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The Law regulating Land Ownership in Nigeria is Known as the Land Use Act which was promulgated in the year 1978 by the Military Government of Olusegun Obasanjo.

One of the key provisions of that law is that it vested the ownership of all land in a state in the Governor who is expected to hold it in trust for the benefit of the people.

The implication of this is that nobody actually owns land in Nigeria but rather is conferred the right to occupy the same for a certain time at the leisure of the State Governor. The evidence of this right of occupancy is what is popularly known as the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O).

In this post we will be answering Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Certificate of Occupancy in Lagos State.

Q: What is a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O)?

A: A Certificate of Occupancy, also known as the C of O is a document issued by a State Government in Nigeria to landowners and property buyers as evidence title (occupancy) over a particular land for a period of 99 years. This document also spells out what the land can be used for e.g. residential, commercial or mixed development.

Q: What is the benefit of having a Certificate of Occupancy ( C of O)?

A: The following are reasons you need to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy:

  • Evidence of Ownership of the land to the exclusion of others
  • Ensures recognition of right to compensation in a situation where the government exercises its overriding right to acquire the land for public use
  • Useful as Collateral for Loans and Investments
  • Qualifies you for a mortgage
  • Right to transfer, assign and mortgage any improvement on the land subject to the consent of the Governor
  • Necessary documents for processing a Building Permit

Q: I have a registered survey. Do I still need a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O)?  

A: A survey is not a title document but merely an evidence of the location of a land and as such you still need to register your ownership of the land by obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy. As a matter of fact a survey is one of the documents needed to obtain a certificate of occupancy.

Q: Everybody Knows the property is mine, why do I still need to do a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O)

A: Land disputes can happen at anytime especially in a place like Lagos and the law would likely tilt in favour of the party that has a registered title except in certain instances. It is also important to realize that the dispute could arise long after the death of the original landowner when witnesses may no longer be available. In addition, where government acquires the land or public benefit, compensation will only be paid to registered title holders

Q: Is a Certificate of Occupancy the only type of Valid Title?

A: No, there are other types of land title and they include Assent, Court vesting order or certificate of purchase, Deed of assignment/conveyance, Deed of legal mortgage, Deed of gift, Right of Occupancy

Q: How do I apply for a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O)?

The process of applying for the C of O is partly dependent on whether the land is obtained from the State Government or a private person e.g customary land owners (Omo-Onile)

Q: What are Fees for obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) in Lagos?

A: It is difficult to determine a cost for land title registration because it depends on so many conditions such as, the size of the land, the location and the type of property on the land etc. Generally, there are administrative fees to be paid when applying for a C of O in Lagos, which sometimes change from time to time and there are also constant statutory fees which are calculated based on the Fair Market Value (FMV) of the property. The FMV is typically calculated per m2, based on where the land is situated.

Q: What are the Requirements for obtaining a C of O in Lagos?

A: An applicant for a C of O in Lagos is expected to duly complete an Application form and provide the following documents:

  • Land information Certificate.
  • Receipt for land information fee.
  • Receipt for application form.
  • Land purchase receipt/agreement (duly stamped).
  • Copy of current tax clearance certificate (individuals).
  • Development levy receipt.
  • Site location sketch.
  • Four passport photographs of applicant with white background.
  • Copy of approved building plan (if developed).
  • Copy of tenement rate receipt (if occupied) or Land Use Charge.
  • Cover letter addressed to the Executive Secretary, Land Use Allocation Committee (LUAC), stating all documents attached, as above and typed with applicant’s address.

Q: What is the Procedure for Obtaining a C of O in Lagos?

A: The following are the steps to take in applying for C of O in Lagos.

  • File an application to obtain the land information from the Surveyor General’s office at Alausa.
  • Purchase of private certificate of occupancy application form.
  • The application form is submitted with the above-mentioned documents
  • A publication is then made giving room to any person who wants to object to the application. The objection period being 21 days.
  • The next step is the site inspection and report conducted by the Land Use Allocation Committee. A report is made which is used in processing the issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy.
  • Certificate of Occupancy is then drafted, typed, and submitted for recommendation for execution of Certificate of Occupancy (by Executive Secretary, Land Use Allocation Committee, Senior Special Assistant Lands & Permanent Secretary Lands).
  • Execution of Certificate of Occupancy (by Governor)
  • The Certificate of Occupancy is duly stamped by the Commissioner for Stamp Duties and registered at the registry.
  • The duly executed and registered Certificate of Occupancy can be picked up from the Land Use Allocation Committee collection office.

Q: How Long is the Process of Obtaining a C of O in Lagos?

A: The Lagos State Lands Bureau asserts that a C of O will be issued within 21days once all Criteria is fulfilled, however in practice the process can take much longer and typically requires active followup to get results.  

Q: I hear there is now an online process for land documentation in Lagos State?

A: Last year the Governor Of Lagos State announced the take-off of an online platform on which all land transactions will be done. The platform is expected to be a one-stop shop for all transactions relating to land, including Governor’s approval on C of O, and building approval by Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development.