The Mowe-Ibafo axis, along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, in Obafemi Owode Local Government Area (LGA) of Ogun State, has in the last decade and half witnessed massive inflow of investments in real estate activities in the area.
Not only has the development seen some of the nation’s mega-churches like the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministry (MFM), Deeper Life Bible Church (DLBC), among others, investing billions to grow their land assets along the corridor; it has also recorded the growth of sprawling estates said to belong to private companies and individuals alike.
To state that Mowe-Ibafo corridor has advanced from what used to be an expansive “forest” barely two decades and half ago to being the latest attraction and beautiful bride for property developers, is to state the obvious.
Indeed the development has been credited for helping to ease urban congestion in the Lagos mainland, as the city, which until recently was degenerating into a cluster of conurbations, has continued to witness its population steadily adrift in the Mowe-Ibafo direction, as not a few Lagosians are acquiring land interest in the area.
However, the growth of Mowe as a real property destination has also witnessed a parallel spike in the shadowy activities of con artists, tricksters and swindlers, whose nefarious dealings have come at great costs to buyers of property in the area, who have not ceased lamenting their misfortunes in their hands.
Barrister Uche Onu’s story
Barrister Uche Eke Onu is one of many Lagosians, who having caught the so-called Mowe fever, decided to acquire land in the area.
Sometime in 2012, a real estate development company, Kingsworld Estate Limited, purportedly sold two plots of land to him at Papalanto Road in Paradise City, Mowe, Ofada in Obafemi Owode LGA.
For the two plots, he had paid the sum of N1.9 million in installments, for which a Deed of Sale was executed in his favour.
Part of the terms of the Deed was to the effect that Kingsworld would execute in favour of Barrister Onu a Deed of Assignment for a fee immediately the Certificate of Occupancy for the Estate became available at the Ogun State Lands Registry.
The vendor also agreed to indemnify the purchaser, Barrister Onu, against any loss or expense suffered as a result of any successful third party adverse claim or any defect in the purchaser’s title and undertook to refund the entire consideration upon such successful third party adverse claim or defect.
After the execution of the Deed of Sale in 2015, the lawyer went to the Bureau of Lands and Survey, Abeokuta to process the Certificate of Occupancy of the property, but was informed that the Ogun State Government had since 2009 revoked vendor’s interest in the property, hence the vendor Kingsworld had no valid title to sell and could not be issued a Certificate of Occupancy.
Although the vendor was actually aware of the encumbrance, yet he defiantly and fraudulently disposed of the property to unsuspecting members of the public, including Mr. Onu.
This discovery prompted him to immediately write the real estate outfit, demanding a refund of the entire consideration he made in respect to the land via a letter dated 2/11/2015, and pursuant to the terms of the Deed of Sale.
Regrettably, the company has since been incommunicado, and has failed and refused to refund the consideration, prompting the lawyer to file an action in breach of contract against the company.
However, the real estate firm has yet to put up appearance in court and enter its defence in the suit.
It is trite law that where evidence is unchallenged by the other party, while he has opportunity to do so, only minimal proof is required of the claimant on whom the burden of proof lies; and it is always open to the court seized of the matter to act on such uncontroverted or unchallenged evidence.
On this score, the High Court of Ogun State, sitting in Abeokuta on May 10, 2017 and presided over by Justice O.O Majekodunmi, entered judgment in the undefended suit, granting Onu as claimant reliefs he prayed to the effect that:
- Kingsworld as the defendant shall refund the entire consideration of N1.9million to the claimant.
- The vendor shall pay interest on the judgment sum at the rate of 10 per cent per annum from 10/5/2017 until final liquidation of the judgment sum.
- The sum of N3 million in favour of Brr Onu against the company shall be paid as general damages for breach of contract.
- The sum of N100, 000 in favour of the lawyer against the company shall be paid as cost of litigation.
Worthy of note, however, is that the foregoing narrative of duplicity by land vendors is not isolated.
Adewoye Adebowale’s story
Recently, one Adewoye Adebowale was also a victim of land scam, for which he had brought an action in damages against the vendor, one Chariot Properties Ltd, before a court, seeking a refund of sums totaling N4 million and other costs.
The firm had allegedly obtained N4 million from Adebowale from May 2012 to July 2015 as payment for the purchase of two plots of land located at Parkland Estate, Iboko Denro Village of Isheri Olofin Town, in Ifo LGA of Ogun State.
However, five years since Adebowale made the first payment of N1.5 million, and two years since he paid the last installment of N250, 000 in respect of the land, Chariot Properties has yet to afford Adebowale sight of the property, let alone delivered possession to him.
According to Adebowale, despite several entreaties for a refund, since the contract had failed apparently, all the firm had done has been to “feed me with falsehood and endless stories,” he told newsmen.
