Land purchase on your mind, but you are concerned if you have the right documentation?
In reality, land purchase in Nigeria can be both frustrating and rewarding, but for those who carry out their due diligence and are armed with the right information, it often proves a fruitful venture. To avoid the frustration, this article is for you.
Generally, title to land, land tenure and the administration of land in Nigeria is governed by the Land Use Act (“LUA”). The LUA was enacted in 1978 and it vests all lands in every state in the state governors who hold such land in trust for the common benefit of Nigerians (except land vested in the Federal Government or any Agency of the Federal Government).
As a potential purchaser looking at land purchase , there are 3 basic steps to take to ensure you purchase a good title:
1 – Investigation of Title to Land:
Generally before you engage in any land purchase, you need proof of ownership from the vendor, to ensure that he is the rightful owner of the said property and that he has can actually assign title to you as a purchaser. Usually, these documents are sufficient to prove title – Certificate of Occupancy, Deed of Assignment or Deed of Conveyance, Registered Title or Court Vesting Order.
After physical siting those documents and/or obtaining copies, as a would be purchaser, you need to be 100% convinced that – the documents are valid, that the vendor is who he says he is, that there are no encumbrances on the property, that the property described is what is being sold and that there are no disputes on the property. Thus, due diligence searches should first and foremost be conducted in the following places:
- Search at the Lands Registry
- Corporate Affairs Commission
- Probate registry,
- Look out for traditional evidence, court judgments and conduct a physical inspection
For properties located in highbrow areas or to be purchased from influential individuals, investigate the profile of the vendors to ascertain such persons are not wanted by government agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
However, after all is said and done, there are some property which do not have any documentation. Usually family or communal property in remote areas, who have not perfected their title. Even when a search is conducted, nothing of significance might be revealed. Here, investigation conducted will rely on traditional evidence i.e. – inquiry of traditional leaders, community heads and family heads, etc. This is usually arises and validity is given by the “deemed grant of right of occupancy, where the individual has occupied the land prior to the coming of the Land Use Act of 1978. They could be deemed as customary landowners. So, although the owner might not have a deed of assignment or certificate of occupancy, his ownership of the land cannot be defeated except it is expressly revoked by the state governor.
2 – Transfer of Title:
After your due diligence has been conducted, you are satisfied with the result of your search and ascertained that the vendor has a good title to the land, the next step is the transfer of title from the vendor to the purchaser. One common and vital document in property purchase is the Deed of Assignment which is used in assigning interest in law
The Deed of assignment can be prepared by the purchaser’s solicitor and vetted by the vendor or his solicitor after which the documents would be executed by parties and their witnesses. At this stage any the agreed purchase price would be paid by the Purchaser.
3 – Perfection of Title:
This is a very critical part of land purchase activity. These include application for Governor’s consent, payment of stamp duties and registration of conveyance or assignment at the Lands Registry. This is done in order to ensure compliance with the law and protect the validity of the purchaser’s title to the property.
However, it is important to note that the mere issuance of a Certificates of Occupancy does not and cannot confer title in respect of the land in dispute where no such title either existed or was available to be transferred to anyone.
The purchase of a land is generally a risky business. Buyers need to beware and sceptical about every transaction.
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