Assumption of Office and Properties

Sample 1: “Soyombo, a professor of Sociology, however, told Sunday Tribune in an exclusive interview that he had since resumed office since his acting appointment was of immediate effect.”(More heads to roll in UNILAG, Tribune Online, 15 August, 2020)

We note the presence of the word resumed in this clause: “he had since resumed office.” To appreciate the nature of this error, we have to realize that Prof Soyombo, the newly appointed Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos, had never occupied the office, and was about to start work in that capacity at the time the event was reported. Now the question is: Is the verb resumed the appropriate one to describe this event?Not at all.The writer has obviously confused the verb resumed with assumed, for the context does make it clear that the reference is to the fact that Prof Soyombo was about to commence work as Acting Vice Chancellor. It is important also to note the noun forms of these verbs: The noun form of assume is assumption; of resume is resumption.

The problem of insufficient grasp of the nuances of a word resulting in confusing its identity with that of another with varying degrees of seriousness is endemic in the Nigerian usage terrain. The problem arises because writers don’t care enough to make the words their “own” by thoroughly and consciously internalizing their essential and distinguishing properties.

The word resume under review here is a typical example. The impression the writer gives when he uses the verbresumed, as in many instances of the use of that verb or its noun form (resumption) in the Nigerian context, is that Soyombo has been on a break and has come back to work.

Some Nigerians would say, “The newly appointed Minister will resume duty on July 1” when they mean, “The newly appointed Minister will assume duty on July 1”. They would say, “The new Inspector-General of Police will resume duty next week” when they mean, “The new Inspector-General of Police will assume duty next week”.

We need to make a distinction between assumption of duty (which is about commencing work for the first time) and resumption of duty (which is about coming back to work after a break). To resume work is to begin to work again after one has stopped working, and to assume duty is to report for an assignment for the first time.

At any rate, the verbassumed should replace resumed in the context under review.

Sample 2: “As we speak now, I can’t renovate the house and the palace because it was burnt beyond repairs; the building sustained cracks and needs to be pulled down. I lost properties worth N30 million including the house and the palace.”(Jos crisis: how 82-yr-old widow begged attackers to kill her, Sunday Sun, 21 October, 2018)

Please note the use of the word properties in the following context: “I lost properties worth N30 million including the house and palace.” Note that the properties said to have been lost were inside the house (which of course doubles as the palace). It is important tonote also that the word (properties) is in its plural form. Note, furthermore, that the properties in question were destroyed by the inferno that engulfed the house/palace. The things destroyed by the fire were obviously household items contained in the building.

 

The narrator seems confused as to the grammatical characteristics of the noun property. There are two basic ways of regarding the word.

Whenever we use the word property to refer personal effects or movable items such as shoes, clothes, furniture, television sets, fridges, generators, and even motor cars, we should use it in its singular form. No matter the volume or quantity of such items, the word property should remain in its singular form and the choice of verb should be singular. Please read the following sentences: 1) The landlord has seized the tenant’s property kept in two rooms, saying he won’t release it until and unless he pays all his debt. 2) No matter how long you stay in the UK, your property will remain in this room and it will be intact.  3) Before I woke up, he had gathered all his property and travelled back to our home town. 4) Since he owns little property, he doesn’t need more than one room. 5) Fire destroyed the entire house including his sister’s property kept in one of the rooms. 6) His property consists of a few items all of which are kept in one huge bag. 7) After working for two years, his property is so much that he needs to rent a second room. 8) Thieves broke into the room and made away with almost all his property. 9) He has found a new house and his children are helping to carry her property to the new place. 10) Two trucks carried his property to his newly built house. 11) In those days, slaves were considered part of the personal property of rich men. 12) Shoes and shirts are the most prominent elements of my property.

The word property has been used in its singular form in each of those sentences because it is about personal effects, household items, movable belongings. However, when the word is employed in reference to land and houses, it can be used in the singular sense if the reference is to a singular item or in the plural if the reference is to two or more items. Indeed, whenever the word property is used in the plural by knowledgeable people, the assumption is that the reference is to land/houses. It should not be used in the plural sense if the reference is to personal effects as discussed and illustrated earlier.

Now read the following sentences: 1) The government has decided to sell all its properties in the choicest parts of the country. 2) Properties are more expensive in Lagos than in any other part of Nigeria. 3) I have three uncles who are into the business of buying and selling of properties. 4) There is an uncompleted property which the owner wants to sell at a moderate price. 5) I have refused to buy that property because it is too close to a stream. 6) The prosecution has alleged that the politically exposed persons have acquired the said properties with the proceeds of corruption. 7) Only teachers are allowed to buy and own properties in the estate. 8) I want to acquire a property in an exclusive area. 9) He rejected the property because it was too close to the police barracks. 10) Being in a marshy and undeveloped area, the property should not be expensive.

From the discussion and analysis so far, it should be obvious that the word property should be in its singular form in the context under reference.

 

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