Editor's note: Saheed Akinola Esq, the NAIJ.com partner blogger, in this latest article, explains how prospective land investors/buyers could discover if a landed property is under government acquisition to avoid land scam.
Saheed is a legal practitioner and consultant on farming/agricultural investments.
His expertise covers a wide area such as corporate practice, asset acquisition, property acquisition, sales and management, farm management and consultancy.
He consults for individuals and corporate organization across Nigeria and abroad.
He could be contacted via: firstname.lastname@example.org +2348032493960, +2348050221164, or propertylinelawyers.wordpress.com.
More details in NAIJ.com’s step-by-step guide for guest bloggers.
One of the important factors to be considered by prospective buyers/investors is the findings as to ascertain with precision that the land/landed property is not under government acquisition.
One of the checklist questions the prospective buyer or his solicitor must ask the vendor at the investigation stage is about the status of the land vis-a-vis government acquisition.
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However, the vendor is not under any obligation to disclose any defect in his title and therefore most of the time, they are silent on the issue of government acquisition.
If you ask them about whether the land is under government acquisition or not, they are most likely going to tell the prospective buyer that it is not under any acquisition.
It is our advice to any investor in landed property to take the information gotten directly from the vendor or his agent with a pinch of salt and put the information acquired into litmus test by conducting independent investigations.
The prospective buyers/investors should presume that the pieces of information gotten from the vendors are false until otherwise is proved by conducting land search.
The vendor’s agent will want to persuade the buyer into believing that the land in question is the best the buyer could get at a given price around the place where the land is situated.
One of the reasons why the vendors don’t normally disclose such a defect is that they believe that government cheated them in the first instance by acquiring their customary/family land.
Before we proceed on how to discover that a particular land is under acquisition, let us first explain what it means by government acquisition vis-à-vis the constitutional right of citizens to own landed property anywhere in Nigeria:
Power to compulsorily acquire land, demolish/convert property and take over land by the government
People do ask whether or not they have constitutional protection against compulsory acquisition of their family or personal land against compulsory acquisition of land by the government
Our answer is that it is their constitutional rights to own and use land and landed property in any part of Nigeria irrespective of their tribes, colour, birth, religion, political parties, according to the provision of Sections 43 and 44 of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
The constitution went further to provide assurance to all citizens that no property shall be taken possession of or acquired compulsorily except in the manner and for the purpose prescribed by a law, (See Section 44 of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
By virtue of Section 28 of the Land Use Act, 1978 it is lawful for the governor to revoke a Right of Occupancy whether statutory or customary for ‘overriding public interest’ and once the right of occupancy is revoked, the landed property stands acquired, and the title of the holder of such right is thereby extinguished.
Anybody that is found on the land after the acquisition is no more than a trespasser, unless he is there with the consent of the Governor. Henceforth, nobody can claim or exercise possessory or ownership right over the land except the Governor of the state where the land is situated.
Because of the foregoing, if by the buyer’s omission, negligence, action or inaction he buys a landed property that is under acquisition from any acclaimed owner, he has been scammed.
Legal means of compulsory acquisition of land
Once the need for a compulsory land acquisition is for overriding public interest, the procedure is simple. Where Governor intends to compulsorily acquire land, the Governor (or through his staff) is to issue a “notice” to the holder of the right of occupancy of the desired land.
The Notice must declare that the land is required by the government for public purpose. At the issuance of such notice the right of occupancy will be revoked. Once such is done, the governor has compulsorily acquired the land.
There cannot be a valid compulsory acquisition of land without a “notice” to the holder of the right of occupancy. This is the procedure laid down in Section 28 sub section 4 of the Land Use Act, 1978.
The major problem of buying a landed property that is under acquisition is that the buyer cannot perfect his document: he cannot get even a simple Survey plan approved or lodged at the Surveyor General’s office let alone getting a Certificate of Occupancy.
The buyer cannot get an approved Building plan and such landed property cannot be used as collateral to secure loan. If a building is erected on such a land, it could be demolished anytime by the Government.
Types of acquisition and their implications
There are two types of acquisition:
Committed acquisition and
Uncommitted, Global or General acquisition
A Land under Government Acquisition, that is committed, is a land acquired by the Government for a specific and specified purpose and use and the Government’s plan on the land is clearly stated e.g Government estates, Roads, Government Schemes, Hospitals, Schools etc.
This land might have been acquired for years by the government without doing anything on it.
The fact that the land has being built upon by a large number of people does not make any different because the houses could be destroyed within days when Government is ready to use it.
Such a committed land belongs to government forever and can never be available for individuals.
Lands that are under uncommitted, general acquisition or global acquisition can later be confirmed ‘free’ or ‘committed’. This is solely at the discretion of the Government.
The government may decide to release the said uncommitted acquired land to people who have illegally bought the Land from Omoniles depending on whether or not the Government needs the land for a specific purpose or not and if the acquired lands will not disrupt any regional or urban planning regulation.
“Ratification/Regularization is a policy of grace that is given to a trespasser on uncommitted Government Land.
This is the opportunity or privilege available to a buyer who came into the land illegally through wrong purchase from ‘omo-onile’, to obtain legal title to the land encroached upon from the State Government.
It is the process of allocating Government land to someone who had previously occupied landed property without lawful authority from the State Government”
Conditions precedent to regulirisation of land that is under uncommitted government acquisition
(i) That the property must not be situated in a Government Scheme, Estate or Committed Area; and
(ii) The property must be situated within an area that conforms with Urban and Regional Planning regulations and standards of the State.
Any land that does not conform with Regional and Urban Planning Regularization, will not be able to pass the test of ratification.
How to discover a landed property is under acquisition
The best means through which you can verify whether a land is under acquisition or not is to visit the site in question with land surveyors who will take the coordinate of the land and chart it at the land registry of a state where the land is situated.
In conclusion, it is advisable and economically wise for prospective buyers to chart a landed property to confirm whether it is under acquisition or not. The buyers/investors should not be deceived by the fact that a landed property is within a developed community. A whole community might be under government acquisition.
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