HOW LAND TITLES AND DOCUMENTS WORK IN NIGERIA
INTRODUCTION. It is important to know your property rights before you buy land. It’s just not enough to own a piece of land. If you know the rules, laws, and responsibilities, you can avoid many land disputes. Some of these land-related problems are false ownership, problems with inheritance, fraud, and the government demolishing land. All of these problems make potential land owners nervous about making the wrong choice.
The Land Use Act of 1978 says that all land belongs to the state government. The land owner can get the title back after the government has rented it for 99 years. Depending on this Act, the land is either free or is being taken over by the government. The original ways of owning land were done away with by the Land Use Act of 1978, which set up the uniform Land Administration system.
This new act was made to make land easier for Nigerians to get, to make tenure more secure, to stop speculative purchases of communal land and to make it easier to manage and own land.
The land really belongs to the state government, but it can be leased to people, businesses, or other groups through a set process. To make this possible, land titles and other documents are important parts of a smooth transfer between entities.
WHAT ARE LAND TITLES AND LAND DOCUMENTS? In Nigeria, you need a number of land titles and other documents before you can buy land or property. Land titles are legal papers that say who owns a certain piece of land or property. On the other hand, land documents are things like a receipt, invoice, contract of sale, survey, deed of assignment and allocation that you get after you buy land.
Land titles show the boundaries and rights of the landowners and can help people who want to buy land understand how ownership works. Before you buy land in Nigeria, you should find out who owns it and ask to see proof of ownership.
In the same way, investors who want to buy land or property should find out what documents they will need and how they can get them. This article tells you everything you need to know about the titles and paperwork you need to buy land or property in Nigeria. This is a guide to the land titles and documents in Nigeria.
The property title is a legal document that proves who owns a piece of land. Before investing in a property, these titles should be checked out because they give real estate investors security, value, and proof. Land owners and people who want to buy land should get the following titles:
- CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY. It is a document given out by the state government that shows that someone owns land. Without a Certificate of Occupancy, your land or property can be taken from you at any time without paying you anything. A Certificate of Occupancy is needed to start building on a property, change how the property is used, or change who owns the property. This document has different parts, such as the file number, the size of the plot, where it is, the date it was given, the length of the lease, the terms and conditions, the reason for using the land, and many more. Most Certificates of Occupancy are good for up to 99 years, after which they can be renewed by applying. It shows who the real owner of a property is, raises the value of the land, can be used as collateral when getting a loan, and stops the government from taking the property back or other people from making a false claim on it. People who owned a piece of land before 1979 are given a Certificate of Occupancy. C of O’s are only given to the first person to buy a piece of land. They can’t be given to anyone else. It is given to all government-owned properties and land parcels.
- RIGHT OF OCCUPANCY (R of O). It is the legal right of a person or group to live on or use land in a way that is allowed by the Land Use Act. The R of O title gives a person, a group, or a business the right to use a piece of land in a way that the government has approved. This doesn’t show who owns something. A customary Right of Occupancy is the right under customary law for an individual or group to legally use or live on land. It is usually given by the local government in pastoral areas. This can be used for farming, living, and other things. The state government has the power to give the right to occupy land for any reason, no matter if it is in a rural or urban area.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A CERFIICTATE OF OCCUPANCY AND RIGHT OF OCCUPANCY
- A Right of Occupancy is different from a Certificate of Occupancy in that it only gives an offer to the property and not the official ownership rights to that land.
- The R of O can have its rights taken away without compensation, but when this happens, the owner of a C of O gets money.
- A Certificate of Occupancy title can be used as collateral, but a Right of Occupancy is not a good title to use for loans.
- It has been abused because of the way land has been given out, so it is not a good idea.
- R of O is a weaker title, so it’s cheaper and easier to fight over. C of O, on the other hand, is a better title and goes through a difficult process, so it’s more expensive and more desirable, especially in Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria.
- Usually, a Local Government Authority (like Abuja, which is a municipal) issues a customary R of O. This is different from a C of O, which can only be issued by the state government and signed by the Governor.
- THE GOVERNOR’S CONSENT. Before land with a Certificate of Occupancy can be legally sold again, the Governor has to agree to it. As the name suggests, when a Certificate of Occupancy was given, the Governor gives his or her permission for the land or property to change hands. The Certificate of Occupancy can only belong to one person. So, anyone who wants to buy that property or land after that must get permission from a governor. This consent must be approved by the Governor of that state for the deal to be legal and for you to have rights to that property or land. The reason for this is to let the government know that the land has changed hands. You can ask for the Governor’s Consent as many times as a piece of land is sold again.
