Land titles and documents in Nigeria

Land Titles and Documents in Nigeria

A good understanding of land titles and documents in Nigeria helps a real estate investor to discover if a particular landed property is either free or acquired. A parcel of land is considered free if the government has not indicated any interest whatsoever in that land. Such land is safe to buy because the title on the land can be perfected without issues. In most cases, such lands will either have a gazette, a C of O, or a governor’s consent.

Now that you understand what it means for land to be free and the importance of land titles and documents in Nigeria, you should also know that all lands that fall within areas that are designated as ‘urban areas are under government acquisition until deemed committed or free.

There are two types of acquisition:

  1. Committed Acquisition
  2. Global / General Acquisition

 Committed Acquisition

A parcel of land is said to be under committed acquisition when the government has indicated an intention to use that land for a specific purpose such as the provision of amenities. Such lands belong to the government and can never be available for use by individuals. If you purchase a land that is under committed acquisition, it will be impossible for you to perfect your land title and you’ll only be occupying the land until the government comes to kick you out.

Global or General Acquisition

Lands that are under “general acquisition” or “global acquisition” can later be confirmed ‘free’ or ‘committed’ as the case may be. A land under general acquisition can become free by a process called excision. Excision is a process whereby the government releases a portion of an expanse of land that is not committed. If a parcel of land that was formerly under acquisition becomes excised; it is then considered free and becomes gazetted.

The gazette then becomes the title on the land and such land is safe to buy because a proper title can be processed on the land. A second case where lands under general acquisition can be released is if an individual purchases land that was under acquisition without going through an excision process. Such lands can go through another process called “ratification” or “regularization” in which the landowner pays the government for the land to be ratified or regularized. The only condition, in this case, is that the land in question must not fall within a committed area and that the purpose for which the land was bought does not disrupt the original plan of the state. Conditions for ratification may differ from state to state.

Now that you understand the classification of land, I will explain each land document that we have.


A Deed of Assignment is one of the land titles and documents in Nigeria and it is the transactional document drawn up by a real estate attorney between the current title holder for a particular property and the new buyer Most people have the title documents to their cars intact and in safe places but fail to ask for the deed of assignment to their properties which is several times more valuable than cars.

In real estate property transactions, a deed of assignment is a legal document that transfers the interest of the owner of that interest to the person to whom it is assigned, the assignee. When ownership is transferred, the deed of assignment shows the new legal owner of the property. The deed contains very pertinent information for a real estate transaction. It spells out the date the ownership of the property transfers from one party to the other. The deed also gives a specific description of the property that is included in the transfer of ownership.

It is very compulsory and mandatory for a deed of assignment to be recorded at the appropriate land registry to show legal evidence as to the exchange of ownership in any land/landed property transaction in order to make the general public and government aware of such exchange or transaction.


An Excision means basically taking a part from a whole and that part that has been excised will be recorded and documented in the official government gazette of that state. In other words, not having an excision means the land could be seized by the Government anytime without compensating you even if you bought it “Legitimately” from the Baale or the original dwellers on the land. 


A Gazette is another example of land titles and documents in Nigeria. It is an official record book where all special government details are spelled out, detailed, and recorded. A gazette will show the communities or villages that have been granted excision and the number of acres or hectares of land that the government has given to them. It is within those excised acres or hectares that the traditional family is entitled to sell its lands to the public and not anything outside those hectares of land given or excised to them.

A Gazette is a very powerful instrument the community owns and can replace a Certificate of Occupancy to grant title to the Villagers. It is one of the most important land titles and documents in Nigeria because it tells us a lot about the genuineness of a landed property. A community owning a gazette can only sell lands to an individual within those lands that have been excised to them and the community or family head of that land has the right to sign your documents for you if you purchase lands within those excised acres or hectares of land.

If the government based on some reasons best known to them decides to revoke or acquire your land, you will be entitled to compensation as long as it’s within the Excised lands given to that community. The best way to know whether land is under acquisition or has an excision that has been covered by a Gazette is to get a surveyor to chart the site and take it to the surveyor general’s office to confirm whether it falls within the gazette and spell out which particular location it can be found.

Relationship between Excision and Gazette

So for example, if in 1981, Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Lekki were all part of one big community joined together called Oniru and it had no separation to know which area is called Ikoyi, Lekki, or V.I then, and it had an approximate total area estimate of 100,000 square metres and the Government was interested in that area and decided to take 70,000 square meters for its self for its own personal use as an Urban Area or for public purpose. This acquisition was recorded in the official government publication which is Gazette and it is also on record that the remaining 30,000 square metres (EXCISED PORTION) have been left alone for the traditional family to have and do with it whatever it pleases them. This is the relationship between a land under acquisition, an excision, and a gazette. That is the reason having in-depth knowledge about land titles and documents in Nigeria will put you at the top of any real estate transaction you want to engage in.


A Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) is issued by the government of a particular state to officially lease the land to you, the applicant, for 99 yrs. All lands belong to the Government.

The first person on virgin land that has neither been occupied neither by another person nor under acquisition by the Government is entitled to get a Certificate of Occupancy on that land. If that person with the C of O decides to sell his land to another person after so many years, that person must now obtain the Consent of the Governor before that transaction can be deemed legal in the eyes of the Government. If the new buyer now decides to sell the land again to a third owner in the future, that third owner must also obtain a new Consent of the Governor before that transaction can be deemed legal in the eyes of the government and the process continues every time the property changes hands to a new buyer.

In other words, the first person on a land is the only person or group of persons entitled to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy. Every subsequent buyer of that land must get a Governor’s consent. There can only be one (1) Owner of the Certificate of Occupancy on that Land and it will not be replicated for another person once the land has been sold or transferred to another person.

The powers of the Governor to Consent to such transactions can be found in Section 22. Of the LAND USE ACT 1978 as amended. This states thus: “It shall not be lawful for the holder of a statutory right of occupancy granted by the Governor to alienate his right of occupancy or any part thereof by assignment, mortgage, and transfer of possession, sublease, or otherwise howsoever without the consent of the Governor first had and obtained”

With this power, the Governor has the right to grant consent to any transaction which has not contravened the law of the land and if the consent has been obtained fraudulently, the Governor is entitled to revoke such consent immediately. It is very important for a purchaser of land to perfect his or her document by obtaining a Governor’s consent so as to have a complete rest of mind.

You should try as much as possible to get a Governor's Consent for all your genuine lands so as to eliminate Omoniles’ problem completely and live a life devoid of their troubles.


A Survey plan is a document that measures the boundary of a parcel of land to give an accurate measurement and description of that land. The people that handle survey issues are Surveyors and they are regulated by the office of the Surveyor-General. A survey plan must contain the following information:

  • The name of the owner of the land surveyed
  • The Address or description of the land surveyed
  • The size of the land surveyed
  • The drawn-out portion of the land survey and mapped out on the survey plan.
  • The beacon
  • The surveyor who drew the survey plan and the date it was drawn up.
  • A stamp showing the land is either free from Government acquisition or not.

Having learned about various land titles and documents in Nigeria information to look out for before acquiring landed properties, I believe you will make conscious efforts to confirm the authenticity of the property before making payment.

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Suggested: Relationship between Approved Building Plan and Registered Survey 

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