With the level of fraud that comes with buying of land in Nigeria, especially in Lagos, it is very important to know all land documents so you can be rest assured that the land you are buying or owned is legally yours.
While buying land, one of the top vital questions I get asked is ‘what is the title of the land?’. This is a vital and valid question because without perfecting the title of your land, it can be stolen from you or even risk eviction if you bought a government committed land.
Speaking of which, I need to talk about land classification first so you can best understand these land documents and their importance in retaining the ownership of your land legally.
Land can be broadly classified as either free or acquired.
A land is said to be free if the government has not indicated any interest whatsoever in that land. This type of land is safe to buy as you can go ahead to perfect it title documents without any hassle.
On the other hand, an acquired land simply means a land that government has shown interest in and have been designated as ‘urban areas’ until deemed committed or free.
So this brought us to the two types of acquisition; general acquisition and committed acquisition.
A portion of land that has been assigned for government use is said to be under general or global acquisition and same land can later be confirmed ‘free’ or ‘committed’ as the case may be.
And the process of making a land under general acquisition called excision, which is why you see some lands tagged ‘excision in progress’ being advertised all over. This is because the ancestral owners or communities have submitted an application for their land to be excised, thus ‘excision in progress’.
Note that lands tagged ‘excision in progress’ are not free land until the excision application has been approved.
On the other hand, a land is said to be under committed acquisition if the government has indicated interest to use the land for public interest such as building of schools, hospitals, or for construction of roads or other amenities.
This type of land belongs to the government and can never be available for use by individuals.
If you buy such land, I am sorry to say that you have just lost your hard-earned money to land grabbers because sooner or later when the government is ready to make use of the land, you will be kicked out without any compensation.
Now that we’ve all understood the different classes of land in Nigeria, let us now dwell into details about land documents in Nigeria.
6 Important Land Documents in Nigeria
- Deed of Assignment
- Survey Plan
- Certificate of Occupancy
- Governor’s Consent
For the sake of clarity, I will explain each and every one of these land documents.
Deed of Assignment
Deed of Assignment comes first on the list because it is one of the documents you get first after purchasing a land after a purchase receipt.
A Deed of Assignment (popularly called Agreement) is a transactional document drawn up by a real estate attorney between the current owner of a landed property and the new buyer.
When it comes to real estate, a Deed of Assignment is a legal document that transfers the ownership of a property to the person to whom it is assigned, the assignee.
This document is very important in real property transaction as it spells out the date when the transfer of the property was made and also contains the details and description of the said property.
Even after getting a signed copy of a Deed of Assignment document after purchasing your landed property, it is very important for you to have it registered at the appropriate land registry. This is to make sure that the government and the general public is aware of the transaction and also shows legal evidence that the ownership of the said property has been legally transferred to you, the buyer.
Having your Deed of Assignment recorded at the land registry and having it stamped at the Stamp Duties office means you can further process a Governor’s Consent or Registered Conveyance for the land.
However, it should be noted that the Deed of Assignment is not the only document you should collect after purchasing your land. A purchase receipt, an invoice and a Contract of Sale are also as important as a Deed of Assignment document that indicates the transfer of ownership.
A survey plan is a document that measures the boundary of a parcel of land to prove the identity of that land as it clearly marks and defines legal boundaries of the land.
When buying a land, a survey plan is necessary because it gives accurate measurement and description of the land so you wouldn’t buy a land in the rights of ways or a committed land.
Those that handle survey issues are called Surveyors and are regulated by the office of the Surveyor General of the state.
A survey plan contains the following;
- The name of the owner of the land surveyed
- The address of the land surveyed
- The size of the land surveyed
- The drawn-out portion of the exact parcel of the land surveyed
- The beacon numbers
- The surveyor doing the survey and the date it was drawn up and
- A stamp showing the land is either free from government acquisition or not.
Also, note that a Red Copy Survey (or Record Copy) is the legal document needed to perfect your land title.
A survey drawn on a land under government acquisition cannot be lodged at the Office of the Surveyor General.
How to Verify a Submitted Record or Red Copy Survey Plan
There are two ways to verify if the red copy survey plan has been submitted and they are;
1. Ask for the Evidence of Submission or
2. Approach the Records Office at the Surveyor General Office and do a Verification of Submission of Record Copy Plan. At the moment, this cost N2,000 only and they process takes a few days.