- EXCISION. This is the process by which the government gives the original owners of an allotment of land back to them so that they can use it for commercial and residential purposes. A family or person interested in that land can get the government to approve an excision, and paperwork for the land can be worked on up to the level of the governor’s consent. When the land that was taken is listed in the government’s official gazette, it is said to have the title “Gazette”. The Gazette is then used as the land’s title.
- GAZETTE. It is a legal record book that describes in detail a piece of land that has been cut off and given back to a family or community. This document will have the name of the community and specifics about the land that was used in the process of excision. With a gazette, a person or a group can ask for a Certificate of Occupancy or Governor’s Consent. Excision and gazette are good titles for buying and selling land, and they make sure that the land is safe to buy and build on.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EXCISION AND GAZETTE.
Excision shows the community that was given land for commercial or residential use, while a Gazette gives all the necessary information, such as the village or family that was given the rights, the number of acres of land, and what the land is used for, among other things.
Without a Gazette, a piece of land that has been cut off can be taken away from its owners. So, a Gazette is better and should be gotten for safety’s sake. An excised title shows the land that the government gave to a community, while a gazette publishes legal notices to meet legal requirements for public information and explains how the government and the community got the land, including the land that the government still owns.
- APPROVED SURVEY PLAN. A Survey Plan that has been approved shows the size and location of the land. The plan gives exact measurements and a detailed description of the land. All land must be surveyed by a certified Surveyor, who is regulated by the Surveyor-General of the state. The plan will then be sent for approval. Without this, it’s hard to tell if the land is taken or not (i.e., land earmarked for a specific activity or project by the federal or state government).
A Survey Plan must have the drawn beacon numbers, the name and address of the Surveyor in charge of the plan, a stamp showing whether or not the land is owned by the government, and the name, address, description, and size of the land being surveyed.
At the office of the Surveyor-General, it is easier to find out if the land is owned by the government because of the survey. A registered survey plan can be used to map land before it is bought. This mapping will show how the land can be used, what its status is, what the government’s short-term and long-term plans are for that area, the right way to handle that property, and the land’s excision and gazette details.
- FREE HOLD. A Freehold land title shows that a land owner owns the land for all time (free from hold). The word “freehold” is used to describe land that is not owned or controlled by the government. This means that anyone can own land with freehold. People in Epe, Lagos State, like this kind of land.
Free lands are the kind of lands that the government doesn’t care about, unlike land that the government has bought and wants to keep. It’s a good idea for people who buy freehold land to get a registered survey and then a proper title like a C of O.
Freehold is less of a title and more of a land status. Most of the time, it is bought at an auction or through a lottery. It’s easy to sell and can help you get a loan from the bank. Most of the time, this type of property tends to gain more value over time. But it costs more than leasehold land, and most of the time, a down payment is used to block the unit.
- ADMINISTRATION LETTER. When a property owner dies without a valid will, a Letter of Administration is used. The Court gives this paper to the appropriate next-of-kin. The “administrator of the estate” can be the deceased person’s spouse, child or children, parents, siblings, grandparents, half-blood siblings, or uncles or aunts. With interest, the law can’t change who owns something to someone else. But, as you might have guessed, there is a ranking for entitlement. If everyone is on the same level, the Court can accept one or more of the parties as owners.
- GRANTING PROBATE. When the owner of a landed property dies, the owner’s next of kin or legal representative must get a “Grant of Probate” before they can take ownership or control of the property. This only happens if the person who died left behind a Will or a Grant of Letter of Administration. The people named in the Will as executors must be willing, able, and free to act and get the assets listed. The law then says that these executors are the real owners of the property.
If the executors are unwilling, unable, or not available (because they are minors, dead, out of the country, mentally unstable, or have given up probate), the Court can give a grant of Letter of Administration to someone who is interested and qualified to run the estate of the testator.
Both the Letter of Administration and the Probate are important legal titles for a person’s property after they have died. You can get both documents from the Probate Registry of the State High Court or the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.
- ASSENT. A Deed of Assent is a legal document that the executors or legal administrators of an estate use to give the beneficiaries of an estate or any third party a legal interest or title in a certain estate. It always comes with a copy of a letter of administration or a grant of probate. It gives the person who gets the gift from a Will the right to own it.
The Assent gives a beneficiary of an estate or any third-party purchaser legal ownership of a gift in a Will, but not of the Will itself. This is done by the executors or the legal administrators of the estate. When a Deed of Assent has been signed to benefit the beneficiary (ies), a third party can’t make a claim on the same property (ies).
MORTGAGE DEED. A Deed of Mortgage shows that the borrower has given the lender the right to use the property. The borrower is called the mortgagor, and the lender is called the mortgagee. This mortgage transaction is a temporary transfer that gives the mortgagor the right to get his property back from the lender once the loan and all interest have been paid in full.
