PROCUREMENT AND REGISTRATION OF TITLES TO LAND IN NIGERIA: THE EFFECT IN REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT
Ownership of land in Nigeria has risen in recent times to be a subject of scholarship. This is due to the development in real estate and issues arising as regards powers of the State to allocate a land and register same. Title to land refers to ownership of a land and documentary evidence of same.
According to Udoka S Isreal, Land registration generally describes systems by which matters concerning ownership, possession or other rights in land can be recorded (usually with a government agency or department) to provide evidence of title, facilitate transaction and to prevent unlawful disposal which vary according to jurisdictions.. Land registration is the means of securing title to land guaranteed by the State. While prior transaction of purchasing a land confers an equitable title to land, registration of such equitable titles confers a legal right.
Real estate refers to property in land and buildings on it, including the natural resources in it. This study seeks to consider registration of title to land and how it affects development of real estate positively and/or adversely.
PROCUREMENT OF TITLE TO LAND IN NIGERIA
The Land Registration Act of 1924, which has been re-enacted by various states in the Federation is the primary legislation in Nigeria which concerns registration of land in Nigeria. The law prescribes registration of any instrument executed before or after the commencement of this law. To facilitate registration, the law establishes in every state a land registry under a land Registrar charged with the responsibilities of registering instruments affecting land in the State and to keep registered books and file in relation thereto The Federal Land Registry (miscellaneous provision) Act, 1992, further creates a Federal Registry to keep a register all Federal Lands in Nigeria.
The tedious procedure of land registration in Nigeria is generally as follows:
- Submission of a sworn affidavit to the commissioner of oaths
- Application for search is then submitted to the land registry accompanied by sworn affidavit
- Execution of deed of assignment and consent application form at a lawyer’s office
- Obtaining of a certified true copy of title document and a certified true copy of survey plan from land registry
- Payment of charting and endorsement as well as consent application form at a designated bank
- Obtaining of title from directorate of lands services via an application for governor’s consent.
- Submission of chart survey plans along with deed of assignment to the ministry of physical planning and urban development
- Directorate of land services will issue a demand order for payment of registration consent and neighborhood improvement fees
- Obtaining demand order from stamp duty office for payment of stamp duty.
- Payment of fees at designated banks
- Submission of receipt at directorate of lands services.
- Stamping of deed of assignment at stamp duty office and registering of the deed at land registry.
EFFECT OF PROCEDURE OF REGISTRATION OF TITLE TO LAND IN NIGERIA ON DEVELOPMENT OF REAL ESTATE
As seen above, the procedure of registration in Nigeria is quite tedious and unduly long. Adeniyi, Oniemola and G Badru (P. O. Adeniyi; A. E. Oniemola; G. Badru, ‘Assessment of Land Administration Service Delivery in Three Selected States in Nigeria – Experiences From Ekiti, Kebbi And Niger States’, Paper Prepared For Presentation At The “2018 WORLD BANK CONFERENCE ON LAND AND POVERTY” The World Bank – Washington) captures it thus:
“It is however froth with challenges and constraints as is evident in the dearth of formal, documentary and registered land titles in the country. The consequence is that most people are denied access to secure land title and the economic opportunity and potential that may be realized from using and transacting title to land. The dismal performance of the state of land administration in Nigeria is depicted in the World Bank Report on Doing Business 2017. Therein, the country was ranked 182 among 190 economies on the ease of registering property as it takes 12.1 steps/procedures and 69.6 days in addition to 10.5% of the property value to complete registration.
The excessive time and cost of land registration is particularly detrimental to low-income and disadvantaged groups, especially women and peasant farmers…. Specifically, it is on record that since the commencement of registration of land parcels in Nigeria in 1863 under the colonial administration, not more than three percent (3%) of the nation’s land mass of 923,768 square kilometres have been surveyed and registered.”
The unduly long process has not only affected the national records of land ownership system in Nigeria but has also deprived investors in real estate of the privileges that would have accrued to them if it were effective. Such privileges include:
- Access to loans for development of properties
Developers at times need bank funding for big-time real estate developments for which banks would request that they provide collateral, deposit registered land title documents like a certificate of occupancy or a Deed of Assignment covering landed property. Developers may be unable to provide the said registered documents owing to the delay involved in registering same and the banks will as a result deny them the requested loan facility. By extension, this leads to the non-development of the proposed real estate project and the loss of benefits that would have been derived from same.
2. Shorter period of time in investigating adverse title on land
Ordinarily, when a title document on a piece of land is registered, any subsequent title or interest in the land is also registered or endorsed against the registered title. As such, developers and people generally interested in real estate development will spend less time investigating whether there is any adverse title on a piece of land as same can be confirmed easily and speedily by checking the Registry.
3. Reduction of fraudulent sale by vendors: Where land is registered, it reduces the possibility of fraudulent sale by fake vendors who impersonate the real owners of the land. This intended fraud can be checked and discovered once the proposed buyers confirm at the Registry the identity and detail of the owner of a land proposed to be purchased.The tedious process of land title registration would occasion the existence of many unregistered titles which is a breeding ground for fraudsters. More particularly, where more land titles are not registered, the rate of fraud will increase many developers will lose money to fraudulent individuals posing as owners of land with fake titles. This will further lead to slowness or unwillingness by developers to acquire land for real estate development due to fear of fraud.
In essence, we at Property Advisory Network are of the view that the tedious process of procurement of land title registration in Nigeria will impact negatively on real estate development in the form of non-access to loan by developers, limited access to land information for purposes of confirming title and increase in land sale fraud. These results will generally lead to disinterest in real estate investment in Nigeria.
In view of the above, we at Property Advisory Network, recommend as follows:
- Procedure for registration should be simplified and made less demanding to encourage registration. This can be achieved through the use of electronic mode of registration and internet facilities.
- Cost of registration should be minimal to give room for more registration of land to encourage investors in real estate.
It has been clearly shown that the procedure of registration of land is unnecessarily long and tedious. It cannot be denied that registration of title to land is beneficial to the development of real estate as it makes it quicker and easier for investors to access information. Recommendations has also been made that in the interest of development of real estate, the procedure of registration be made easier and cheaper.