Buhari: Caveat emptor!



IF Nigeria was a commodity advertised for lease or outright sale and I saw somebody like Muhammadu Buhari coming around to take a look at the property, I would beat all odds to quickly pass across to him the very same words that I have above as caption: “Buhari, Caveat Emptor.”

Buhari, not given to property acquisition and seeing me coming to tell him ‘Caveat emptor’, might look at me as nut. Truly, unless one is into the business of property acquisition, ‘Caveat emptor’ might sound to him as Greek.

However, if I told Buhari ‘Caveat emptor’ and I saw an expression of incredulity on his face, I would simply revert to plain language and say to him: “Oga, beware of the property you’re about to buy!”

You see, ‘Caveat emptor’ in Latin means, “Let the buyer beware!” In organised society vendors of properties always affix such warning to any public advert they put out in respect of their property.

The essence is to forestall any recourse to litigation by buyers who might discover long after they had paid for their goods that they had been sold, say, a ‘stone’ for ‘bread’ or a ‘serpent’ in place of a ‘fish’! In that case the seller would be protected since he had earlier told you, ‘Caveat emptor’, even before the purchase.

Which means it’s left for the property buyer to always investigate and check out the ‘health’ of the property he’s about to buy before putting money on it. Where he is not convinced about the true state of the ‘health’ of the property, he is at liberty to engage the services of experts to help him out.

According to the law of buying and selling, the seller is not bound to disclose to the buyer any defects in his property. He expects the buyers or their agents to use their expertise knowledge to find out if there’s anything wrong with what they want to buy before putting down their money.

And it’s not that after the deal had been consummated then the buyer would return to be crying over spilt milk.  

Specifically, under the principle of caveat emptor, the buyer cannot recover damages from the seller for defects on the property that render the property unfit for ordinary purposes.

The only exception is when the seller actively conceals latent defects or otherwise that could make material misrepresentations amounting to fraud. ‎

I said all this not because I want to make the President to take a second look at the worth of the seat he is climbing. No, no! That certainly would be too late now. As it were, he has already paid for the seat and no amount of ‘crying’ would make the ‘seller’ to refund his ‘money’ and take back his seat. No way! The seat, whether termites have eaten all the corners or is just an ordinary plywood nailed together to look like a seat, is no longer the business of the seller. For him, he had given the buyer all the time in the world to examine what he wanted to buy. That he failed to do so isn’t anybody’s fault.

Now Alhaji Lai Mohammed, National Publicity Secretary of the APC, has been crying on top of his voice that the Jonathan government has left ‘igbese’ (heap of debts) for the Buhari government to settle. Well, thank God that the law governing the running of government is not the same as the one that governs property transaction, otherwise, whatever Lai Mohammed is saying now would be mere noise.

With government, a past administration could be summoned to come and give account of their stewardship while in government. Where they failed to give a reasonable and satisfactory account, those involved could be punished for it.

I hear both Professor Osinbajo, Vice-President and Chief Olisa Metuh, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, saying the immediate past government left behind a whooping national debt of $63.7 billion. My goodness! Also a few days ago, Lai Mohammed lamented over what he claimed the Jonathan government was bequeathing to the incoming government.

Hear him: “Never in the history of our country has any government handed over to another a more distressed country: No electricity, no fuel, workers are on strike…but they do not care how workers in 18 states, who are owed a total of N300 billion in salaries under their watch or federal workers who are owed N400 billion, will be paid. They are not interested in how to raise electricity production from its unprecedentedly low level of 1,327 megawatts…Yet, they are running a budget of N1trillion deficit.”

And, of course, the vexed issue of the $20 billion said to be unaccounted for by the NNPC will be left for the new government to unravel.

The biggest problem I see that may mar the goodwill people have for the Buhari government is fuel subsidy. It all depends on the way the Buhari administration handles it.

At present, more than $8 billion is said to be spent annually by the Federal Government to subsidise the importation of petroleum products.

Some say the amount is due to over invoicing. Some believe there is no subsidy at all and that what goes as subsidy is money the so-called importers share with their benefactors in government! It’s going to be a bitter pile because allowing the market forces to determine the price of such a commodity (fuel) that is a necessity (mind you, this is not GSM that is more of a luxury than a necessity) would shoot the pump price beyond the reach of almost everybody.

And of course that would dovetail to affect the cost of virtually everything in the economy – transportation, foodstuff, accommodation, school fees, name it.  

Accepting to allow the market forces to determine the price of fuel reminds me of those diabolical, ‘self-destructive’ IMF conditionalities that the World Bank always imposes on countries wanting loans from them. You accept the conditionalities and take the loan at the risk of being kicked or voted out of power. Once there’s a runaway inflation as a result of accepting those conditionalities, you should be prepared to face the ensuing riot you’ll see in the streets against your government!

So let’s be careful here the way we handle this volatile issue of fuel subsidy. My advice: Let the subsidy continue. Nigerians are not prepared to suffer more than they are suffering now in terms of high cost of living. Any additional burden as a result of removal of fuel subsidy (except, of course, such removal doesn’t translate into higher pump price) is sure to spell disaster for the incoming government.

As I said, let the present pump price stay. But immediately let all hands be on deck to see how to resuscitate all our existing refineries that are now lying prostrate. Let’s see how we can bring them to work in their optimum capacity.

The private sector should be encouraged to invest in refineries. As long as we continue to depend on fuel importation to service the economy, the issue of subsidy will never go away. All my thoughts.

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  • Tayo Akin

    I would have completely agreed with you on the principle of caveat emptor, but you forgot to mention that there are exceptions to every general principle. Yes, due diligence is required in business dealings, say purchase of land, but in many other transactions, warranty/guarantee is required, otherwise any contract without such assurances is voidable, if not void for fraud and other defences. Context may differ, but the exceptions are relevant. You tried, but please take note

    • sly

      Tayo Akin, thanks for the kind comment, but it’s apparent, but your comment, that you didn’t read my article thoroughly. So please read this excerpt and see if you still stand by your comment: “Specifically, under the principle of caveat emptor, the buyer cannot recover damages from the seller for defects on the property that render the property unfit for ordinary purpose

      “The only exception is when the seller actively conceals latent defects or otherwise that could make material misrepresentations amounting to fraud.” ‎

      • Tayo Akin

        Good you confirm there are exceptions. The law is more advanced here in Canada. Your writing matched an experience i had with a dealership here this week. Consumer protection law is very strong. Good job.

        • sly

          Thanks. Your commendation has progressed from “You tried, but please take note” to the full mark: “Good job.” So, once again, thank you for the compliment. I guess finally I’ve been able to squeeze the ‘full mark’ out of you.

          • Tayo Akin

            You are worth 100 per cent for contributing to knowledge. We need Nigerians who are not abusive to post and add to knowledge. Thanks