The first important thing to note is that every land is owned by the state government, this is in accordance with the Land Use Act 1978. The government leases any land purchased for a period of 99 years after which such title can be renewed by the owner. A land can either be free or under government acquisition. A land free from government encumbrances makes it easy to obtain a certificate of occupancy or any type of good land title.

It is important for anyone seeking to purchase real estate to search the title of such property at the appropriate land registry. Each state maintains a land registry where a title to property can be searched. The land title in Lagos State can be searched through the land bureau at Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos. A diligent search for the land title can also involve a search at a court registry where the title to land involves court judgement or probate registry in case of property of a deceased person.

There are two types of acquisitions; Committed and Global.

  • Committed Acquisition: Here, the land has registered interest by the government for slated purposes, such as roads, defence purposes, drainages, canals, airports, schools, etc. A person who purchases such land will find the perfection of land title problematic, and where a person proceeds with property development on such land, it can be subject to demolition with no compensation.
  • Global or Non-Committed Acquisition: This refers to lands that have been acquired long ago by the government, but the lands have no slated purposes. Such lands can be turned free through the process of ratification.



  • Excision & Gazette

Excision simply means the government releasing a parcel of land that has been under global acquisition in the past. A family or an individual interested in such land can process a government-approved excision, and documentation for the land can be processed up to the governor’s consent level.

Gazette is an official record book that spells out all details of an expanse of land that has been excised and given back to the community. The details include the name of the community and details of the expanse of land given excision. The excision document is usually taken to the surveyor general’s office for the land to be gazetted. With a gazette, a person can apply for a certificate of occupancy or governor consent, which is a document granting permission to use and own the land for 99 years.


  • Certificate of Occupancy (C of O)

A Certificate of Occupancy is an authorized document of grant issued by the State Government, to an individual, groups of individuals or an entity, to confer ownership and right of occupancy in a definite land for all purposes for a term not exceeding 99 years subject to renewal. The Certificate of Occupancy is a document issued only once, to the first person to own and purchase such land as virgin land. Therefore, this document prevents multiple owners from claiming ownership of that piece of land. The C of O is usually issued for all governments’ land allocations and properties.


  • Governor’s consent

Governor’s consent simply refers to the approval of the Governor of every State of Nigeria of any transaction concerning land. It is an integral part of land transactions, as consent is usually required for the perfection of any land transaction. The main purpose of obtaining a Governor’s Consent is so the government is aware that ownership of land has been transferred to another person. This consent can be applied for and obtained multiple times, as many times as possession of such land is being handed over to multiple purchasers over time. Governor’s consent helps in the legalization of such property, as the government is made aware of the transfer of ownership rights. Therefore, as long as the consent is obtained by the buyer, the ownership rights will be properly secured.


  • Court Judgement

This simply implies that the individual went into a court battle with the government to another party over an expanse of land and came out victorious. Such person can then proceed to process the appropriate land documentation to grant him exclusive rights to such land, which could be either C of O, Governor’s Consent, Excision or Gazette as the case may be.


  • Probate & Letter of Administration

Where a person who is owning any piece of land has died, the personal representatives of such person before exercising control or ownership over the property must obtain a Grant of Probate in case the deceased left a Will or Grant of Letter of Administration in case the deceased died intestate. The Probate and the Letter of Administration are the only valid titles to any property left behind by the deceased person. Both documents can be obtained via the Probate Registry of the State High Court or High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.


  • Documents Required at the Stage of Acquiring a Land
  1. Purchase Receipt- This must clearly state the name(s) of the purchaser and must include their signature. The names of the buyers have to be boldly written for the documents and receipts to be valid.
  2. Contract of sale: the contract of sale is the legal document that must give a full description of what is being purchased and a description of payments to be made in the present and the future.
  3. Deed of Assignment- this is a legal document that explains that part of the property that is covered by the C of O stating that they have assigned that particular portion of land to the purchaser. This deed must be duly signed and stamped.
  4. Survey Plan- Here, the land is mapped out accordingly to show the type of title such land already has. That is, if it is excised, gazetted, C of O, etc. it also shows if the land is still under government acquisition.


Finally, it is sacrosanct for every intending purchaser of land or landed properties to ensure an investigation is conducted as to the title, accessibility, and usage of the land to be purchased. Apart from having a good title, a landed property may be encumbered for other reasons, which include existing mortgage or pledge of the property, criminal forfeiture among others.


By Resolution Law Firm