. Typically, the logo includes the licensed surveyor’s address, and they must sign the survey plan to ensure its authenticity. Please keep this in mind at all times, unless you’re dealing with quacks. In the event of a problem with the survey, the registered surveyor will assume full liability, but how do you get your money, land, or a proper survey plan if you deal with a quack? Does a quack surveyor have a physical location? Please shine your eye o!
- UNUSUAL LAND CONTOURS ON THE SURVEY PLAN. A survey plan will always depict the land’s contours and any existing roads. The shape of the land is crucial because it instructs your architect on how to properly draw the structure on the land and aids in the layout of the area so that no one encroaches on your property. It is crucial to keep in mind that Omo-oniles profit when the existing road is not properly outlined. Because the land is not properly defined in the survey, this is when you hear of Omo-onile selling roads and adjacent lands to other users. Always request that the Surveyor personally demonstrate where he derived the existing road and how it connects to your property.
- WRONG BEACON NUMBERS ON THE SURVEY PLAN. The issue of Beacon numbers is an additional Survey Plan scam that is crucial to note. A Beacon is a small stone used to distinguish the four or five corners of one piece of land from another. With these beacons, you can locate your land and use it as a guide to construct your fence. On top of the Stones are numbers that can be found in the diagram of the survey below. These Beacon numbers are exclusive to you; no two lands may share the same beacon numbers, and the Beacon stones must bear the exact beacon numbers listed on the survey plan. Here comes the art of scamming into play. Obviously, the money paid to the surveyor is not only for the drawing of the survey plan, but also for the purchase of Beacon numbers/Beacon stones from the Nigerian Institute of Surveyors, which can only be done by a registered surveyor. It is the responsibility of the surveyor to personally place the survey plan on the Land to reflect the contents of the Survey plan. Instead, the unprofessional ones will behave as follows:
- Not pay for the beacon numbers and create your own.
- They have purchased the Beacon numbers and submitted the Survey plan to the Surveyor general’s office, but have not yet released them to him due to bureaucratic red tape. The truth is that no beacon numbers were acquired, nor is there any bureaucracy preventing the acquisition of beacon numbers. Because they have not submitted anything, Beacon numbers are unavailable.
- Tell you that they have gone to the site to place the beacons, but when you arrive there is no sign of any beacons. When you question him, he will say that the omo-oniles came to remove the beacons he placed there, and you will be required to give him more money to purchase new stones.
- They will place empty Beacon stones on the land, without any number engraved on them. Those are merely decorative stones that serve no purpose.
- They will place the Beacon stones there and inscribe gibberish or illogical numbers, knowing that you will not check. When the problem arrives, it will be extremely difficult to contact the Surveyor.
- They will purchase low-grade cement to mix garbage blocks. During the wet season, the beacon blocks will disintegrate, and the numbers will vanish.
- Omo-oniles will always recognize a charlatan surveyor, so they monitor his every move and, if he makes a mistake, remove the beacons and announce that the land is now a jungle and they are the true owners. Sometimes the Omo-onile and dubious Surveyor will conspire to place the beacons on the wrong land, and you won’t discover this until problem occurs.
- Beacons are extremely important and should never be neglected. Always check if they are still there and cross-reference your survey plan to determine if the land is still yours.
- A survey plan is a piece of paper that shows the exact size and shape of a piece of land by measuring its boundaries. Surveyors are the people who deal with survey issues, and the office of the Surveyor general in Lagos (or your state) is in charge of how they do their jobs. The following information must be in a survey plan:
- Name of the person who owns the land being surveyed.
- The land’s address or a brief description of it.
- How much of land was measured
- The part of the land survey that was drawn and mapped out on the survey plan
- The number of the beacon
- The name of the surveyor who made the plan and the date it was made.
- A stamp that shows whether or not the government can take over the land.
- To avoid any misunderstanding, I am not attacking the Surveying Profession. They are regulated by the Institute of Nigerian Surveyors. This profession is comprised of honorable individuals. Only deal with REGISTERED SURVEYORS and request their credentials; if the surveyor does not have credentials, is not registered, or has no business address, the property should not be purchased.