I was doing a personal research into Land Titles and discovered this beautiful piece written in Jun 13, 2014 by :
Pastor Olatayo Beckley LLB, BL, ACIS, ACIARB, MIOD
Lawyer, Chartered Secretary, Tax Expert, & Arbitrator based in Lagos Nigeria.
I decided to post it to educate the forum and have our legal minds buttress and explain further the points that have been made. Our amiable Omonile Lawyer of the forum has been quiet recently though. Seems he is getting tired of omonile cases and looking at the more juicy cases from politician. wink
@Lawyer over to you.
About a month ago, I stumbled upon a discussion by some people (who are not legal minds) on the issue of legal title over land and they all concluded that the highest and safest form of legal title over landed properties in Nigeria is the one conferred by the Certificate of Occupancy issued by the government.
They safely gave this conclusion on the fact that the Land Use Act of 1978 (the main legislation on real estate in Nigeria) has transferred the ownership of all lands to the government and it is the government that can pass such ownership title in respect of land to individuals and corporate entities via the certificate of occupancy. I then intruded into their discussion and informed them that this is not the position of the law. The law actually recognizes five types of legal land ownership in Nigeria and the certificate of occupancy is just one of them. In fact, there are many instances where the court has nullified a certificate of occupancy where the root of title is not found in one of the types of legal ownership recognized by the law.
Thankfully on Wednesday the 9 of June 2014, the Honorable High Court sitting at Ota Ogun State awarded judgment in favour of my clients in respect of a vast expanse of land in Ogun State where the information I passed to the discussants above was further highlighted and reiterated.
I will therefore highlight these five types of legal ownership for the purpose of informing Nigerians and non Nigerians on this position of the law because I believe that information is power.
The Supreme Court in the case of ELEGUSHI V OSENI (2005) 14 NWLR (PT 945) AT 348 aptly stated the five types of legal land ownership in Nigeria and they are as follows
1, By traditional evidence.
2. By acts of Ownership extending over a sufficient length of time which acts are numerous and positive enough to warrant the inference that they are owners
3. By acts of long possession and enjoyment of the land in dispute
4. By the production of the documents of title which must be authenticated
5 By proof of possession of connected or adjacent land in circumstances rendering it probable that the owners of such connected or adjacent land would in addition be the owners of the land in dispute.
I will try and explain each of these types of ownership:
1 BY TRADITIONAL EVIDENCE. The Nigerian law first and foremost gives recognition to traditional or customary land ownership notwithstanding the Land Use Act. This means in effect that people who have “founded” and “settled” on land over the years in the olden days are deemed to be the owners of such land. Consequently the title of traditional land owners is legal, proper and genuine. They need not have certificate of occupancy to prove their land ownership
2 BY ACTS OF OWNERSHIP EXTENDING OVER A SUFFICIENT LENGTH OF TIME WHICH ACTS ARE NUMEROUS AND POSITIVE ENOUGH TO WARRANT THE INFERENCE THAT THEY ARE OWNERS. The Nigerian law also gives legal ownership over land to people who cannot by positive traditional evidence show how they “founded” or “settled” on the said land if they can show that they and their ancestors have lived on the land for years without being challenged.
3, BY ACTS OF LONG POSSESSION AND ENJOYMENT OF THE LAND IN DISPUTE. Where the land owner cannot prove their land ownership by positive traditional evidence or show that their enjoyment of the land is not challenged or controverted , but if they can show that their adversaries in respect of the land have failed to take positive legal steps to “wrestle” the ownership land in dispute from them over a long period of time, they will then be deemed to have legal ownership of the said land
BY THE PRODUCTION OF THE DOCUMENTS OF TITLE WHICH MUST BE AUTHENTICATED: This cover all instances of formal land documents which will include the certificate of occupancy and other documents issued by the government
It is very important that such documents of title must be premised and authenticated upon the earlier mentioned roots of title. Consequently, a mere certificate of occupancy will not confer legal ownership if it can be shown that the root of title is defective. A certificate of occupancy procured through fraud and misrepresentation will be set aside and considered to be of no legal effect whatsoever.
It is therefore very important that all prospective purchasers, investors or dealers in respect of real estate or landed properties must conduct investigation and ensure that the root of title of such documents of title is good, proper and founded on other evidences of title ownership before any reliance can be placed on them
BY PROOF OF POSSESSION OF CONNECTED OR ADJACENT LAND IN CIRCUMSTANCES RENDERING IT PROBABLE THAT THE OWNERS OF SUCH CONNECTED OR ADJACENT LAND WOULD IN ADDITION BE THE OWNERS OF THE LAND IN DISPUTE.: This would probably occur where there is no dispute that a particular vast expanse belongs to a particular persons or persons. Such persons would also be deemed to be owners of smaller surrounding parcels of land if there is no other evidence to the contrary
It is therefore very important that all investors and dealers of real estate in Nigeria should arm themselves with this piece of information in order to protect their investment.
God bless you