- DEED OF GIFT. A Deed of Gift is a land title that shows that someone gave land or property to someone else. Similar to a Deed of Mortgage, the donor is the person who gives away land, and the donee is the person who gets the land from the original owner. This transfer can be a permanent deal, and the government backs it.
Since the Donor didn’t pay anything for the property, there is no need to pay Stamp Duty. But they would have to pay Registration fees, Consent fees, and Capital Gains Tax. In the state where the land is located, you should get the Governor’s Consent.
- DECISION OF THE COURT. A court judgment can change or give someone else an interest in a certain piece of property. When there is a lawsuit or litigation, the court’s decision is very important and should be respected and taken into account. This means that cases brought before the court, whether they involve people, businesses, or the government, should be handled according to how the court works. The party that wins can then take care of the paperwork needed for reserved rights on land or property. This paperwork can be a Governor’s Consent, a Certificate of Occupancy, an Excision, or a Gazette.
- LAND PURCHASE RECEIPT. A Purchase Receipt is a document or receipt that shows that the payment for land or property has been made. This receipt must clearly show the name(s) and signature(s) of the person or people who bought something. Most of the time, when a property is sold, the vendor gives the purchaser a Purchase Receipt. But the receipt may not be needed if the clause requiring receipt is in the document that transfers the land. On a Land Purchase Receipt, the amount paid and the full names of both the purchaser and the vendor must be written in bold. It is often needed when the land is registered.
- DEED OF TRANSFER. This document says that the C of O covers part of the property and that a certain part of the plan has been given to the purchaser. This deed needs to be signed, stamped, and all of the details must be clear. A real estate lawyer acts as a go-between for the new purchaser and the person who owns the property’s title and writes the Deed of Assignment.
The vendor of the land uses this deed to show that the property has been permanently given to the assignee (the purchaser). This document can be written and looked over by either party. A person who buys land through a sale instead of getting a new Certificate of Occupancy is given a Deed of Assignment with the Governor’s approval.
- CONTRACT OF SALE. A contract of sale is a legal document that explains everything about what is being bought and how the payments will be made. Parties use the Contract of Sale of Land to agree on some terms before the deal is finalized. It is important when anyone wants to buy a property. It is not a document that can be registered, so it must come after other documents that transfer ownership of the property in question.
- SURVEY PLAN. A Survey Plan is a map that shows where the edges of a piece of land are. The land is mapped out to show what kind of title each piece of land has. That is, if it says excised, gazetted, C of O, etc., it shows that the government is still trying to get the land. This plan doesn’t have to be signed up for. This type of Survey Plan is used when a customer buys land or property from a developer who already has an Approved Survey Plan for the whole estate or acres of land. This must be done before the land can be sold again or used for something else.
- ALLOCATION BY GOVERNMENT. Government Allocation documents are for properties that the government has bought and given to a person or group. These pieces of land that the government bought either have clear plans for them or haven’t been given to anyone yet. Real estate companies, multinational corporations, hospitals, government agencies, and other groups usually go to the government to take advantage of this opportunity. If the government agrees to their request to use this land for a specific goal or plan, the government allocates the land. This is the only reason for this document.
The process of getting a certain piece of land is called allocation. This document shows all the specifics about the property that was bought. Without allocation, it is not possible to buy land. You can’t use or sell your land until it has been mapped and marked. After payments and fees required by law have been made, the money is given out. This is done in groups at different times of the year, depending on the real estate company.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DEED OF CONVEYANCE/ASSIGNMENT AND PRUCHASE RECEIPT
A Deed of Assignment or Deed of Conveyance is not the same thing as a receipt, and the two should not be confused with each other. A receipt is proof that money was paid, and a deed of assignment is proof that a piece of property is owned by someone. But every time you buy or sell real estate, you should get a receipt that says how much you paid and to whom you paid it.
This deed shows the date of the deal and gives specific information about the property that is changing hands. A Deed of Assignment needs to be recorded at the Land Registry in charge of that state so that it can be used as proof in court. This makes sure that the deal is public and that the government knows about it as well. After being stamped at the Stamp Duty office in that state, the document will be approved and made official at the Land Registry through a Registered Conveyance or Governor’s Consent.
CONCLUSION. Every person who might buy land or wants to buy land should do their research on the title, access, and use of the land before buying it. Besides not having the right land title and document, there are other things that can make it hard to get land, such as a criminal forfeiture of land or a pledge on the land.
If you know the different types and how they apply to you, you can protect yourself from bad investments and fraud. Getting these titles and documents can be a long, complicated, and careful process. So, this is why you should think about having a reputable real estate company do this work for you.