All You Need to Know about Land Excision in Nigeria’s Real Estate Industry
Buying a piece of land requires more effort and time than the traditional buying and selling that occurs in retail markets. More so, this activity is often an investment of a lifetime. For this reason, it demands attention to detail and high-level of due diligence. For those who want to secure their real estate investment, understanding the various terms, and legal status that a land may come under is essential. One of the most common is land excision. For example, land excision in Lagos is a very important part of the real estate industry in the state. This is also true in states like Ogun state, although different terms are often used for the process in other states.
Therefore, before putting your money where your mouth is; or in this case, where the land is, here are the most important things you need to know about land excision in Lagos, and other states in Nigeria.
What is Land Excision?
By law in Nigeria, lands are under the control of State’s governors. However, historically before the introduction of Land Use Act of 1978, lands in Nigeria were mostly under the control of communities and traditional families. The Land Use Act, therefore, put lands directly under the authority of State Governors, who can also release portions of these lands back to historic land owners with proven records and history of ownership. Land excision is a mechanism through which State governments releases portions of lands to the indigenous holders or settlers through procedures and processes that are recognized by law. The process of land excision is a way of compensating the original land owners after government acquisition of land with the coming of the Land Use Act. So, when a land has been excised, it means that the grantees have full authority over the land and can do as they wish within the confine of local laws and regulations. The release of these lands to the original holders is captured in a legal government notice or publication that is officially known as a gazette. For this reason, it is much easier to process the Certificate of Occupancy (C-of-O) on a land with an excision that is recorded in a land excision gazette.
What are Land Excision Gazettes?
It is not uncommon to hear people use the words ‘excision’ and ‘gazette’ interchangeably. While they are only related with respect to land issues, the two words have different meanings. In simple term, a gazette is an official publication of government notices. While a land excision gazette is an official government publication of notices that focused mainly on excision of land to original land owners or communities. The inclusion of a notice of release of a parcel of land to a community or family in a gazette generally gives the representatives of the community enough authority to sell or use the land as they dim fit. This is later followed by granting of C-of-O to the respective communities or families.
The possession of a piece of land that has been excised comes with legal protection, including compensation if government decides to acquire the same land for public purposes. But compensation is unlikely if such land does not fall within the boundary of an excised land or if the individual claiming possession cannot provide adequate proof of legal ownership. A land excision gazette must contain a first page with a seal and name of the issuing authority, as well as the volume, number, location and date of the publication. The subsequent pages will contain description of the land, including the name, location, area or size, beacon or pillar numbers, geographical starting points, the bearings with distances, and a coordinate system that is connected to the location of the land.
How to Process Land Excision?
The Lagos State Government has an exemplary track record when it comes to excision of land. Therefore, land excision in Lagos and publication of gazettes in respect of these lands are quite common and it is not unusual for land sellers to indicate “land with excision” or “excision in process” while attempting to sell a piece of land. The procedures for processing of land excision in Lagos State are as follows:
1. Application for Excision: a land excision application will be forwarded to the Lagos State Land Use Allocation Committee (LUAC) with the official letter-head paper of the family head, community head or Baale. The application will contain such details as historical background of the community, population, major occupation of the community, perimeter survey, purpose of the area to be excised, and justification of the excision.
2. Processing by Technical Committee: within a period of 7 days after the application was received, it would be forwarded to the Technical Committee of LUAC for further processing
3. Charting Information: the perimeter survey of the area to be excised will then be handed over to the Surveyor-General, who will in turn look at the charting and discern whether or not the requested excision falls within government acquired-area, in which case the application will be revoked outright.
4. Site Inspection: on getting the Surveyor-General’s approval, the technical committee will proceed to carry out a physical examination of the site in question. The purpose is to determine the authenticity of claims made in the application and interview community members in order to gather additional information that will be crucial to approval or disapproval of the application. The duration for this part of the process is usually 14 days after Surveyor-General’s report is issued.
5. Conformity to Master Plan: after inspecting the site, the technical committee will make sure the intended use of the land conforms to the Master Plan for the respective area.
6. Submission of Report to the LUAC: after due processing, the technical committee generates a report and sends it to LUAC. This report contains all the files obtained on the land and their findings on-site inspection as well as their opinions on the granting or revocation of the application.
7. Consideration by the LUAC & Recommendation to the Governor: the LUAC review all the documents submitted by the technical committee and give a final opinion and recommendation to either approve or refuse the excision request to the State governor with appropriate reasons.
8. Preparation of Survey Description: in case the governor’s office approves the excision request, the office of the Surveyor General is immediately notified, so that a full perimeter survey of the proposed area is conducted within 30 days.
9. Preparation of Layout Plan: registered town planners of the community, families or individuals involved in the land excision application will be commissioned to draw a layout plan for the proposed piece of land, which is then submitted to the State’s Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development for approval.
10. Execution of Indemnity Agreement: the grantees of the land shall be required to enter into an agreement with the government, binding them to take the land in full and final settlement of all claims that have been on the land in the past. Likewise, the grantees will agree to indemnify the government against damages due to encroachment or vandalization of land caused by relatives, agents, and members of the community outside the area of excised land.
11. Publication in Lagos Sate Official Gazette: when all the conditions above have been fulfilled, the technical committee publishes the land excision in Lagos State Government official gazette.
12. Publication in Newspapers: the official gazette will also be published by the technical committee in at least, one widely-read newspaper. The purpose of the publication is to inform the general public of the status of the land, the boundaries of the excised land and provide other relevant details. The applicant is required to bear the cost of the newspaper publication
13. Issuance of Certificate of Occupancy: within 30 days of publication of the official gazette in newspapers, the government is required to issue a Certificate of Occupancy on the excised land to the authorised representatives of the grantees.
14. Forwarding of Final Documents: at the completion of every steps outlined above, all records of the excision and administrative files is forwarded to the State’s land bureau office. The excision, surveys, maps, titles and gazettes will then be officially entered into the records by the Registrar of Lands in the Excised Lands Agency.
In conclusion, it is obvious going by the procedures outlined above that the process for land excision in Lagos State, and most likely other states, is rigorous. It is important for land buyers to be aware that some piece of lands offered for sale to the public by some individuals are government owned land. And it is wise to ask an individual wanting to sell a piece of land if there is a land excision gazette that covers the piece of land. Likewise, it is also important for buyers to note that a land in the market with the tag "processing excision" is enough to indicate that the land in question is not free from government control, and such land should be avoided until the land excision process has been completed.