By Akhigbe Dominic M.
27 JUNE 2016-The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Land Use Act vest the power to issue the Certificate of Occupancy in the Governors of the states. It is therefore the responsibility of every property owner to approach the state governor within which the state the property is located for the issuance of a Certificate of occupancy. If the property is located within the Federal Capital Territory, then the Minister of FCT is in charge. He should be approached for the issuance of a certificate of occupancy over properties so located within the FCT. The state Governor of a state grants a statutory right of occupancy to any person who wishes to purchase any land, or landed properties in the state. The grant of a right of occupancy is evidenced in the certificate of occupancy so issued by the Governors of the states or the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory.
A certificate of occupancy, therefore, is a document that acknowledges the right to ownership of a certain property. It is proof that the governor of the state has obliged his consent and is aware that such property is in the possession of the individual, corporate entity or group of persons to whom a Certificate of Occupancy has been issued. The document shows that a certain property has been allocated to you for a certain period of time usually ninety-nine years pursuant to the necessary provisions of the Land Use act. It confers exclusive right of possession on the owner.
However, it is common knowledge that every seven out of ten houses or properties have not successfully obtained their Certificate of Occupancy. Several reasons have been adduced to this reluctance by those who kept their distances from this all important document. First of all, landlords and property owners are unaware of the importance of the Certificate of Occupancy until the question of title comes up. Whoever a buyer buys the property from, be it from the government or individual, the state government’s consent is needed to legitimize such purchase. For landlords and would-be Real Estate operators, it is important to be aware of the necessity for the Certificate of Occupancy.
Another reason for the non possession of this all important document is cost. Unfortunately, the Constitution and the Land Use Act are silent about the cost of obtaining the Certificate of Occupancy. The various states fix their different rates and set the various steps towards obtaining the Certificate of Occupancy.. In some state with relatively low Federal Allocation, they see the Certificate of Occupancy as an internally generated revenue source that must be fully and maximally harnessed. The cost in such states become very high and sometimes out of the reach of the ordinary landlord or property owner.
Besides awareness and Cost, the Process and time are also other militating factors. Till very recently when some states like Lagos and Ogun have made very conspicuous improvements in their Processing of the Certificate of Occupancy; it used to take as long as Ten years in some states. This has however been improved upon with technology and ICT. In some states however, not much has been done to help the situation. Lagos State has broken this jinx by reducing this to as short as 90 Days in some cases.
By popular demand, I will highlight some of the steps required to obtain a C of O from the Lagos State Government by desiring applicants (basically allocations of Lands by the state):
You may Require the following document for State Land Certificate of Occupancy:
- Formal Letter addressed to the Executive Secretary – Land Use and Allocation Committee, Block 13, Room 4, Lands Bureau, The Secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja.
- Standard Allocation Form with Receipt.
- Four Passport Photographs with white background.
- Evidence of payment of Income Tax.
- Company, Evidence of payment of Income Tax of Two Directors and Development Levy).
- Survey Plan
- All payment receipts of Land Charges
- Vital Information Form
When the above documents are ready, the following steps may be followed in processing the Certificate of Occupancy. Note that these steps may vary in some circumstances.
- Applicant purchases and submits application pack to Land Use Allocation Committee (LUAC) and collects acknowledgement slip;
- Applicant collects letter of offer of allocation (1 day);
- Applicant pays for allocated land (within 90 days);
- Applicant issued with letter of confirmation with plot and block number (Full payments must be made before Plots & Blocks are allocated)
- Scheme Officer processes application for C of O, signs off on the file and forwards files to Executive Secretary LUAC (5 days)
- Surveyor General provides Scheme Officer with digitized survey (2 days)
- ES LUAC approves processing and signs letter of allocation. ES LUAC signs off on the file, send file to the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Lands (2 days)
- SSA (Lands) vets entire file and sends file/application with a covering memo to the Permanent Secretary Lands Bureau (2 days)
- If the file has a query; message is relayed back by notification;
- PS Lands signs off on the memo and sends file to Governor (2 days)
- Governor approves file and electronically signs the C of O (2 days). If file has a query, message is relayed back by notification.
- Upon approval and signing of the C of O, the Governor signs off and sends file to the Deputy Registrar for further processing (2 days)
- Deputy Registrar processes file further, signs off and sends file to Registrar of Titles for final registration (2 days)
- Registrar of Titles registers the C of O, signs off and requests for printing of C of O (1 day).
This entire process is expected to add up to 21 days although in some cases, it could last a bit more than that due to unforeseen circumstance. It should also be noted that Lagos state government has embarked on a new and innovative plan to make possible the acquisition of C of O through the internet or at least make it easier to register or begin the registration process through the internet. Ogun State has advanced in this system already. Property owners need to know the importance of this all-important document. It is not sufficient to obtain family receipt, Deeds and other initial titles. The Certificate of occupancy is the icing on the cake; it puts your mind at rest as you never can tell when the hen would come to roost!
Akhigbe is a consultant in Real Estate & an investment portfolio manager and a seasoned Nigerian Micro, Small & Medium Scale Business Coach. Contact:08034846284