Understanding Land Titles In Nigeria – Is It Safe To Buy Or Not?

Land title documents in Nigeria

Understanding Land Titles in Nigeria – Land Title Documents in Nigeria – What is Excision, Gazette, C of O and Governor’s Consent.

One of the first questions people ask when they want to buy a land is the Title on the land. They all ask even though not many of them understand what the different Titles are about. Some insist on buying a land with C of O even though they don’t have the budget for it. So this article is to help you understand the different titles there are and what is safe for you to buy.

A land in Nigeria will have one of the following Titles:

  • Global Acquisition (Free or Committed)
  • Excision
  • Gazette
  • C of O
  • Governor’s consent

Global Acquisition

All the lands in a state are under the control of the state and supervised by the state governor therefore the name Global Acquisition.

Land can be classified as either free or committed. This leads us to the types of Acquisition. 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 interest to use that land for a specific purpose such as provision of amenities.

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 Global Acquisition is safe to buy because the title on the land can be perfected without issues and it becomes free through a process called excision.

Now that you understand what it means for land to be free, you should also know that all lands that fall within areas that are designated as “urban areas” are under government acquisition until deemed committed or free.

Excision

Excision is the first stage of perfecting a title for a land.

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 on 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 land owner 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.

Conditions for ratification may differ from state to state.

Gazette

A Gazette is an Official record book where all special government details are spelt out, detailed and recorded.

A gazette will show the communities or villages that have been granted excision and the number of acres or hectares of land that the government has given to them. It is within those excised acres or hectares that the traditional family is entitled to sell its lands to the public and not anything outside those hectares of land given or excised to them.

A Gazette is a very powerful instrument the community owns and can replace a Certificate of Occupancy to grant title to the Villagers. A community owning a gazette can only sell lands to an individual within those lands that have been excised to them and the community or family head of that land has the right to sign your documents for you if you purchase lands within those excised acres or hectares of land.

If the government based on some reasons best known to them decides to revoke or acquire your land, you will be entitled to compensation as long as it’s within the Excised lands given to that community.

The best way to know whether a land is under acquisition or has an excision that has been covered by a Gazette is to get a surveyor to chart the site and take it to the surveyor general’s office to do a land information to confirm whether it falls within the gazette and spell out which particular location it can be found.

Relationship between Excision and Gazette

So for example if in 1981, Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Lekki were all part of one big Community joined together called Oniru and it had no separation to know which area is called Ikoyi, Lekki or V.I then, and it has an approximate total area square meters estimate of 100,000 square meters and the Government is interested in that area and decides to take 70,000 square meters for itself for its own personal use as an Urban Area or public purpose, it will record this acquisition in an official government record which is Gazette and also record that the remaining 30,000 square meters (EXCISED PORTION) has been left alone for the traditional family to have and do with it whatever it pleases it to do. This is the relationship between a land under acquisition, an excision and gazette.

Certificate of Occupancy (C of O)

A Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) is a certificate issued by the state government officially leasing a piece of land in the state to the applicant for 99 years because all lands belong to the Government. In case of eventuality by the government, it means the landlord would be compensated to the tune or amount of the cost of the land as compensation.

In Lagos processing land title documents, especially C of O takes more than the expected time for approval. C of O can take more than 18 months to be approved, and that is why C of O document on a land greatly appreciate the value of the land. The process is long and cash intensive. So once a land C of O is approved it can greatly increase the price of the land.

Does this mean that if you have a land that doesn’t have the C of O title the state government won’t compensate you should they find a purpose for the land in the future? Not at all. Once a land is excised you’re covered. And even when the excision has not been approved, as long as it has been filled, sent in and paid for, you will be compensated.

Governor’s Consent

Many people including Lawyers have tried to explain what a Governor’s Consent is but they usually end up leaving their readers more confused than they already were. So am going to attempt to do the impossible by breaking its meaning down and how it operates under the law.

A simple formula to follow is this. The first person on a Virgin Land that has neither been occupied neither by another person nor under acquisition by the Government is entitled to get a Certificate of Occupancy on that land.
If that person with the C of O decides to sell his land to another person after so many years, that person must now obtain the Consent of the Governor before that transaction can be deemed legal in the eyes of the Government. If the new buyer now decides to sell the land again to a third owner in future, that Third owner must also obtain a new Consent of the Governor before that transaction can be deemed legal in the eyes of the Government and the process continues every time the property changes hands to a new buyer.

