29 Jul



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. 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.

Certificate of Occupancy (C of O). This is a document issued by the state government to a person that gives that person the legal right to own and use the land for at most 99 years, after which it should be renewed. Without a Certificate of Occupancy, your land or property can be taken from you at any time without paying you anything. On a piece of land, you can only get one C of O. this means that if a property owner with a C of O wants to sell his land, another C of O cannot be issued on the same land. Rather the new owner would only get a Governor’s consent to show he’s the new owner.

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.

Governor’s Consent. This is a document signed by the Governor or another person on his behalf. It is issued when a person who has been issued a C of O agrees to transfer his property to another. The whole process shouldn’t take more than 30 days but in reality, it can take up to 6 months.

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.

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.

Deed of Assignment. This is a legal document that shows that all vendor’s rights and interests in a property has been transferred to the purchaser. This is usually drafted by the purchaser’s lawyer who would send it to the vendor to look at it and sign. This document contains details like the description of the property being sold. A deed of assignment is only valid if registered at the land registry and has the Governor’s consent.  Before the promulgation of the Land Use Act of 1978, it was seen as proof of ownership. In some parts of Lagos, these are still the title documents for some old homes.

Letter of Administration. 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.

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/beneficiaries, a third party can’t make a claim on the same property.

Deed of Mortgage. This is a document that is made when one borrows money using the property as security. 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. It gives the lender (mortgagee) a stake in the property. If the person who borrowed the money doesn’t pay back the loan, the person who has the paper can take the property.

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. Contract of Sale, Letter of Allocation, and Receipts. A contract of sale shows that a property has been bought, while a letter of allocation shows that a piece of land or property has been given to a person by the government or a private developer. A payment receipt, on the other hand, shows that the vendor has received a certain amount of money for the sale of the property. Even though these three things are important proof of a land or property deal, they are not legal documents and cannot be seen as a deed of assignment.

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