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Knacking Down on Fraudulent Land Survey Practices - Comprehensive Survey Plan Guide

Jan 17, 2024

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Knacking Down on Fraudulent Land Survey Practices - Comprehensive Survey Plan Guide

Registered Surveyors are charged with the responsibility of conducting surveys to determine the boundaries of land. The survey provides blueprints for the said land survey by mapping out all corners using registered beacons collected from the Office of the Survey General in every state for the client's land and highlighting the exact measurement of the land.

However, there are unscrupulous elements who go against this tenet by orchestrating nefarious activities that ultimately soil the reputation of the profession. This article exposes nine fraudulent survey plan scams to help you know what to do when you intend to buy a property.

Survey Plan:

A survey plan is a detailed drawing that maps out a property—developed or undeveloped—to show the boundary markers, size, and various features. The reasons for survey plans include:

Identifying and demarcating a land from those around it. Simply put, it shows you where a land starts and where it ends.

Surveys also help the government enforce various zoning laws. Cities like Abuja emphasise their "master plans." By having a survey plan, you can know how your land and planned developments would fit into your state's master plan.

Let's explore the key indispensable elements of a survey plan:

  • Name of the client
  • Date the survey was made
  • A surveyor's seal
  • Address of the land
  • The dimensions and size of the land
  • Plan a number for easy identification
  • Surveyor's stamp and signature
  • Shape of the land
  • Beacon numbers on the plan

Surveyors are in charge of designing surveys. They receive professional training to carry out this responsibility. They use special equipment to carry out land surveys. These pieces of equipment include a measuring wheel, tripod, optical square, plumb bob, GPS, ranging rod, prism, compass, theodolite, and a number of others.

In Nigeria, you must be licenced to perform land surveys. To get this licence, you must obtain a licence from the Surveyors Registration Council of Nigeria (SURCON). SURCON is responsible for enforcing strict guidelines and standards of practice and ensuring compliance.

9 Known Survey Plan Frauds:

This is a very important topic that you should be aware of. It is important for people looking to get on the property ladder to understand the consequences of having a fake survey plan.

If you are unaware of survey plans or want to differentiate between real and fake ones, you should continue reading. This article sheds light on survey plans and helps you know how to avoid falling victim to fake survey plan scams.

The article also exposes the length to which dishonest surveyors go to produce fake plans, often in collusion with "Omoniles" (local landowners). With these "plans," they go on to perpetuate various nafarious activities, including:

  • Distorting or misrepresenting real survey plans
  • Forging the signatures of real surveyors to claim authenticity
  • Plifering stamps that show that a land is free from government acquisition: Do not take any stamp that reads "FREE FROM ACQUISITION" at face value. Omoniles and dishonest surveyors use these stamps to deceive people into paying for land. Do proper due diligence before making any payment.
  • Fabricating non-existent roads that would not ordinarily fit into the government's master plan

The most brazen of all is charting fake coordinates. A coordinate tells you the exact location of a property. For example, the coordinates for Lekki Toll Gate are 6.4358° N, 3.4472° E. When searched anywhere, this will lead you to the Lekki Toll Gate. A GPS device shows you the accurate coordinates of a particular land. The surveyor should obtain the device, proceed to the field, and locate the coordinates. After finding it, he should head to the Surveyor General's office and cross-reference his coordinates with the master plan available at the office.

Ignorance is not an excuse. Dig for more information before making a payment or signing any dotted lines. These fake surveyors will not bat an eye before taking advantage of any slight whiff of ignorance they get from you.

This comprehensive guide is designed to help you understand the challenges of Nigerian property marketing, especially as regards land surveys. 

1. WRONG NAME ON THE SURVEY PLAN 

Your first task is to check the name on the survey. Look at the sample above for reference. If you find that it has been written incorrectly, then it is a potential red flag. It is also grounds for rejection of the governor's consent, as it is required that all personal information be consistent across all filed documents. This means that if the name states Ikechukwu Adewale Yusuf instead of Okechukwu Adewale Yusuf, then the application will be rejected.

