The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has explained why it is dabbling on disputes over land contrary to the opinion of some lawyers that most land cases are civil matters which the parties involved should take to court for settlement.
Lagos Zonal Commander of the EFCC, ACE I Michael T. Wetkas made the explanation when he received the Special Adviser on Housing, Lagos State Real Estate Regulatory Authority, LASRERA Ms. Barakat Odunuga-Bakare on a courtesy visit in his office on Wednesday.
Wetka described land fraud as one of the biggest issues the EFCC is faced with in the state. According to him, the visit could not have come at a better time because of the efforts taken by the EFCC to ensure that the land industry in the state was sanitized.
“Land fraud is one of the biggest issues we are battling in Lagos here. Recently, at a stakeholders’ engagement, posers were raised as to whether we should be dabbling in the issues of land, because some legal practitioners believe that most land cases are civil. But we had to educate them on the several criminalities involved in land matters. For example, someone can claim to have a land for sale when, in fact, he has no land to sell, thereby defrauding unsuspecting victims of millions of Naira”, he said.
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Continuing, the Zonal Commander stressed that, “there is also the aspect of falsification of documents to facilitate a particular transaction, in respect to a land, thereby committing a fraud. There is also the issue of cloning documents that already exist in records, making them look original. In the light of the foregoing, people were able to realize that there were lots of criminalities prevalent in land matters.”
Wetkas also emphasized the opportunities that abound in the land industry, saying,” Look at how much Lagos can generate from land deals. People want to invest in land all over the world. But for the fear of land fraud, they can’t invest. So, we need to do the right thing and make Lagos a haven for investors.”
Also speaking, the Head, of Land and Property Fraud Section, LPFS, Lagos Zonal Command, ACE11 KufreAbasi Alex-Osagie, highlighted some of the challenges faced by the EFCC in investigating land matters.
She, therefore, urged LASRERA to assist the Commission in ensuring that proper checks were put in place concerning building approvals. “You also need to look into the issue of original documents being released to the wrong hands,” she said.
Speaking during the visit, Odunuga-Bakare called for greater collaboration with the EFCC to check fraudulent malpractices in the real estate sector in the state.
Odunuga-Bakare said the visit was meant to seek greater collaboration with the Commission, adding that “Our agency was created by the government to register, monitor, and sanitize the real estate sector in Lagos.
“We need the EFCC when we are unable to resolve the issues between developers and the other parties. There are fraudulent malpractices in the real estate industry, where developers fail to fulfill their obligations or refuse to refund the other party. And in cases we are unable to resolve, we refer to the EFCC for investigation”, she said.