Legally, what does it take to engage in land and property transactions?
Land transactions are all the gamut of transactions that has to do with purchase, sales and dealings that has to do with lands. It doesn’t matter you are buying or selling and dealings or just giving it out, as long as land is involved it has been simply characterized as land transactions. It usually involves the entire process of verification of ownership, deed and all other preliminary investigations that have to do with land before actual purchase or sale.
Tell us about the different types of land transactions and what it takes for both seller and buyer to get a fair deal?
Presently in land issues, we deal with three different types of people, the family land acquisition, communal land transaction, individual land transaction and the third part is the public land transaction; that is if you like a particular land in Abuja, you apply through the minister of FCT, if approved, you do the survey, pay the necessary price put on it and then the certificate of occupancy is issued to you. But that is rarely the case because most people engage with either family or communal transactions or buy from people who have already gone through the normal processes with the government.
Let’s say one wants to buy a family land, how does one go about it in order to avoid crisis after purchase has been made?
You see, family land is very complex, because it is one of oldest and usually based on inheritance. In acquisition of family land, you must first of all get the consent of the head of the family together with his family members. So, the law is that, if you are transacting with the head, you must get the consent of the family members and if you are transacting with the family members, you must get the consent of the head. So, if for example, you are transacting with the head of Abdullahi`s family, you must ask him if he has the blessing of the rest of family members to represent them, he either says yes or no, also you must establish contact and approval from various members of the family let’s say randomly the last born. The second thing is to look at the history of the land. So, if you ask them how they came about the land and they say for example that their grandfather gave it to them you must ask for maybe a receipt of written documents that validates that. After that you visit the land proper in company of members of the family and next thing is to look for neighborhood owners- for example, if this land you are buying is at this spot. The next land should also have an owner who must be accounted for by the sellers because there is no way you could have owned a land for ten years and you can’t account for your neighboring land owners. So, if they say they do not know, you should be scared. You just dabble into it, you must make inquisitions thoroughly. So that you can avoid as much as possible the issue of what we know as ‘Omo Onile’ in this clime. In a nutshell consent of the head of family and members of the family matters greatly.
When buying a communal land on the other hand, you look first for the head of the community, and let him know you want to buy a land. They go ahead to show you the land and you ask them to show you the boundaries because most of these lands do not have strict demarcations. For starters, it is good to dig the boundaries and put a mark on it or put something significant there for identification purpose. Some of them are cleared bush but make sure there are no economic trees on the land, if there are economic trees, like cashew, palm trees those are trees that don’t grow soon enough so you ask questions of ownership of those trees, once that’s done you try and ascertain what they intend to do with the trees whether they are to be sold with the land or separately. How does one avoid the rampant cases of multiple sales of same land and properties to different individuals by land dealers?
For you to take actual possession of land, you must do something drastic relating to construction. It could be fencing -which is a very good way of taking possession or foundation, or dropping truckloads of sand on the land or even digging of borehole. Don’t rush the process at all; once you have agreed and there is a document to that effect then it is unlawful for a partner to renege. Not just that it is against the law, it is criminal breach of trust to have sold same land to multiple people maybe because one paid in full and the other in installments. However, there may be no liability if after having sold the land, he returned the money back to you, at that point that will just be breach of contract. It is when he refuses to give you the money that the issue of criminal clause will be completed.
You talked about government agencies also selling lands, how do we go about that too?
Now in Abuja where we have AGIS if you want to buy a land, one of the things you do is to first visit the online site, you already knew you are to apply and indicate where you want to buy. Then you visit the site and the surveyor uses their devices to map the land, and determine the size of the land with TGP after which you know the description. The description will then be searched in AGIS to know if there is no encumbrance; that is to say nobody has paid or has capacity to lay claim to such land as of that time. It must also serve its purpose, for example, they do not give a place that is mapped out for commercial purposes or shopping complexes out for residential buildings to be built on them. It is until all these are done that you can now pay all the necessary fees subject to the confirmation of the minister. If you follow these processes, you can be rest assured you have gotten a legal land.
At what stage is it advisable to involve a lawyer in land property matters?
I must point out here that it is at the very beginning of the process that it is advisable that you involve an expert lawyer. Most times, it is a good lawyer that will help you vet the process and ask the necessary questions. It is also important to have legal representation such that if any issue arises, he will be fully aware of the case and do the needful. I must add here that it is the same process that applies if the property in question is a developed land - that is it has been built.
How do we go about acquiring genuine C of O and other valid documents?
The C of O can only be assigned by a minister and the minister will not assign same to a property that does not have complete documents like deed of assignment, transfer of ownership if it applies and other necessary details on the land. As soon as you pay for the C of O, the document is made available after all preliminary vetting has been concluded. The payment for C of O and every other document does not in any way mean there is a case for multiple taxation. All these payments are duly accounted for by law.
Now in the cause of doing your search on a particular land or property, very important details can pop up. One of them can be that the land has not paid ground rent for a certain number of years. This ground rent is usually paid annually and it can be a ground for the revocation of such land. And government can also give an explicit instruction on time frame to get the property developed. Note that that could amount to just fencing.
Also, after the acquisition of the land, the building process is subject to the control of the development authority that assigns what or fine tunes the plan in relation to available space. Failure to abide by the decision of the development authority (Development Control Department) can mean that the building can be demolished by court order.
What are the issues in the sector at the moment?
What is your view on the allegation that lawyers especially in Abuja contributes to the high cost of properties?
As far as I am concerned that will be a wrong assertion because lawyers are not quantity surveyors and what they do is to provide legal representation for a person in lieu of a property. So the allegation that lawyers determine prices of properties if true should not be taken as a statement of fact but rather as mere speculation because it is not theirs to determine. But as far as discussing their roles can go, they can manage properties real good without any difficulty.
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