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- Not For Sale – Anatomy of a Real Estate Cliché

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Background: Survival of the Smartest
In  Shomolu, a city within the city of Lagos in Nigeria, it is not unusual to find one house on a street of about 20 houses carrying an inscription that could be described as laughable in some climes, unnecessary in others and damn smart by those who use the caption.

Not much has been written on this caption or its essence; it has however become part of the Nigerian social life. It is considered more ingenious than dumb. You will find it on buildings in high brow areas and in slums; city centers and in suburbs; properties on the high ways carry it just as well those in secluded areas.

It can now be comfortably inferred from survey that there is an 80% chance that one in every 25-30 houses/landed property in Lagos carry this tag.

'Not for Sale  beware of 419' has become a cliché and one of the most important vocabularies in the Nigerian real estate industry. Its use could date back to as far as the mid-nineties after the confidence trick in the Nigerian oil sector became wide spread.

If a house is for sale or lease and a notice to that effect is placed on it, it is understandable but a notice ‘not for sale’ and in permanent ink does not appear reasonable. It only exposes our criminal tendencies as a people and questions the totality of our social ethos. Even a church has been sighted carrying this inscription  this church is not for sale …

Why, we may like to ask, have property owners for any reason resulted to this self help mechanism to secure their priced possessions? Without equivocation, the fault should be laid at the threshold of our weak security and judicial institutions. If anyone gets swindled on a land transaction for example, the last place he wants to lodge a complaint is at the police station. The thinking is that the police will only sway in the direction of the moneybag  a position that the tricksters will very easily take. The next worst place you'd be advised to seek redress is at the courts. Statements like, “it will probably take 21years for you to get a judgement…” which is close to the reality at the land courts will make anyone rethink this option.

In a chaotic environment like that of Lagos where the mantra 'survival of the smartest' is handy in diverse slangs and local language clichés, policy making is the reserve of the individual. Then it is not about what your social class is, it is how smart you appear to understand your environment and act accordingly.

Now in the property industry, the basic element of survival is based on how much you can device witty
Means to keep these swindlers away.

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