By the virtue of the Land Use Act on the 28th of March, 1978, all lands belong to the government under the control of the State Governors. But fortunately, the Act recognises the ancestral landowners which gives them the power to reclaim the portion of land that the government do not intend to use. And when this is done, it is called Excision.
Excision simply means taking a part from a whole and that part that has been taken will be recorded and documented in the official government gazette of that state.
This means once the excision has been approved, the land is no longer under government acquisition and you are free to use it for whatever purpose you dim fit.
In simple words, buying a land without excision means government can seize it anytime without compensating you even if you bought it ‘legitimately’ from the Baale or the family.
Do you now see why land documents is very important? Let’s move on to the next document which is gazette.
As we’ve learnt earlier that all land belongs to the government and the process of reclaiming unused land is excision.
After the excision has been granted, it needs to be recorded officially in a government book called ‘Gazette’.
Therefore, a Gazette is an official record book where all special government details are spelt out and recorded.
A Gazette shows the communities that have been granted excision and the number of acres or hectares of land that the government has given back to them.
Note that it is within those excised acres or hectares that the traditional families are entitled to sell its lands to the public and not anything outside the excised land. This is where land grabbers play on their victims by selling government acquired or committed land to unsuspecting buyers.
This is the reason you must do your due diligence and use the service of an informed real estate consultant before buying land in Nigeria so you won’t lose your hard-earned money.
At this point, if peradventure the government needs your land (that has been gazetted) later in the future, you will be compensated so far the land falls within the excised portion, even if you have not processed the C of O.
Here’s How to Identify a Real Gazette Document
1. The first page of a Gazette must contain the following:
- The logo of the country and the inscription of the title “LAGOS STATE OF NIGERIA OFFICIAL GAZETTE” (if it’s done in Lagos state)
- Underneath it must have the Number, Volume, Page, Date and the Location it was signed into law. For example, No 34 in Pages 100 to 187, Volume 92 Dated 7th of September 2020.
- It also contains the list of the Villages, Settlements and total parcel of land excised back to the community.
2. The inner pages will show the following:
- The description of the Area or Village excised
- The number of acres or hectares of land that was excised to the original owners
- Where the boundaries of the beacons start and stop and
- The page the description of the village excised is.
To verify whether a land is under government acquisition or it has an excision recorded in a Gazette, you will need a surveyor to chart the said land and do a ‘land information’ search at the Office of the Surveyor General.
Certificate of Occupancy
A Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) is a land document issued by the state government to officially leases any land under the state to you for 99 years. Remember, all lands belong to the government as already discussed above.
You might ask… what then happens after 99 years? Honestly, we don’t know.
That question is still a subject of debate among experts. While most have adopted a wait-and-see attitude, others postulate that as the new owner of the land, you (the buyer) can renew the certificate of occupancy when it expires. That makes sense, but for now, it’s largely a case of “we shall see when we get there”.
According to Section 22 of the Land Use Act of 1978 as amended thus states:
“It shall not be lawful for the holder of a statutory right of occupancy granted by the Governor to alienate his right of occupancy or any part thereof by assignment, mortgage, transfer of possession, sublease or otherwise howsoever without the consent of the Governor first had and obtained”
What this means is that the first person on a virgin land that has neither been occupied by another person nor under acquisition by the government is entitled to get a Certificate of Occupancy on that land.
So two people can not have a C of O document on the same land. What then happens when I buy a land with C of O which is in another person’s name?
Simple! You get the Consent of the Governor by getting the governor’s signature on your Deed of Assignment.
Just as the name implies, it is a land document that you obtain whenever you buy a land with C of O. It is a form of letting the governor and the general public know that the land ownership has been transferred to you.
To have a complete rest of mind, it is very important for you to get a Governor’s Consent document for your land; it makes the transfer of ownership legal.
One of the advantages of having a Governor’s Consent document on your land is that you can transfer your land to another person without going back to the Baale or Omoniles to sign your Deed and Form 1c, which are compulsory requirements needed to process Governor’s Consent.
If you want to buy land from Omonile, it is highly recommended to perfect your land title documents to the fullest in order to avoid dealing with Omonile wahala.
To save yourself from all this, it is advised you buy land from trusted real estate companies in Nigeria and you’ll be fine.
Wow, it is a long read but I believe you have learnt a lot about land documents in Nigeria and how important each of these documents are.
I will advise you buy secured and titled land especially if you’re buying land in Lagos, Nigeria. Click here to see my recommended titled land in Lagos.
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