There are important procedures that must be followed to buy a house in Abuja, the Federal Capital of Nigeria. By Section 1 of the Land Use Act of 1978, all lands in Nigeria are vested in the Governor of a State or Minister of the Federal Capital Territory who holds same as a trustee for the benefits of all Nigerians. Therefore, since property transactions involve alienating rights to the land, the Governor's or Minister's Consent is sacrosanct. In Abuja, the appropriate authority to consent to property transfer is the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory.

Buying property in Abuja requires a step by step procedures that must be carefully followed. Below are the steps that should be followed in purchasing a property with a valid title in Abuja:

Identifying a Particular Property

The first step is to determine which property one intends to purchase and the seller of such property. This could be through adverts, recommendations or even property managers of the said property.

Engage the Service of a Property Lawyer

This is a crucial step in acquiring a valid title to a property. Also, by Section 22 of the Legal Practitioners Act, they are the only professionals authorized to draft instruments for the transfer of title to land for a fee. Regardless of this legal requirement, they are versed in the legal rudiments in ensuring a valid transfer of title to land. From conducting a search on the validity of the seller's title to conducting all other due diligence required to perfect the title, their services are indispensable in obtaining a hitch-free, unencumbered title to land.

Visit the Property for Physical Inspection

The maxim caveat emptor (buyer beware) which is also sometimes written on buildings to guard against fraud, places a responsibility on the buyer of a property to exercise due diligence in purchasing a property. Thus, the buyer cannot claim damages from the seller for patent (physical) defects in the property which could have been spotted during a physical inspection. This step also helps in negotiating the price of the property.

Request for Title and Other Necessary Documents

Title documents are documents that evidence the seller's valid ownership or rather right of occupancy over the land. This must be requested by the buyer and examined by a professional to confirm its genuineness. Some of the important land documents include:

  1. Certificate of Occupancy- it is a title document usually issued by the Federal Capital Territory Administration confirming that the person whose name is on the certificate possesses a right of occupancy over the land or property.
  2. Approved Survey Plan- this is used to determine the exact location and legally allocated boundaries of the land.
  3. Power of Attorney- this must be requested where the seller is not the owner of the property but rather acts as an agent. It is pertinent to note that a power of attorney is not an instrument of transferring the right to land, it only authorizes a person to act on behalf of another.
  4. Probate or Letters of Administration- this is required where the owner of the land is deceased. Thus, any person willing to sell such land must show that they possess the authority to do so with either probate or letters of administration depending on whether the deceased made a will or not.

Essentially, the seller is required to produce documents that evidence title to land and the history of how such title devolved to the present seller, thus a deed of assignment is necessary if the current seller also purchased same from the previous owner.

Conduct Investigation

This will be carried out by the Lawyer and conducted at different places depending on the owner of the land the document used to evidence title. The places include:

  1. Land Registry: a search conducted at the relevant land registry will determine the seller's ownership and any other registered encumbrance on same. In Abuja, it is to be conducted at the Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS). To conduct the search the following need to be submitted:
    • An application letter addressed to the Director of Lands Administration
    • Evidence of payment of legal search fee. The customized teller for such payment is available in the bank.
    • Present Original Certificate or Right of Occupancy for sighting.
    • Attach a photocopy of valid means of identification and certificate of occupancy.
  2. Probate Registry: to determine the authority of the persons disposing off the deceased's property.
  3. Corporate Affairs Commission: where the property belongs to a company, a search needs to be conducted at CAC to determine whether there is any charge registered in on the property.

Draft the Necessary Documents

Where the result of the search indicates that the title is valid and the property unencumbered, parties can proceed to draft documents to transfer title. In practice, a deed of assignment and sale of land agreement or contract of sale will be prepared to be signed by both parties in the presence of 2 witnesses. Payment is usually made at this stage.

Perfection of Title

Upon the purchase of property, such property must be registered with the FCTA. The new owner must perfect the title as required by the provisions of the Land Use Act.

In closing, all these steps are made easier when one engages the services of a lawyer, as the only lawyer can legitimately prepare the land transfer documents following the law. An experienced real estate lawyer will also be able to easily identify encumbrances affecting the title to a property.

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.