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  • Writer's pictureAbdulgafar Asimi

LAND DOCUMENTATION - what you need to know


The importance of documentation in real estate cannot be over emphasised. It is important to note that 75 – 80% of real estate business is legal and these legal transactions cannot be void of documentations. Before any real estate transaction can be said to be successfully concluded, all documents have to be up-to-date and duly signed by relevant parties.

The main function of a state land registry is to keep proper records of all land transactions in the state. The land registry in Lagos is currently the most developed land registry in Nigeria. The registration of instruments affecting land in Lagos dates back to 1863 when Lagos was then administered together with the Gold Coast now known as Ghana. The first type of Land Instruments/Titles that came into operation were known as Crown Grants.

A land registration system is necessary to determine, record and disseminate information about the ownership, value and use of land.

Land Classification

Land can be classified as either free or acquired. A parcel of land is considered free if the government has not indicated any interest whatsoever in that land. Such land is safe to buy because the title on the land can be obtained without issues.

In most cases, such lands will either have a Gazette, a Certificate of Occupancy(C of O) or a Governor’s consent.

All lands that fall within areas that are designated as “urban areas‟ are under government acquisition until deemed committed or free (e.g Victoria Island, Ikoyi, etc).

There are two types of acquisition:

1. Committed Acquisition

2. Global / General Acquisition.

Committed Acquisition

A parcel of land is said to be under committed acquisition when the government has indicated an intention to use that land for a specific purpose such as the provision of amenities.

Such lands belong to the government and can never be available for use by individuals. If you purchase land that is under committed acquisition, it will be impossible for you to perfect your land title and you’ll only be occupying the land until the government decides it wants to make use of it.

Global or General Acquisition

Lands that are under “general acquisition” or “global acquisition” can later be confirmed “free” or “committed” as the case may be.

A land under general acquisition can become free by a process called excision.

“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 formerly under acquisition becomes excised; it is then considered free and becomes gazetted.

The Gazette then becomes the title of the land and such land is safe to buy because a proper title can be processed on the land.

A second case where lands under general acquisition can be released is if an individual purchased a land that was under acquisition without going through an excision process.

Such lands can go through another process called “ratification” or “regularization” in which the landowner pays for the land to be ratified or regularized. The only conditions, in this case, are that the land in question must not fall within a committed area and that the purpose for which the land was bought does not disrupt the original plan of the state’s government. Conditions for ratification may differ from state to state

There are a number of crucial documents

1. Receipt 2. Approved survey plan 3. Approved layout 4. Power of Attorney 5. Deed of assignment 6. Certificate of Occupancy ( C of O) / Governor Consent

We would categorize the people from which you can buy any parcel of land into three: An estate developer, an individual & directly from the family who claims to owns the land.

If you are dealing with an estate developer (buying within an estate), you should ask for the approved survey plan, approved layout, the power of attorney and the global C of O

If you are buying from an individual or company (one who has bought and wishes to resell), you should ask for the receipt, deed of assignment, approved survey plan and C of O.

Buying directly from the family who claims to own the land is quite tricky. This is because it is difficult to determine the true owners of the land especially when the documents showing ownership haven’t been processed.

Where the documents haven’t been processed, there are no documents to show authenticity and a prospective buyer has to really a great deal on word of mouth from the members of the community to ascertain the true owner(s) of the land in question.

When the documents have been processed, they should provide you with the approved survey plan, approved layout ( where the land is a large one and is being sold on a per plot basis) and the C of O.

From my experience, families usually don’t go to the length of processing their C of O. Reason being that they hope to sell off their land in the near future thus only do the absolute minimum required to show authenticity, in this case the approved survey plan and layout, then passing it on to the buyer who would go on to perfect his/her title on the land.

NOTE: It is very important that you have a good property agent / lawyer before embarking on land/property purchase. Reason being that your agent or lawyer is the one who ensures that you don’t run into legal trouble with land/property documents after purchase. It’s your lawyer’s job to verify the authenticity of any title document backing the land/property.

We shall explain the different kinds of document in our next article

Contact us for all your need for genuine property request… Asgaf Global Concepts Ltd : 09098628043, 09098628044, 09098628045

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