By Ufuoma Okomowho Esq
Land being the most important factor of production in economics it is crucial tocarefully select what land one is to buy, where one wants to buy and most importantly,what title one wants to buy. There are different titles to land. Title which is documentary evidence whichprovesthe form of ownership the owner or seller has over the property he wants or intendstotransfer/sell to the buyer. The first step to be taken by any potential buyer of any piece of property be it ahouseor bare land is to conduct a search at the Land Registry of the State where thelandislocated. A search at the Land Registry will the following;
- Who the owner of the property is. 2. What type of title the owner has. 3. How the said owner got his title to the property. 4. Whether there is any encumbrance on the property; ie, if it the subject matter ofanymortgage or pending legal actions etc. 5. Whether the property is under government acquisition. 6. The size of the property etc. The Land Use Act 1978
The Land Use Act 1978 is the most important piece of legislation that governs
ownership and transfer of title in land transactions. By virtue of Section 1of theLandUse Act 1978; all land in the state(urban area) are held in the custody of the Governorwho holds it in trust. TYPES OF TITLE TO LAND
As stated earlier, the Land Use Act, 1978, vests all lands in everystateoftheFederation under the control of the State Governors. The Land Use Act coupledwithother laws made it possible for the Governor who is now the owner of all landsinthestate to actually have the power to acquire more lands compulsorily for its ownpublicpurpose to provide amenities for the greater good of the citizens.
Fortunately, the government recognizes that indigenes of different sectionsofthecountry have a right to existence; a right to the land of their birth. Hence, itiscustomary for state government to cede a portion of land to the original owners(natives) of each area. An Excision means basically taking a part from a whole and that part that hasbeenexcised, will be recorded and documented in the official government gazetteofthatstate. In other words, not having an excision means the land could be seizedbytheGovernment anytime without compensating you even if you bought it “Legitimately”from the Baale or the Original dwellers on the land. A Gazette is an Official record book where all special government details arespelt out,detailed and recorded
A gazette will show the communities or villages that have been grantedexcisionandthe number of acres or hectares of land that the government has given tothem. Itiswithin those excised acres or hectares that the traditional family is entitledtosellitslands to the public and not anything outside those hectares of land givenor excisedtothem. A Gazette is a very powerful instrument the community owns and canreplaceaCertificate of Occupancy to grant title to the Villagers. A community owningagazettecan only sell Matters an individual within those lands that have been excisedtothemand the community or family head of that land has the right to sign your documentsforyou if you purchase lands within those excised acres or hectares of land. If the government based on some reasons best known to themdecides torevokeoracquire your land, you will be entitled to compensation as long as it’s withintheExcised lands given to that community.ad land to buy. The best way to know whether a land is under acquisition or has an excisionthat hasbeen covered by a Gazette is to get a surveyor to chart the site and takeit tothesurveyor general’s office to do a land information to confirmwhether it falls withinthegazette and spell out which particular location it can be found. 2. DEED OF ASSIGNMENT/CONVEYANCE
A Deed of Assignment is an Agreement between the Assignor (Seller) of aLandorProperty and a Assignee (Buyer) of that Land or property showing evidencethat theAssignor has transferred all his rights, his title, his interest and ownershipof that landto that the Assignee who has bought land from him.
The Deed of Assignment has been exchanged between both parties, it hastoberecorded in the land registry to show legal proof that the land has exchangedhandsandthe public should be aware of the transaction. Such recorded Deed of Assignmentrequires the Governors Consent for the title being transferred fromthe Assignortothe Assignee to be perfected, meaning, the transaction is being recordedat theLandRegistry and the title in the property has been successfully transferred to the buyer. 3. CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY
A Certificate of Occupancy (also know as a C of O) issued by the State Governmentofficially leases Lagos land to you, the applicant, for 99 years. As alreadyindicatedabove that, all lands belong to the state Government who holds it intrust forthepeople. This is the most important types of land title used to certify the legal andownershipstatus of any land in Nigeria irrespective of its usage. It is a legal document indicatingthat an owner of any land has been granted a statutory right of occupancybytheexecutive governor of the state where the land situates or a customaryrightofoccupancy by the local government chairman if the land is in a rural (non-urban) area.This statutory right of occupancy is different from a Customary Right of Occupancy,which is usually granted by the Local Government Council. It is a document thatshows that the person disclosed therein, is entitled to the right of occupancy(normally99years). It is the only certificate employed by the Land Use Act to linktheownerwith the right of occupancy. DOCUMENTS THAT DO NOT TRANSFER TITLE IN LANDTRANSACTIONThere are some documents that are usually given to the buyer at the completionortowards the end of the land transactions. These documents in themselves DONOTtransfer title or interest in land, however they are important. 1. PURCHASE RECEIPT
This is a document that authenticates the exchange of money fromthe seller andthebuyer on transactions made on any piece of land. 2. SURVEY PLAN
A Survey plan is a document that measures the boundary of a parcel of landtogiveanaccurate measurement and description of that land. The survey plan is usuallypreparedand issued by Surveyors and they are regulated by the office of the Surveyor generalinevery state as it relates to survey issues in the state. A survey plan must contain the following information:
a) The name of the owner of the land surveyed
b) The Address or description of the land surveyed
c) The size of the land surveyed
d) The drawn out portion of the land survey and mapped out on the surveyplandocument
e) The beacon numbers
f) The surveyor who drew up the survey plan and the date it was drawn up3. POWER OF ATTORNEY
A power of attorney simply put is the authority given to a person(Donee) toact foranother person(Donor) in specified or all legal or financial matters. Apower of
attorney DOES NOT transfer ownership or title in land, it merely gives the personinwhom the said authority to act, the power to deal with the property as statedinthepower of attorney. It is prevalent in Eastern Nigeria, that the buyer is being issued a power of attorneyduring a land transaction. Such power does not confer ownership to the buyer, it merestates that the buyer may act on behalf of the seller, the buyer in himself withnot bevested with the ownership of the property. A proper document that transfers ownershipis a deed of assignment. Thank you.