Land Documents You Must Know When Buying Land Anywhere in Nigeria

As a potential land buyer, land documents is a very key thing to know and understand very well irrespective of whom you are buying your parcel of land from, be it from an estate developer, an individual or directly from the family who claims to owns the land.

It is very important that you understand the title of such land and make sure you do your due diligence before you deal to avoid sorry stories that touches the heart. Its quite unfortunate that most land buyers have the documents to their cars intact and in safe places but when it comes to land purchase, they would not bother to ask for the Deed of assignment to their properties which is several times more valuable than cars.

There are a number of crucial documents that are always involved in land transaction dealing, which includes;

– Receipt of Purchase

– Approved Survey Plan

– Approved Layout

– Power of Attorney

– Deed of Assignment

– Excision

– Gazette

– Certificate of Occupancy ( C of O)

– Governors Consent

DEED OF ASSIGNMENT

A Deed of Assignment (DOA) is a legal documents that shows the transfer of ownership from a current title holder of a particular property to a new buyer of that same property. In other words, a deed of assignment is a legal land document that transfers the interest of a current owner (assignor) to the person to whom it is assigned, i.e. the assignee. When ownership is transferred, the deed of assignment shows the new legal owner of the property.

The deed of assignment contains very pertinent information of a real estate transaction. It spells out the date when the ownership of the property was transferred from one owner to the other. It also gives specific description of the property, the location, size, survey plan number and coordinates.

To show legal evidence as to the exchange of ownership and also to keep the general public and the government in the know of such transfer of interest, it is advisable to have a record of the deed of assignment document at the appropriate land registry. A duly stamped recorded deed of assignment at the appropriate land registry will either be authenticated in form of a Governor’s consent or registered Conveyance.

Other important documents that also indicates transfer of ownership and are usually involved when making land purchase are;

i. The purchase receipt

ii. The contract of sale

iii. The survey plan

iv. The Building plan for housing investment

v. Any other title document that may apply

SURVEY PLAN

A Survey plan is a land document drawn up by a registered surveyor that measures the boundary of a parcel of land to give an accurate measurement and description of that land. The activities of surveyors is been regulated by the office of the Surveyor general in Lagos in Alausa. A drawn survey plan must contain the following information:

i. The name of the owner of the land surveyed

ii. The Address or description of the land surveyed

iii. The size of the land surveyed

iv. The drawn out portion of the land survey and mapped out on the survey plan document

v. The beacon numbers

vi. The Coordinates of the land

vii. The surveyor who drew up the survey plan and the date it was drawn up

viii. A stamp showing the land is either free from Government acquisition or not

EXCISION

Land can be classified as either to be under Global acquisition (free) or under committed acquisition. 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 perfected without issues.

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

Excision is the RIGHT of the community as the 1979 land use ACT recognizes ancestral ownership of 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. In other words, not having an excision means the land could be seized by the Government anytime without compensating you even if you bought it “Legitimately” from the Baale or the Original dwellers on the land.

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. In most cases, such lands will end up to either have a CofO or a Governor’s consent.

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

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.

If as an individual you are buying from the community that has a gazetted land, the community or family head of that land has the right to sign your documents (Deed of assignment) 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 you bought from.

Features of a Gazette:

  1. The first page of a Gazette must have the following details;
    i. The Logo of the Country and the inscription of the title “LAGOS STATE OF NIGERIA OFFICIAL GAZETTE”
    ii. and underneath it must be the Volume number, Page, Date and the Location it was signed into law e.g No 24 in pages 99 to 201, Volume 88 dated 10th of August 1997 and have the contents of the list of the Villages, Settlements and parcels of land excised in favour of the community.
  2. The Inner pages will show the following:
    i. The description of the Area or Village excised
    ii. The number of Acres or Hectares of land excised to the Village
    iii. Where the boundaries of the beacons start and stop
    iv. The page the description of the that is Village excised.

CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY

In accordance to the Land use ACT of 1978, all land belongs to the government. A Certificate of Occupancy (CofO) is the  official government document indicating that the Statutory right to parcel of land has been given to the first occupant for 99 years.

The 99 years expiry date on CofO has made it a subject of debates among real estate experts weather CofO is a better land title than the other land title such as excision, gazette and Gov’s consent.

GOVERNOR’S CONSENT

A governor’s consent can only be processed on a land with either Gazette or an Existing Certificate of Occupancy (C of O).

If a person with land with C of O decides to sell his land, the only documents that can give the new buyer or every other subsequent buyers the right of occupancy or ownership is a governor’s consent.

The powers of the Governor to consent to such transactions can be found in Section 22 of the Land Use Act of 1978 which 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, transfer of possession, sublease or otherwise howsoever without the consent of the Governor first had and obtained” This simply means therefore that even when a buyer has secured a land with a Certificate of Occupancy, he shouldn’t stop there.

He needs to begin the process of obtaining a Governor’s consent to make that purchase legal in the eyes of the government and be rest assured his land is safe.

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