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Why ‘Omonile’ issue in land matters will persist for a long time – Ikogho

Why ‘Omonile’ issue in land matters will persist for a long time – Ikogho

Mark Renee Legal Practitioners is a company that provides a one-stop solution to real estate investors and other related investments. In this interview, Akpormerene Ikogho, founder/CEO of the company, spoke on some of the age-long challenges in the sector. Excerpts by Seyi John Salau:

As a property lawyer, what would you advise first time buyers to do when buying property?

Be it their 1st, 2nd, or 10th time. Don’t trust anybody trying to sell land or a house to you. Always do your investigations before you part with a kobo of your money. In the world of Lagos real estate, where potential pitfalls and hidden dangers lurk around every corner, I will emphasise one crucial message for all first-time buyers: buyer beware. It’s essential to approach every property transaction with a healthy dose of skepticism. Never blindly trust anyone selling property, regardless of their apparent legitimacy. Always do your due diligence before committing even a single kobo. I will emphasise this referencing the prevalence of land scams in certain areas of Lagos. Unfortunately, some areas are notorious for these deceptive practices, putting unsuspecting buyers at risk. To combat this risk, Mark Renee Legal Practitioners follows a meticulous process when clients approach us with potential land purchases. The very first step is to request the seller provide copies of the property’s title documents. This is the foundation of any legitimate land transaction, and any hesitation or reluctance from the seller to present these documents should serve as a red flag.

However, simply acquiring the title documents isn’t enough. Once we receive the documents, we embark on a multi-layered investigation. This involves conducting a thorough legal search at the land registry, meticulously verifying the property’s coordinates, and creating a detailed land chart. We also perform a search at the Lagos State Surveyor General’s Office to ensure all records align and there are no discrepancies. Only after completing this rigorous process do we prepare a comprehensive report that outlines our findings and provides our clients with the information they need to make informed decisions. By doing this, we empower our clients with knowledge and safeguard them from the perils of land scams and fraudulent practices, allowing them to navigate the complex world of Lagos real estate with confidence and security.

With your experience in dealing with land matters in Lagos; how should land buyers handle speculators and Omonile?

The issue of Omonile, a Nigerian term referring to supposedly indigenous land owners (usually illegal) with claims to land, presents a significant challenge in the Lagos real estate market. I acknowledge the complexities of this issue and the ongoing efforts to address it. For instance, the Lagos State Government has attempted to tackle this challenge head-on by enacting the Property Protection Law. The law’s primary objective is to safeguard legitimate land and property transactions, preventing disruptions and intimidation from individuals claiming Omonile rights. However, I recognise the ongoing struggle to fully enforce the law. While the intent is commendable, effectively enforcing the law and ensuring complete protection remains a work in progress. Given these complexities, I’d advise potential property buyers thus: prioritise properties with verified titles and a clear ownership history. It’s crucial to stick to properties with demonstrably legitimate titles. Ideally, these should be within government-approved schemes or estates where land ownership is clearly documented and secured. The reality is the Omonile issue is likely to persist for some time. It’s a complex issue with deep-rooted historical and cultural factors at play.

The Lagos State government has indicated its desire to reclaim the state’s masterplan through the ministry of environment; what is your opinion on the recent spate of demolitions across Lagos?

Only two days ago, someone contacted me frantically. He bought a property for almost N70 million and people from the government have now put a big red X on the property. He told me that he didn’t carry out any legal search on the property before making payment. He wants to do the search now. l explained to him that it may be too late and Lawyers can’t perform magic. I hope the property isn’t demolished. People need to understand that typically the state government doesn’t wake up one day to pull down properties. Before that happens, you must have erected a building on government land or where you shouldn’t have done so. Even after that, usually, the government will serve several notices on the property. This notice is usually called an abatement of nuisance notice. After that, there is a notice of demolition that must be served on the premises. Only then will the property be demolished. In this matter, I blame developers who build on areas they know belong to the government or are earmarked for government projects. The buyers should also be vigilant. If a lawyer did a legal search on the property, he would most likely have discovered the issues with the location. A surveyor who took the coordinates would most likely have discovered the danger of buying in that particular location. The government also deserves some blame for not putting a stop to construction in such areas and safeguarding the interests of its citizens. If the building was physically halted people wouldn’t have lost money on the scale that they did.

If I indicate interest in buying or investing in real estate; what would be your advice to me?

Land with a clear and verifiable title has consistently proven its worth over time, demonstrating a remarkable track record of appreciation. This makes it a highly attractive investment option, particularly for those seeking long-term wealth creations. However, before embarking on this exciting journey, both investors and buyers must exercise extreme caution and meticulousness. The real estate landscape, especially in Lagos, can be a complex and unforgiving environment. Thorough due diligence serves as the cornerstone of any successful land investment, it acts as an essential shield against potential pitfalls and financial setbacks.

Remember, in the world of investments, lost funds are rarely easily recovered. A single misstep due to inadequate due diligence can have devastating consequences, wiping out years of hard work and savings. We, at Mark Renee Legal Practitioners, possess the in-depth knowledge, expertise, and meticulous approach necessary to navigate the intricacies of Lagos real estate. By guiding clients through the entire process, from initial property search to final acquisition, we significantly mitigate the risks involved and empower individuals to make informed and secure investment decisions. Investing in land with a good title presents a lucrative opportunity for those who approach it with a balanced perspective and a commitment to thorough due diligence. By seeking the guidance of experienced professionals and exercising caution, investors can navigate the complexities of the market and unlock the potential for significant long-term returns.

What are some of the real estate deals you have completed over the years?

While maintaining the utmost confidentiality regarding specific client details, I can shed light on Mark Renee’s successful track record. I have assisted clients in property acquisitions worth billions of naira in coveted locations like Victoria Garden City, Lekki Phase 1, Ajah, and Ikeja GRA. These transactions showcase Mark Renee Legal Practitioners’ ability to navigate complex high-value deals and secure our clients’ interests in prime areas of Lagos. However, my expertise extends far beyond just facilitating large-scale purchases. We actively manage a diverse portfolio of residential and commercial properties for our clients, ensuring our ongoing legal compliance and peace of mind. Additionally, our dedicated investigation unit plays a crucial role in safeguarding our clients from potential scams. Indeed, we are committed to protecting our clients from financial and legal pitfalls. This comprehensive approach to real estate legal services positions Mark Renee Legal Practitioners as a one-stop solution for individuals and entities seeking not only transactional support but also ongoing property management and risk mitigation strategies.

Finally, for the benefit of our readers; who is Akpormerene Ikogho?

Akpormerene Ikogho isn’t just a lawyer; I am a seasoned professional with over 13 years dedicated to navigating the complexities of Nigerian real estate. Based in Lagos, the heart of Nigeria’s commercial and economic activity, I have witnessed firsthand the challenges and opportunities that lie within the country’s real estate landscape. This experience, coupled with my passion for legal excellence, led me to establish Mark Renee Legal Practitioners in 2018.

Mark Renee Legal Practitioners was born from my keen observation of a crucial need: a gap in legal services specifically tailored to the intricacies of real estate in Nigeria. Today, the firm thrives, catering to a distinguished clientele that includes prominent real estate companies and high-net-worth individuals who are shaping the future of Nigerian property. My expertise and dedication have earned me the trust and respect of these major players, solidifying my position as a pillar of security and guidance in the ever-evolving world of Lagos real estate.