Nigeria: How To Secure Your Ownership Of That Land

Last Updated: 16 January 2018
Article by Edoabasi Udo

What Is Important to Note?

It is important for every land purchaser to understand that having a good title to land (what in layman terms is "ownership of land") goes beyond merely paying money to buy a land from seller/vendor and signing an "Agreement" expressed as an "Irrevocable Power of Attorney". A land purchaser is required by law to "perfect" the land transaction to secure his ownership rights and to avoid future risks associated with land transactions. This article is a guide to perfecting title to land. "Land" is used here to include buildings, real estate, real property and undeveloped land.

What Does "Perfection" Entail?

"Perfection" of title to land entails the (1) Stamping, (2) Registration and (3) Obtaining the consent of the Governor over the land so acquired. Under the Land Use Act, it is the consent of the Governor that confers validity to the act of alienation of any interest in the land. Where the land is subject to customary right of occupancy, the consent required is that of the local government authority where the land is situated.

Where you have acquired land through an instrument expressed as Deed of Assignment, Deed of Conveyance, Legal Mortgage, Irrevocable Power of Attorney, Transfer of Certificate of Occupancy, etc., it is mandatory that you pay the appropriate stamp duties on the instrument, register the instrument at the state Lands Registry (and at the Corporate Affairs Commission – where you are a company) and obtain the required consent from the overlord.

Why is Registration/Perfection Necessary?

Registration/Perfection gives an indication that the land is encumbered by you and any subsequent purchaser would be duly notified upon investigating the title at the Lands Registry. Perfection raises presumption of land ownership in your favour against every other person who lacks a better title. Perfection passes legal estate in the land. Where the land remains unregistered, your interest is in equity only and not legal. Non registration renders the documents inadmissible in evidence to prove your title. You may not be entitled to receive compensation from government if the land is compulsorily acquired for overriding public interest. Perfection prevents fraud and problems arising from the suppression or omission of instruments when title is deduced, in case of subsequent transactions it would show your registered interest in the said property. Your registered instrument rank in priority according to the order of registration (1st in time is stronger in law). Your title documents must be registered otherwise they are void in law.

How to Perfect Your Land Title?

After paying the purchase price of land and signing relevant paper documents with the seller/vendor, it is mandated by law that you secure or perfect your title to the land (what in layman terms is "ownership of land"). "Land" is used here to include buildings, real estate, real property and undeveloped land.

A solicitor will help you secure title to your land and process the perfection of the land instruments when you provide the following documents:

  1. Vendor's/grantor's title document
  2. Four copies of the Instrument of transfer of title e.g. Deed of Assignment or Power of Attorney
  3. Four approved survey plans.
  4. Building plan and photograph of property.

The solicitor will file for perfection through a written application to the office of the Surveyor General for charting, accompanying same with Completed Form 1c sworn to before a Magistrate or Notary Public and a letter for consent by the Governor.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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