How to Perfect Your Land Title

August 15, 2020 Esq. Orinari Horsfall

In the average contractual transaction, the transaction is concluded when parties sign an agreement and consideration is exchanged. With sale of land transactions, the instrument of transfer is not valid and title does not pass, even after being signed and money being paid, until the title is perfected in accordance with the law. There are three steps to perfect a title to land:

  1. Obtain the Consent of the Governor: Under Nigerian law, no interest in land can be alienated without the consent of the Governor of that State. Therefore, regardless of whatever agreement between the Vendor and Purchaser, the transaction is not recognisable in the eyes of the law until the Governor’s consent is applied for and obtained. It is not uncommon for Purchasers to include conditions in the instrument to the effect that if the Governor’s consent is denied, any money paid to the Vendor will be recoverable and the instrument will be voided.
  2. Payment of Stamp Duties: Stamp duties are taxes paid to the Government on instruments. It is a legal requirement for a number of instruments, including instruments of transfer of title to land. Where stamp duties are not paid, the instrument devoid of a stamp cannot be presented in court as evidence. That is to say, should the title of the Purchaser be contested at a later date, the instrument of transfer will not be admissible in court to prove their title. The law makes provision for the Purchaser in such a circumstance to pay the outstanding stamp duties along with a penalty for delayed payment, however it is advisable to pay at the appropriate time. Stamp duties are to be paid within 40 days of the execution of an instrument.
  3. Registration at the Land Registry: The final step in perfecting a title is the registration of the title at the Lands Registry. This serves as a notice to the world that the Purchaser has acquired an interest in the land. Failure to register a title disallows the instrument from being put forward as evidence in court. Also, of vital importance, where a Vendor sells the same land to multiple Purchasers, the Purchaser who first registers their interest obtains the strongest title. To fail to register is to risk jeopardising the entire transaction.

Note: This article only serves to inform the reader of the basic steps to consider when entering into a sale of land does not purport to provide all necessary information on such transactions. For the best result, the reader is advised to engage the services of an experienced legal practitioner upon identifying the land they desire to purchase.