He maintained that he’d taken as genuine the representations made by the firm to the effect that the two plots of land were available for sale, and hence entered the deal with the company.
“Upon the discussions and not minding the caveat ‘subject to contract,’ which the company surreptitiously inserted in the letter of offer dated May 3, 2012, I decided to give the company a benefit of the doubt and went ahead to make the payment of N1.5 million, which was acknowledged vide a receipt dated May 3rd, 2012, No. 0000047,” he said.
However, three years after paying for the first plot of land, Chariot Properties, which was able to convince him of the genuineness of the transaction, not only failed to deliver possession, but also smooth-talked him into parting with yet another N2.5 million for another plot of land in the same estate.
Having paid for the new plot in three installments, the company duly acknowledged same, and issued him receipts to that effect.
The company also issued a letter of allocation dated June 18, 2012, in respect of plots 29 and 30 in Block 20 at the Estate as evidence that the two plots had been purchased and paid for by Adebowale.
However, it was all lamentation as Adebowale unburdened to INDEPENDENT his woe, saying the unfortunate transaction with Chariot Properties has left him in a state of indebtedness.
“All the monies I paid for the purchase of the two plots of land were obtained as loans from banks at very high interest rate,” he stated ruefully.
He added that efforts to get a refund of his money through his lawyer, Babatunde Cole, in a formal request dated March 18, has yet to yield any result.
Responding to newsmen enquiry when confronted with Adebowale’s allegation, via phone call, Managing Partner of the firm Mr. Seinde Olojo, who brusquely dropped the call, rebuffed appeals that he should deny the allegations.
He maintained that he couldn’t say anything over the phone neither did he oblige any possibility of physical reach.
Barr. Mathew Ottah on Caveat Emptor
Barr. Mathew Ottah, who was once a victim of land fraudsters, exposes land scam artist within Lagos and beyond.
He lists ten real estate deals that might end up leaving you in tears, and hence must be avoided like a plague:
Oko Egan Area, Ilogbo Eremi Badagry, Lagos State
One has to be very careful if you must buy any land in Badagry, because many lands there are either under government acquisition for either tourism or other purposes. It would be recalled that the Nigerian Police had demolished over 500 houses built on police land, bought unsuspectingly from land fraudsters.
Cooperative Villa Badore Eti-Osa LGA, Lagos State
There are many defective lands at Badore. Here touts called ‘Omoniles’ will forge a deed, survey plan and claim the land falls under the Badore Excision. But beware for most of the lands there fall within the Cooperative Villa Government Scheme.
Igbanko Village Badagry
Like every other place in Badagry, there are always fears regarding the acquisition of land there. If you try to buy a land at Igbanko Village, there is a likelihood that you’ll be sold a land that has been designated for agricultural purposes. According to Ottah, just sighting a perimeter survey of a land isn’t enough for you to stake your hard earned money on the land without investigating its authenticity.
Oko Agbon Village Ibeju Lekki Local Government Lagos
One must avoid buying a piece of property from this area. Beware of the swanky fliers showing a preview of how the estate would be like in no time. Most fraudsters will claim to have sold a lot of lands to prospective buyers; they’ll sweet talk you with fabrications of how very soon the caterpillars will come to the land to clear the place and delineate the roads. When asked what accompanying document they have, they’ll say they’ve applied for the gazette and the excision is under processing at the Land registry. It’s all a lie.
Oko Olomi Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos State
Some of the lands within the Oko Olomi community have their Gazette file number for excision, but the Surveyor General’s office have revealed that the lands are under government acquisition and fall within government allocation zone.
Gbelero Street, Ikola Ipaja
There is a land there, which the said owner claims is hitch-free. They’ll show you a survey plan mapping the whole area in their name including receipts. But a deeper inspection will show that the land offered for sale falls within Ipaja New Town Scheme. It is recommended that one always watches out for the red-flags when land acquisition is involved.
When trying to purchase any land, let no seller lure you into paying half the sum before you investigate the land.
Once you are given that pre-condition, the advice is that you walk away from the deal. Millions of Nigerians whether home or abroad have hopes of having a house of their own in Lagos, but there is a common reoccurring fear of how best to safeguard their money as to avoid being duped by land scammers or simply lose their lands to the Government as was the case of barrister Onu.
There are terrifying stories that usually goes with transfer of lands due to the prevalence of land scam artists and dubious real estate companies that specialize in ripping off prospective land purchasers.
Bearing this in mind, there are ten things one must do when preparing to buy a land, namely, budget for the type of land you seek to buy; verify that the land is really up for sale by the right agent; ensure that the land document are complete; involve professionals in the deal (preferably a Lawyer); and get to see the land physically.
Others are, run away from any land that smells like trouble; never pay for land transaction in cash; get as many opinions on the land as possible, sellers are cheats; ensure that all agreements in respect of the transaction are written; once you’ve made payment, build something on the land instantly.