Just because I work with Buganda Land Board, many people consider me an expert in land matters. This is typical of humanity.
It doesn’t matter what you do at a certain organization – as long as you are employed there, you are assumed to know everything therein.
Haven’t you seen people ask a nurse at Mulago to give them an expert opinion on issues concerning cardiology or a group of drunkards at a local pub ask a cleaner at Bank of Uganda (with all due respect) to interpret the national budget speech?
In my case, I am no land surveyor, physical planner or lawyer, but people expect me to know everything in those fields in relation to land management.
Just recently, a friend approached me asking for some advice on a piece of land he was about to purchase. A land broker had connected him to a certain lady who wanted to sell her share of inheritance from her late father.
My friend had been furnished with the block and plot numbers of the certificate of title to this land. He now wanted me to check our (Buganda) systems to see if this land title exists.
I asked him if he had seen the actual land title or visited the said land and he answered in the negative. He had just met the broker who assured him that the land belongs to five children (three girls and two boys) of a certain deceased man who left a will that specifically shared the land among the siblings.
First, this friend actually wanted to buy a plot on private mailo land and it could, therefore, not be verified through BLB systems. Buganda Land Board keeps records of people on Kabaka’s land, although it has a department that offers services to people on land other than that of the Kabaka.
I told him that all title verification checks are conducted at the ministry of Lands offices at districts and national level (I didn’t need to be a surveyor to know this). But before he could even go to the ministry for verification checks, I advised him to do three things.
One, he should visit the said land and make sure it actually exists. He should talk to neighbours and find out if there are no encumbrances or conflicts such as current occupants unwilling to move.
Two, since the land title to this land originally belonged to the father of the person selling, I told my friend to first find out whether the administration of the deceased’s estate was transferred to another person. If yes, he should talk to that person and ensure that he/she agrees to the proposed sale and is even willing to sanction a subdivision of this land to get an independent title.
We have seen scenarios where one sibling decides to sell part of their inherited land and the rest gang up against the buyer and tell them it was an illegal sale.
Three, if the first two boxes are ticked, then it is proper for him to conduct a location survey. Many people disregard this crucial part of authentication of land ownership yet it is the most important. A location survey may cost about Shs 500,000 but can save you from being defrauded of Shs 50m. How?
Someone may show you an authentic land title to the land you intend to buy and it even checks out if/when you go the ministry of lands. However, it is only a location survey that can ascertain the exact GPS location of the land in question.
There are scenarios where a title of one piece of land is identical to the title of the piece of land lying directly opposite – think of the middle pages of an exercise book. So, a smart person may trick you into buying what I will call a duplicate plot opposite the authentic plot just because they look alike and a search at the ministry will show that it exists.
The only way to sidestep this trick is through a location survey. It is better to lose Shs 500,000 than pay Shs 50m, build a house and start a family only to learn later that this plot actually belongs to another person.
After my conversation with my friend, the glow in his eyes told it all – he had been helped, albeit by a layman’s point of view. I also learnt one thing: always know something about everything that your organization does irrespective of your job.
The author is the head, Sensitization and CSR, Buganda Land Board.
article was first published in the Observer Uganda newspaper