Acquiring title to land in Nigeria – FAQ

The following are steps necessary to be taken by a prudent prospective Buyer

  1. GET PROFESSIONAL ADVICE – The essence of professional advice cannot be underestimated. Professionals involved in real estate practice include – Lawyers, Estate Agents and Manager, surveyors etc. A lawyer gives a distilled and holistic advice on the transaction. He monitors and guides the buyer to secure thebuyer’s investment.
  2. DUE DILIGENCE INVESTIGATIONS – These include pre-contract inquiries undertaken by a professional to gain assurances upon which the Buyer may base his judgment to proceed. His investigations will reveal defects if any, in the title to the property. To achieve this, a lawyer would conduct searches atthe relevant Land Registries to verify the authenticity of original documents ofthe property; where the property to be acquired has been subject of litigation, itwill be necessary to also conduct searches at the relevant courts to confirm the status of such suit. Where the property in question is native land, prospective buyer must ensure that it is dealing with the principal members of the family. It is worthy to note that dealing with native land owners (popularly known in western Nigeria as “omo onile” ) or touts without recourse to professionals exposes a buyer to great danger.
  3. RELEVANT DOCUMENTATION – A lawyer prepares the relevant documentation to convey legal title to the buyer. This is to ensure that intention of the parties is adequately recorded and the documents properly executed in compliance with the provisions of the law; above all the documents record the nature of interest to be conveyed.
    1. Certificate of Occupancy – A Certificate of Occupancy is a document issued by the relevant state government which entitles the holder to a statutory right of occupancy over the area specified. It is prima facie evidence that the holder has title to the property especially where the property is state land.
    2. Power of Attorney – A Power of Attorney is formal instrument by which one person empowers another to act for him, or act on his behalf for certain purposes. A power of attorney shall be executed where a buyer/seller has directed another person to buy/sell or deal with a property on his behalf.
    3. CAVEAT EMPTOR – Latin for “Buyer Beware”. It is the duty of the buyer to verify information and investigate title, encumbrances or overriding interest on land and to view the state of property and to satisfy himself of its condition before concluding a sale agreement.  Note: – Although the risk of an encumbered title is on the buyer, a buyer would be able to avoid liability if he can show that he had made all usual and proper inquiries and still found nothing to indicate the existing interest.
    4. Mortgage: A mortgage is a conveyance of title to a property as security for the payment of a debt or the performance of a duty. The general presumption is that a valid legal mortgage is a good root of title where the power of the mortgagee to sell the mortgaged property has arisen.
    5. Deed of Assignment – An assignment is a transfer of property or of some right or interest therein, from one person to another. Assignment is usually made by an instrument called Deed of Assignment.
    6. Lease – A lease is a contract by which the rightful possessor of real property conveys the right to use and occupy that property in exchange for consideration. This right to exclusive possession is usually for a term and subject to certain terms and conditions.
  4. PERFECTION: Perfection means taking all necessary legal steps needed to
    complete, secure, or record a claim, right or interest and to ensure its final conformity with the law. Upon completion of a contract, all necessary legal steps must be taken to perfect the interest acquired.
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