Forged documents are all over the place… our registries are in several instances insecure from attack by unscrupulous individuals who wished to destroy, alter or simply steal documentation.
There is also the continual theme emerging from discussions, that is, that there is the lack of collateral available to potential economic actors. Uncertainties regarding the status of land documentation and delays in the process slowed the development of land and property markets and made the development of lending difficult to advance or sustain.
Methods of Establishing Land Title in Nigeria
The legal responsibility of establishing ownership to land in Nigeria is placed on the party who alleges that such a piece of property belongs to him or her. Five different methods are recognised for discharging this responsibility and they are:-
- Proof of ownership to land by traditional evidence, i.e. ancestral possession and inheritance.
- Production of land title document that is duly authenticated.
- Numerous positive acts of ownership over a sufficient length of time to warrant the reasonable inference of ownership.
- Acts of long undisturbed possession and enjoyment of land.
- Possession of adjacent land could raise the presumption of ownership of the land in question.
Governor’s Consent & Registration of Title
The Land Use Act extinguished the unlimited rights and interests to land that Nigerians had prior to the enactment of the Land Use Act. In place of the prior unlimited rights to land, the Land Use Act vested all land in the territory of a state solely on the Governor of the State, who holds all land in that State in trust for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians. The Land Use Act also introduced a rigid regime of controls on the use or otherwise of all land in Nigeria.
One of the key controls introduced by the Land Use Act is the requirement that any transaction or instrument which confers or vests or transfers or limits or charges or extinguishes any interest or right in land on another party must first be approved by the Governor of the State where the land is situated. Where the prior approval or consent of the Governor is not first sought and obtained, such alienation or transfer is deemed in law to be null and void, and of no effect whatsoever.
Now let’s talk about our land title documents proper.
- Original Deed Of Conveyance:
- Deed Of Assignment:
- Deed Of Sublease:
- Deed Of Lease:
- Deed Of Assignment:
- Registered Title:
- Mere Agreements (properly typed and signed by a traceable lawyer):
- Certified True Copy (CTC): Technically, a CTC is a photocopy of your original document signed and certified by someone authorised to do so, e.g., a lawyer. A person who certifies a document must include the following statement: “I certify that this (and the following…pages) to be a true copy of the original as sighted by me.” It is also standard in lots of place to initial subsequent pages of the copy, for multiple paged documents. In addition, the certifier is recommended to provide along with the above statement on the true copy, his/her signature, name in full, telephone number, date and optionally, his/her address.
- Certificate of Occupancy (C-of-O ):
- Deed of Release:
- Certificate of Occupancy – Probative Value: A Certificate of Occupancy is the land title document that is delivered to the owner of a piece of land by the government attesting to the owner’s title to the land which ownership is in accordance with the applicable law. Over time, users of land and financial institutions have elevated this type of land document to be conclusive evidence of the ownership of the land described in it, to the exclusion of any other party claiming title to the same piece of land.
Judicial decisions in Nigeria however indicate that a Certificate of Occupancy is merely a prima facie – first sight – evidence of an owner’s title to the exact piece of land that is described in the Certificate of Occupancy. A Certificate of Occupancy is therefore not a conclusive proof of title to land neither does it validate spurious or fraudulent instruments of title to land which are in law fatally invalid.
We are definitely not there yet all around the country, but we have begun to march on in the right direction nevertheless. The clamour for appropriate amendments and in some instances outright abolition of the existing land legislations in Nigeria, at the federal and state levels, has been heightened in the present financial year. Without the necessary amendments, land transactions in Nigeria will not be business-friendly for meaningful development to take place. Pending the time when the expected amendments to our land legislations are made, you will do well to ensure compliance with existing laws regulating ownership and control of land in Nigeria.