A Certificate of Occupancy (C of O), along with other documents such as the survey plan and the deed of assignment, is a crucial land title document in Nigeria. When buying land or property in Nigeria, It is important to get a certificate of occupancy (C of O). The Certificate of Occupancy is a government-issued document that establishes land ownership. In this article, we’ll have in-depth knowledge of the Certificate of Occupancy.

Before we proceed, the most important thing to know about the certificate of occupancy is that it is Nigeria’s most important land title. Whenever I get a call from a potential buyer who is interested in buying or learning more about a certain piece of land in a particular area, they will ask if the land or property has a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O).

Certificate of Occupancy

Nigerians have interpreted the excitement surrounding having land with CofO as a significant document when it comes to anything related to property. Thus, getting land with CofO isn’t simple to come by because of the title, they are usually expensive to purchase. It has both benefits and drawbacks. But, why is it so crucial? Let’s find out below.

What Is A Certificate Of Occupancy (C Of O)?

A Certificate of Occupancy is a government-issued land title document that serves as legal proof of land ownership in Nigeria. A parcel of land or property without a certificate of occupancy (C of O) can be seized at any moment and without compensation.

There are many details you’ll find in the document, they include; File number, Certificate of Occupancy number, location of the property, Plot number and size, date of issue, Survey plan or graphic (plot shape), land use purpose, Terms and conditions, and others.

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The Land Use Act of 1978 simplified land administration in Nigeria by vesting in the state governor all urban land within a state (rural land is administrated by the local governments in which they are found). State governors were given the discretion to issue “statutory rights of occupancy” as they saw fit under the land use statute. Furthermore, this statute established the idea of land use (residential, commercial, mixed-use etc.).

How to get a Certificate of Occupancy for a State-Owned Land?

There are procedures to obtaining the Certificate of Occupancy and it takes at least 21 working days to finally obtain one but notes there are other factors that can cause delay.

Purchase Stage

You’re to purchase and submit an application package to the Land Use Allocation Committee by the applicant (LUAC). Then obtain the acknowledgement slip and also obtain a letter of allocation offer (1 day). The applicant is expected to pay for the land that has been assigned to them at least within 90 days.

Confirmation Stage

A letter of confirmation is sent to the applicant, together with the plot and block number (Note that full payments must be made before Plots & Blocks are allocated). And the Scheme Officer is in charge of processing C of O applications. The Scheme Officer will then sign the file and send it to the LUAC Executive Secretary, that’ll take place within 5 days.

Evaluation Stage

The Surveyor General sends a digitized survey to the Scheme Officer which may last within 2 days. The Executive Secretary LUAC signs the letter of allocation and approves the processing. Then Executive also signs the file and submits it to the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Governor on Lands (2 days).

The Senior Special Assistant (Lands) evaluates the complete file and delivers it to the Permanent Secretary (PS) Lands Bureau with a covering memo (2 days). If there is a query on the file, the message is communicated by notification; PS Lands signs the memo and sends it to the Governor (2 days)

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Approval Stage

The Governor signs the C of O electronically after approving the material within 48hours. If the file contains a query, the notification sends a message back. The Governor signs off and submits the paperwork to the Deputy Registrar for further processing after the C of O has been approved and signed within 48hours.

The file is processed further by the Deputy Registrar, who signs it and sends it to the Registrar of Titles for ultimate registration within the same 48 hours. The Registrar of Titles registers the certificate of origin, signs it, and requests that it be printed (1 day)

Which Land Can A Certificate Of Occupancy Be Issued?

A land that can receive a Certificate of Occupancy must not have been previously registered. However, such land must be charted at the offices of the state and federal surveyors general to determine whether it is free from government acquisition and, if it is, whether it is committed or ratifiable.

If the land is free of acquisition or falls under ratifiable land, the land beneficiary/applicant for the Certificate of Occupancy can then apply formally to the state government for the issuing of the C of O on the unregistered land by submitting the required paperwork and paying government costs.

If the land is being acquired by the government and is also committed (non-ratifiable), the applicant will not be granted a C of O.You should be aware that a plot of land or property without a certificate of occupancy (C of O) might be seized at any time and without any refund of payment or compensation.

What Are the Importance of Certificate of Occupancy For Your Land?

  • First, it gives you the authority as the sole owner of a piece of property, avoiding instances where numerous persons claim possession of the same piece of land.
  • Next, it helps prevent the government from seizing or cancelling your land rights without compensating you.
  • Then last but not least, Banks and other financial organizations accept Certificates of Occupancy as collateral for if you may need one in future.
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Can Certificate Of Occupancy Be Revoke?

One thing to keep in mind regarding a certificate of occupancy is that it can be withdrawn at any time. Having a C of O doesn’t mean one is safe but to an extent. The Land Use Act, which governs how the Certificate of Occupancy is issued, also establishes grounds for revocation of the C of O.

The terms and conditions of the grant are mentioned in the Certificate of Occupancy, and if the holder of the certificate of occupancy fails to comply with the stated terms, the certificate of occupancy may be withdrawn or the holder may be punished.

The power to revoke a right of possession is established by Section 28 of the Land Use Act. The C of O contains a warning concerning the title’s root. If the root of the title is proven to be defective after the C of O is issued, the C of O may become null and void.

In conclusion, the Certificate of Occupancy is what establishes that you have a legal stake in the land upon which a property rests, whether it’s a home, mansion, office, hospital, or skyscraper. Despite this, other title papers, such as the deed of assignment, should be verified (where applicable) while conducting land or property transactions in Nigeria.

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Dennis Isong
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