My close experience with land fraudsters/omoniles in Okota, Lagos – Barrister Matto

By the Nairaland lawyer. (barrister_matto@yahoo.com)

(edited my MrPepe)

A while ago, a prospective client contracted me to do a search for him in respect of a piece of land he wanted to purchase. He got to know about this piece of land through an Estate Agent who introduced him to the owners of the land, who claimed to be family members of the Okota Ruling family.

On getting to the Omonile’s residence, I requested some identification, and was presented with driver’s licences, Nepa bills displaying names and addresses, bank account statements, letters and certificates showing affiliation with the Okota Ruling families. Based on this, there was no reason to suspect any dubious identity with this party.

On further inspection of the land, I noticed that it was fenced, and had a little gate man’s hut. The Omonile confirmed that he purchased land in 1978, showing me an old purchase receipt with old 5kobo stamps attached, and he was happy for me to verify the authenticity of this document at the Okota palace. I was even given the details of someone to verify these details, which I followed up. This recommended person presented me with a book, displaying transactions dating as far back as 1970, claiming that the original Okota family had sold this piece of land to the Omonile. I inquired as to why the Omonile was just selling this asset 20-odd years, and whether he wasn’t interested in building it up, as  Okota was a prime location. He responded saying he needed the money.

I inquired about his address, a place in Igando, and I couldn’t help but notice that this squalor was uncomparable with the Okota property he was allegedly building. Even though I had doubts about this seller, I still couldn’t out my finger on anything incriminating. I then  decided to up my game by demanding for the property documents, and he provided a registered deed of assignment registered in Alausa in the 1980s. An independent search confirmed that this deed was duly registered in their name and I finally encouraged the client to do a survey plan search which also checked out.

After all said and done, I had to endorse the N6.5million sale for the buyer, even though I still wasn’t entirely convinced. The housing agents also kept putting pressure on the buyer, under false pretence that other buyers were also interested in the property. The buyer in turn put pressure on me to endorse the sale quickly, as he felt that this was a bargain not to be missed.. The night before payment was due, I decided to go over again, with a fine-toothed comb the receipt and deed of assignment, and still I couldn’t find any faults.  It was when I parked to have a closer look that God opened my eyes. I then realised that the Deed of Assignment registered in Alausa in the 1980s was a perfect clone of what I was reviewing. Everything was properly typed out and stamped exactly and dated exactly except one very tiny mistake. The person who drafted the clone Deed of Assignment was an expert forger but he must have slept off at the end of the drafting and in one small corner, he forgot to proof read his work thoroughly. The incriminating line in the Deed of Assignment was in the dates. Where it was to be dated 16 of April 1983, he ended up typing 16TH OF MAY 2010. This small error was all I needed to cancel the transaction.

I took the cloned Deed of Assignment to Alausa and gave it to 4 experts there, and none of them could spot the error until I pointed it out. Needless to say,  they were extremely amazed at the level of forgery. I believe that I did not discover this due to my own power, but by the power of God. When I confronted the Omoniles regarding the fraud, they simply demanded for their papers and said they weren’t interested in selling anymore. The next day I came to confirm the owners details, I was told they had disappeared and moved house. I further learnt that they had  not just planted a mole in the Oba’s palace, but had also doctored the log book which bore records of transactions and searches. I finally discovered that the plot of land belonged to professor in the US, who bought the land in the 80s from a third party seller and was developing his land little by little, oblivious to the fact that the Omoniles where attempting to sell his property behind him.

The moral of the story thus goes:

a. Be wary whenever an Omonile presents aged documents to accompany relatively “new” property.

b. Be extra vigilant when faced with fences. Yes,  fenced properties. Ask questions to ensure you are not about to enter “one chance” with someone elses property. Do your homework, and ask your questions. Request a survey plan, and attempt to trace the beacon numbers on ground, comparing with what you see on paper, and also making a note of the dates.

c. For properties with foundations built, always request a building plan approval.

e. Don’t allow yourself to be subject to pressure from agents – you might never see them again after making payment.

f. Use your discretion.

g. Investigate land “owners” thoroughly.  Don’t try to skimp on search fees. It makes more sense to pay N50,000  for investigations and save your N2m from a fraudster, than to save the N50,000 and to lose N2m to frausdters! Be wise.

 

 

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