Basics of Certificate of Occupancy

Moving into your new home or constructing on your landed property doesn’t automatically grant you ownership. Don’t be naive. The last thing you want is to lose ownership later, on the basis of adverse possession.

In Nigeria, specifically, one of such approval translates to the production of documents of title. Very essential amongst these documents is the Certificate of Occupancy.

A Certificate of Occupancy is a government-issued land title document that serves as legal proof of land ownership in Nigeria, for a period of 99 years.

According to Section 9 of the Land Use Act 1978, the State Governor of each state in Nigeria where the land is located authorizes the issuance of an occupancy certificate. The issuance of this certificate confers on the holder a statutory right of ownership of this property.

Aside from the issuance of statutory conferment, obtaining a certificate of occupancy is pertinent for the following reasons;

  • Possessing a C of O increases the value of your property. No buyer wants to buy a home that isn’t fit for occupancy. Therefore, acquiring this certificate makes it easy to have your property worth buying.
  • It protects your property from getting confiscated by the government without compensation. However, the government wields the right to revoke this certificate, if the public interest is at stake.
  • Conflict over land ownership can be found quite common. Having a Certificate of Occupancy prevents multiple claims on the land. In Nigeria, a property can’t bear two Certificates of Occupancy.

On Certificate of Occupancy includes the following details:

  • Certificate of Occupancy no.
  • File no.
  • Plot no.
  • Location (district details and cadastral zone)
  • Plot size
  • Survey plan or graphic (plot shape)
  • Date of issue
  • Lease term
  • Initial annual ground rent fees
  • Land use purpose
  • Terms and conditions

Basically, the application to obtain this certificate of occupancy is largely dependent on whom you are directly buying from, whether it’s the state government or a private person.

When buying directly from the State Government, the application for C of O begins as soon as the sale of the property is finalized. However, to buy from a private person, it is compulsory to make findings to ensure that the property indeed belongs to the people claiming ownership of it.

You should never ignore this fact; Having a C of O doesn’t mean one is totally safe but to an extent.

In what sense is this? The Land Use Act, which governs how the Certificate of Occupancy is issued, also establishes grounds for revocation.  Breaching the standard of obtaining your C of O will result in the seizure of property by the government, without the compensation of payment.