ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS IN A LAND PURCHASE
Many people, particularly those about to make their first land transaction, become confused or overwhelmed when it comes to asking the right questions.In some cases, prospective investors will inquire, “Where is the location?”, “How far is it?”, as well as a slew of others.I’ve even encountered someone who inquired about the land’s longitude and latitude.While these questions are not inappropriate and arise as a result of people attempting to avoid making a financial commitment they will later regret, I believe it is preferable if they know the right questions to ask and we know the right answers to the questions.That brings us to the first question anyone intending to buy land should ask which is “What is the status of the land?”
See, it is critical to understand the status of the land before purchasing it in Nigeria! Knowing the status of the land you’re about to purchase can save you a lot of money and avoidable hassles. Imagine buying a plot of land and erecting a structure on it, only to have the government show up years later and tell you to leave, claiming that your structure is illegal because it is on government property. All of this can be avoided if you know the status of the land you are investing in before closing the deal. This brings us to the topic of land classification. Land can be free or acquired.
A parcel of land is considered free if the government has not expressed any interest in it. Such land is risk-free to purchase because the title can be perfected without difficulty. In most cases, such lands will have a gazette, a certificate of occupancy, or the consent of the governor. Now that you understand what it means to have free land, you should be aware that all lands within urban areas are subject to government acquisition until they are deemed committed or free. Acquisition can be classified into two types:
- Committed acquisition: A parcel of land is said to be under committed acquisition when the government has indicated a desire to use it for a specific purpose, such as the provision of amenities. Such lands are owned by the government and can never be used by individuals. If you buy land that is subject to committed acquisition, you will be unable to perfect your land title and will only be able to occupy the land until the government comes to kick you out.
- General acquisition: Lands under general acquisition or global acquisition can be confirmed as “free” or “committed” later. Excision is a process that allows land under general acquisition to become free. Excision is a process whereby the government releases a portion of an expanse of land that is not committed. If a parcel of land that was previously under acquisition is excised, it is considered free and gazetted. The Gazette then becomes the title to the land, and such land is safe to purchase because a proper title can be obtained. A second situation in which lands subject to general acquisition can be released is when an individual purchases a land subject to acquisition without going through the excision process. Such lands can be ratified or regularized through another process in which the land owner pays to have the land ratified or regularized. The only conditions in this case are that the land in question does not fall within a committed area and that the purpose for which the land was purchased does not interfere with the state’s original plan. Ratification requirements may differ from state to state.
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