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Published On: Wed, Jun 24th, 2015

Fraudulent practitioners should be dealt with —Ogwujie

Mr. Lucky Daniel Ogwujie is the Chairman of Association of Estate Agents of Nigeria (AEAN) Ajao Estate chapter. In this exclusive interview with CHINWE AGBEZE, he speaks on the challenges facing the association, measures to checkmate fraudulent Estate Agents, and also cleared the air on issues surrounding the birthing of the association few years ago. Excerpts 
Estate Agents have always been under the body of Nigerian Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, why the need for an association?
We decided to form our own association because after doing the bulk work, the Estate surveyors will claim they are the professionals and so instead of giving us our normal fees, they will start speaking grammar and end up splitting our money as if we are touts. They forget the Real Estate business cannot move well without us. So, to get what is rightfully ours we decided to establish and manage our own association.
Was there any conflict between your association and NIESV before the formation of your association?
I won’t say we had any problem with NIESV, we just decided to be on our own. Just to make the distinction, so people will know they are estate surveyors and we are estate agents. We now get what we deserve which is better. Although, some of them come to us when they need properties and we do the same. We still maintain cordial relationship with them and we have our respect.
There have been issues in the past between Agents and NIESV with NIESV accusing Agents as the black sheep of the association, what’s your response to this? 
They claim we were giving them a bad name but it’s not true. Why will we give them bad name? They have their job and we have ours. If we have any job with them, they should just give us our normal percentage and we won’t have problem with them.
But cases abound where people who posed as Estate Agents ended up swindling house seekers, don’t you think the NIESV might be referring to those cases?
There is no profession you will not find bad people. This is why we decided to make it compulsory for Agents to join this association but most Agents have refused to be members saying they want to work on their own and if we involve the police, the police will say it’s not compulsory for them to join the association, which is wrong. This is the reason some people can claim to be Agents and defraud house seekers. This is a big problem for us and we need the government to intervene.
How do you want the government to come in?
We want government to make it mandatory that everyone must belong to a registered Real Estate association and those that refuse to join should be arrested and punished so others can learn. Fraud will further reduce because everyone will be very careful.
You said some Agents refused to join the association, what was their reason? Is the fee too high?
Most of them are touts; maybe that is why they don’t want to join the association because I cannot think of any other reason for their refusal. The fee is moderate. Registration is just N5, 000 and the monthly dues is N500 only.
What are the major challenges in real estate profession?
People who are in a haste to acquire or rent properties and end up failing prey to fraudsters make it look as if Agents are bad people to deal with. In a bid to avoid the little token we charge them for registration, they end up paying more to fraudsters and also make it difficult to track down these people. Unregistered Agents are also a huge pain in the association’s neck because they are soiling our name.
What are the challenges in providing housing in Lagos state?
Some Landlords are very difficult and greedy. They inflate the price of their properties and when we ask them to reduce the price so people can rent or buy them especially when the property is not worth that much, they shove us aside and assign the business to their lawyers.  Landlords should cooperate with us so we can work together.
For every association, there are sanctions for defaulters.
What sanction mechanism have your association put in place for its members who go contrary to the rules and regulations guiding your association?
We summon them and tell them to return the money, some do and those that prove stubborn are handed to the police. Sometimes we cease their properties to make them pay up. For members who have been repeatedly fraudulent, we will simply send them on exile by disassociating ourselves from them. In that case, they cease to be members of the association.
What are some of cases your association has dealt with since its inception? 
An Agent gave out two mini-flats to several people and collected N60million, he was arrested but only N70, 000 was recovered. He is in Kirikiri now. Another collected money meant to be shared among him and other Agents and disappeared, we got him arrested him. He begged to go get the money which he did. One Taiye, collected money from a house seeker and vanished, he has been doing this so we had to strip him of his membership.
Now five years down the line, how has AEAN fared and will you say Agent fraud has reduced?
Yes, it has reduced. It has been easier to track down fraudulent Estate Agents but there is still more to be done. That is why we need government, individuals, Landlords, our fellow Estate business colleagues to help us achieve our aim to sanitize the system of fraudulent people.
What advice do you have for house seekers on how they can identify genuine Estate Agents?
They should only patronize registered Estate Agents who have offices, association number and letter-headed forms.  Also, they should exercise patience when searching for properties. With all these, they cannot go wrong.


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