In other words, the first person on a land is the only person or group of persons entitled to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy. Every subsequent buyer of that land must get a Governor’s consent. There can only be one (1) Owner of the Certificate of Occupancy on that Land and it will not be replicated for another person once the land has been sold or transferred to another person.

The powers of the Governor to Consent to such transactions can be found in Section 22. of the LAND USE ACT 1978 as amended this states thus:

“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, and transfer of possession, sublease or otherwise howsoever without the consent of the Governor first had and obtained”

With this power, the Governor has the right to grant consent to any transaction which it thinks has not contravened any Law of the land and if the consent has been obtained fraudulently, the Governor is entitled to revoke such consent immediately.

It is very important for a purchaser of land to perfect his or her document by obtaining a Governor’s consent so as to have a complete rest of mind. Although its good to buy a land that already has a Global C of O or the Land has a Gazette, it still doesn’t give you the full satisfaction that you own the land without any form of fear or intrusion by the Omoniles. Your documents have not been perfected and the consent of the Governor to that transaction has not been obtained.

Disadvantages and Problems of Getting Governors Consent

Obtaining a Governors Consent from the Land Bureau isn’t the easiest thing to get quickly despite the importance attached to it and urgency needed to secure a land from Omoniles. On the Government website, it is stated that a Governor’s Consent can be obtained in 30 days but that has proven to be very untrue due to unscrupulous civil servants who would do everything to frustrate the process of obtaining the document without giving them huge kickbacks. A Governor’s consent that should cost N200,000 naturally could end up costing N600,000 due to kickbacks, Egunje, Bribes, P.R etc and that 30 days could translate to 6months or a Year.

In all, a Governor’s Consent is a very good document to obtain and I advise you to get it so as to free yourself from Omoniles 100%. Better yet buy land from one of the trusted real estate companies in Lagos so you don’t have to deal with Omoniles at all.

An advantage of having a Governor’s consent is that you can transfer your land to another person without going to the Omoniles or Family Baale to sign your deed and Form 1c which are compulsory requirements needed before you can process Governor’s consent. The Omoniles pray seriously for the Owner not to have a Governor’s consent so that they can make a lot of money running into their thousands whenever the Owner require the signatures of the family to start the Governor’s consent.

Frequently Asked Questions about Land Title in Nigeria

Are lands that have their “Excision in process” safe to buy?

This is one of the questions I get asked the most from people looking to buy land in Lagos and that’s because among our estates we have some with Excision in Process as their title. So prospects worry about what will happen to their investment if the Excision doesn’t go through.

The truth is that is not likely to happen. When you buy a land under excision your investment is 99.99% safe. At Alausa they can’t even mention or give evidence of one excision application rejected. If you doubt it you can have someone go to Alausa in Lagos and confirm this for you. It can’t happen and that is largely because they would not dare turn down a company for excision when they have spent over 20 million Naira on the process.

However there’s a first time for everything. So if that ever happens the government will relocate the company’s estate to a resettlement site and the investors will be re-allocated their plots from that site. But like I have said the chance of this happening is almost non-existent.

What about lands that have Registered Survey as their Title?

Survey shows you the exact plot size and measurement of a piece of land. So a land with a registered survey is valid because it has been registered with the government, but it still has to go through Excision for it to become free.

So for such a land ask the company you’re buying from if they intend to process a Title for it or if you will have to process the Title for it. If they say you have to, then you need to ask yourself if that’s a process you want to go through. If not, then buy a land that already has its Excision being processed or better yet a land with Global C of O.

If I buy a land that has Excision or Gazette as its Title will the company give me a copy of the C of O when it is eventually processed?

Yes they will.

If I buy a land that has Global C of O can I get my C of O if I want?

All our lands are within an estate. So a Global C of O is a C of O that covers the whole estate. And when you buy such land you will be given a copy of the global C of O on request. And if you want it in your personal name then you will need to apply for a Governor’s Consent.

You get a copy of the Global C of O for free but processing for the Governor’s consent attracts a fee which you’ll have to confirm from the company you’re buying the land from.