Case Study

Ifeanyi approached Jide, a "real estate agent," with an interest in purchasing land from him. Ifeanyi, however, requested evidence that a survey had been done on the land. Jide presented him with a survey plan, indicating that a survey had been conducted. Ifeanyi collected the plan and visited the Surveyor General's office to confirm the status of the red copy, the original version of the copy he just received from Jide.

To Ifeanyi's shock, there was a different name, IHEANYI, on the red copy. Ifeanyi's challenge is handling the burden of proof that he is, in fact, the IHEANYI written on the red copy. This is because there must be consistency of name and other personal information across all documents when dealing with land-related transactions. "The computer" expects that there is no deviation in patterns, and when an error has been noticed, the land is not free from government reclamation.

The options available to Ifeanyi are to do a change of name, which includes swearing a court affidavit and advertising the new name in a national daily newspaper. Another option is to pay a fee to have the wrong name and other faulty information corrected.

Take your time to ensure the accuracy of the name on the survey plan. Do not overlook any slight error. It is not "just F and H.".

2. BACKDATED OR WRONG DATE ON THE SURVEY

The survey plan must include the date of creation. The survey plan must include the date of creation, which is December 5, 2023 in the case of the sample above.

However, fake surveyors or local landowners create elaborate scams by backdating the date to an earlier period. The reason is simple: to give the impression that the land was purchased at an earlier date or to match a C/O that they may have fraudulently gotten.

If you carefully examined the survey plan they issued, you'd find that it was fake. More interestingly, if you went down to the Surveyor General's office, you would not find a trace of a red copy that has that date.

There is an interesting case study by Omonile Lawyer about James (not real name), who wanted to buy land from Peter (also not real name). Peter provided James with a receipt indicating the land's purchase in 1992; however, the survey plan revealed a different date, 1997.

On further investigation, James found the Gazette of the area and discovered that it showed 2007. Upon visiting the Surveyor General's Office, James confirms that the survey plan was indeed backdated.
Make accurate findings to avoid being a victim.

3. NO REGISTERED SEAL OF THE SURVEYOR

In March 2022, the Chairman of the Lagos State Chapter of the Association of Private Practising Surveyors of Nigeria (APPSN), Ibikunle Adaranijo, made a clear statement: that the body would no longer tolerate those who give their seals and stamps to "quacks" to make money.

This reveals that people who peddle fake survey plans often use stamps and seals to make the survey plan look authentic.

Find out if the plan has a seal. If it does not have any, it means it is fake.

Carefully vet the seal. It is highly important to reiterate: STRUTINIZE THE REGISTERED SEAL. Do not consider it, nor should you overlook it. Many fake individuals parading themselves as surveyors are quacks and intentionally produce survey plans that are missing the required seals. They may even go to the extent of pilfering the seal of a registered surveyor. Check to confirm if the surveyor's registration number is present.

Again, if it has a seal, you must make additional findings by requesting further information about the surveyor. You can request his registration card. Alternatively, you can contact the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors in your state. All registered surveyors are members of the state chapter.

4. NO OR WRONG ADDRESS OF THE LAND’S LOCATION

Every location has a clear identifier or is close to a location with a proper address.
If a survey plan does not have a clear address, then you should ask further questions.

Omoniles often intentionally write the wrong address, including the name of the street, area, or local government.

Imagine a scenario where the plan states that the land is located in Umuchieze. This description is ambiguous in the sense that it does not give an exact description of how to locate it. It should raise concerns. A vague description like "Umuchieze" is a serious cause for concern. First, Umuchieze has four villages inside. There are almost twenty clans inside the four villages. Within a particular community, there are also villages. Where in Umuchieze is the land or property?

Omoniles exploit this to deceive. You should not allow any eagerness to get on the property ladder or to get a "land in very good location" to cloud your sense of judgement.

