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Securing your land with right documentation



Securing your land with right documentation

Although Nigerians are very smart at investing in land/property, not everyone follow through its documentation, which defines their right to it. Dayo Ayeyemi reports


Apart from purchasing land, many people have lost theirs due to improper documentation to show proof of ownership.

Land acquisition is a very tricky business anywhere in the world and owning land in any Nigerian city such as Lagos and Abuja is a good venture.

While some are eager to part with money, many have got their fingers burnt in the process due to negligence.



Even when some succeed in getting the land, they do not border about documentation.

Explaining the importance of land documentation, the Lagos State Government, through its Special Adviser to the Governor on Urban Development, Mrs. Yetunde Onabule, said that a whopping N11.8billion was approved recently as compensation to property owners whose buildings were demolished to pave the way for various road projects across the state.

She said the payment was for properties demolished for projects including the Abule Egba road expansion, Epe Road expansion, Lekki International Airport, Pen Cinema flyover, ultra modern bus terminal in Oyingbo and upgrading of Muritala Mohammed International Airport Road.

Many residents lost out in this exercise due to lack of documents, showing that they were the rightful owners of such properties

Apparently worried by the ugly developments, some real estate developers said they were out to change the narrative through education to let people know that they could really secure their investment in land.

Lagos-based estate surveying and valuation expert, Mr. Stephen Jagun, explained that all lands were supposed to be registered in the state governments’ land registry, stressing that they remained depository of land titles.


However, he explained that some land titles were with traditional land owners popularly called Omooniles.

Jagun, who is the Principal Partner, Jagun and Associates, said that the government was trying to gazette all land within the informal setting and give titles.

According to him, anyone that bought land within the gazetted land from traditional land owners would have to obtain Governor’s Consent, evidencing that he bought from rightful owner.



Other experts said the process of land acquisition starts thorough search and verification of documents, and chatting carried out by the ministry in charge to satisfy its free from encumbrances. Thereafter, they said one could part with money.


Approved titles

In Lagos State for example, Bureau of Land is in charge of registering various titles of every land within the state. Survey plans, registered conveyance, registered deed of assignment and Certificate of Occupancy are various approved titles every land owner must ensure he/she has intact.

In his online publication, real estate investment expert, Adeniyi Akinjiyan, said there was need for a relevant title document to support land and landed property transaction/ownership due to complex nature of land alienation and ownership disputes in the country.

He listed seven legal documents recognised by the government statute and law that confer title ownership status to the holder of such land and landed property.



This is the most important land title document used to certify the legal and ownership status of any land in Nigeria irrespective of its usage. It is a legal document indicating that owner of any land had been granted a statutory right of occupancy by the executive governor of the state where the land situates or a customary right of occupancy by the local government chairman if the land is in a rural (non-urban) area.

A Certificate of Occupancy is the land title document that is delivered to the owner of a piece or larger parcel of land by the government attesting to the owner’s title to the land whose ownership is in accordance with the applicable law. Over time, users of land and financial institutions have elevated this type of land document to be conclusive evidence of the ownership of the land described in it, to the exclusion of any other party claiming title to the same piece of land.


Right of Occupancy (R of O)

The Land Use Act introduced the right of occupancy system in Nigeria. Right of occupancy is a right to use and occupy land in accordance with the provisions of the Land Use Act. Right of occupancy is completely different from ownership of land known under both customary and common laws, which exists before the promulgation of the Land Use Act.

It is the right granted to an individual or corporate organisation over a plot or parcel of land in an approved government layout. The right is for a period normally, a maximum of 99 years lease is granted for residential purpose, while other uses range from 35 to 70 years depending on the value of improvements.
A certificate of occupancy is therefore the evidence of the right of occupancy.


Deed of Assignments/Conveyance

This is a very important document that must be demanded for and given to a purchaser after the conclusion of any land/property transaction between such purchaser/buyer and the owner/seller of the land/landed property in question.
Conveyancing is the process by which ownership of land is transferred between a seller and a buyer. This can include both residential and commercial land transactions.
A Deed of Assignment therefore is an agreement where an assignor states his promise that from the date of the assignment or any date stipulated therein, the assignor assigns his ownership in that Land to the assignee.
The deed contains very pertinent information for a real estate transaction. It spells out the date when the ownership of the property transfers from one owner to the other. The deed also gives a specific description of the property that is included in the transfer of ownership.
It is very compulsory and mandatory for a Deed of Assignment document to be recorded at the appropriate land registry to show legal evidence as to the exchange of ownership in any land/landed property transaction in order to make the general public and government aware of such exchange and/or transaction.


Deed of lease

The use of Deed of Lease was quite common from the passage of the Land Use Act in 1978 to transfer property especially government properties in Ikoyi, Surulere, Victoria Island axis of Lagos state during the mid-70s and 80s after the promulgation of the Land Use Act. These lands were mostly federal government lands and high profile lands and it was the first foray into the issuance of the certificate of occupancy for the first time to people.


Deed of sub-lease

This is another relevant tile document in any land and landed property ownership/transactions. It is the legal document duly signed and stamped indicating land and landed property transaction between a leaseholder of land sub-leasing his/her unexpired lease term to a third party.


Land certificate

This is a document of title as to the ownership of a piece or large parcel of land issued by a government’s land registry for registered freehold or leasehold lands in Nigeria prior to the promulgation of the Land Use Act of 1978. Land Certificate was usually issued to owners of land and landed properties when the Property Conveyancing Law of 1959 was still in effect.

It refers to the prima facie evidence of land ownership prior to the promulgation of the Land Use Act, which vests on lands in the governor of each state of the federation.


Deed of Mortgage

Mortgage is defined as the transfer of interest in land as security for the discharge of a debt or the performance of an obligation subject to redemption.

It refers to a security for loan with an undertaken for repayment and cesser upon redemption. The common types of mortgage transactions are; Legal Mortgage and Equitable Mortgage.


Survey plan

This is another important title document that helps to reveal the true ownership status in any land and landed properties’ transactions. It also helps to reveal if such land is not under any government acquired or committed lands/area.

In a situation where the land to be purchased by the prospective buyer is just a bare land without any improvement or building on it, it is compulsory for the buyer to carry out a proper scrutiny on the authentication of the land survey plan at the appropriate survey ministry or agency so as to establish the rightful owner of the land and if the land to be purchased does not fall under any known government acquired or committed land.


Last line

Land buying for housing provision/business is a serious business. Therefore, it requires that home seekers/investors must arm themselves with all the nitty-gritty to ensure secured transaction.

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