According to Omonile Lawyer, this scenario will only be accepted if the land is located in an undeveloped area with no visible layouts or perimeter boundaries. Include the adjoining community in this case. E.g., IYI NTA, WITHIN UMUNJEKE UMUCHIEZE IN AHIAZU-MBAISE LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA.

5. ISSUES WITH THE SIZE OF THE LAND

Fraudulent surveyors often perpetuate significant harm when it comes to the size of the land. Since they do not have the right equipment and tools, they do not know the accurate size of the land. As a result, they manipulate measurements.

Thoroughly inspect the size of the land stated on the survey plan.

Normally, a theodolite and other tools are used to measure the square metres of land. Make sure they use the appropriate equipment for measuring the land. Ensure your presence during the land measurement process.

This highlights the importance of buyers taking the time to personally visit the land in question during the survey process.

6. NO SURVEY PLAN NUMBER

This scam is classic. Fake surveyors meticulously draft the survey and somehow forget the survey plan number. The absence of this makes your plan worthless.

A fake survey plan tends to leave out the survey plan number.

A plan number must be written on every survey plan to identify it. The plan number identifies the survey plan. This way, it is easier to locate the survey plan at the registry.

If there is no number written on the plan, it becomes useless. A real surveyor will not leave out a very important detail, such as the plan.

This is even more important: when you register a survey plan, the original copy is kept at the registry and is described as the "Red Copy." Whenever you come, the plan number is used to locate this "red copy." Without the plan number, there is no red copy to refer to at the registry.

7. NO OR FAKE STAMP AND SIGNATURE OF A REGISTERED SURVEYOR

This is another important thing to check when you have received a survey plan. The plan, without the signature and stamp of the surveyor, is useless.

The logo may carry the surveyor's address. This helps you visit and confirm the existence of such an office. The signature is also necessary to authenticate the plan. It goes to say that you must be vigilant.

This is because if the survey turns out to be defective, the registered surveyor who made the plan has to assume responsibility. If it is a quack, then you have yourself to blame.

Verify the logo and signature carefully.

8. WRONG SHAPE OF LAND ON THE SURVEY PLAN

Your survey plan shows you a lot of things. It carries extensive information about the land you are about to buy. This "extensive information" includes the shape of the land as well as its layout." Existing roads are also considered in a survey plan.

The shape of the land is very important in giving architects a clue when designing the plan of the house to be built on the land.

You must pay attention to this information. I cannot overemphasise the importance of this. Omoniles and fake surveyors often perpetuate wrong practices in order to convince you that the survey plan is real. They go to the extent of selling roads to other people and drawing a nonexistent road on your plan.

Personally vet and ask the surveyor how they arrived at the existing roads and how they connect to your land. This will ensure that your plan is not lacking an accurate representation of the real land, wherever it is.

9. INACCURATE BEACON NUMBERS ON THE PLAN

It is important to be mindful of the manipulation of beacon numbers. A beacon number demarcates your land from another land. It is usually a stone that serves as a boundary guide. They are not "ordinary stones." They are very important, and each beacon is unique to you and your land.

Beacons carry numbers that are unique and correspond to those on the survey plan. This makes it easy to identify your land from those around it.

Fraudulent surveyors and miscreants tend to take advantage of land buyers here. When you pay for the services of a surveyor, you are also paying for the fact that they should acquire beacon numbers for your land. They are to go to the Nigerian Institute of Surveyors to get these numbers. Only registered surveyors are licenced to do it, so if a person is unqualified to be a surveyor, they cannot do this.

Upon purchase, the surveyor himself is required to install the markers to correspond to the ones outlined in the document.

Rather than do that, unscrupulous surveyors do the opposite and pocket the money. They falsify beacon numbers and make fake placements.

So, ask the necessary questions.

Ask the surveyor how he arrived at the beacon number.

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Knacking Down on Fraudulent Land Survey Practices - Comprehensive Survey Plan Guide

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