Regular Hassles of Land Regularisation

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One of the major bottlenecks in perfecting property title is land regularization and most people fall prey to this additional cost in their property acquisition bid. Some people have bought a piece of land at the cost of, say N5.5 million and end-up incurring additional cost, close to N2.1 million, to regularize the status of such land. In fact, not many prospective property owners have heard about regularization prior to the time of seeking approved building plan or Certificate of Occupancy, C of O. This is simply because they never ask for information at the Surveyor General’s office about the land they intend to buy before committing money.

If you are buying land in areas that have not been earmarked for residential development   or has no Certificate of Occupancy, Government Gazette, Government Allocation, Governors Consent or Registered Conveyance, then be prepared to spend additional money on regularization, which this piece, with materials from Lagos Lands Registry, is out to address.

The genesis of regularization was in 1980, during the first civilian administration in Lagos State, when an inventory of illegal developments within Government acquired lands, was undertaken and about five thousand buildings were identified. This huge figure informed the Land Policy Administration which approved that all such illegal developments which were not blocking roads, drainage and not within committed areas should be granted building plan approvals after the payment of a penalty fee.

In 1985, the need to accommodate the squatters increased as the acquired land became easily accessible to the low-income group for shelter. This brought about a review of the land policy on developments within Government acquisition. The review gave birth to the process of ratification of land holdings within uncommitted Government Acquisitions.

In essence, Ratification, now referred to as Regularisation, is a policy of grace that avails squatters on uncommitted government land, the opportunity 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.

Before any property could be approved for Regularisation it has to fulfill two basic conditions; first, it must not be situated in a Government Scheme, Estate or Committed Area; and must be situated within an area that conforms to urban and regional Planning regulations and standards of the State. Several applications for regularization have been rejected based on these important factors, which invariably means that no development could be embarked upon, because government bulldozers would overrun them in the future.

To ensure speedy process of the document, the Directorate of Land Regularisation was set up in May 2006 to operate as ‘One-Stop-Shop’ for the regularisation of land title and further charged with the responsibility of processing applications for the regularisation of title to land by the grant of a Certificate of Occupancy in circumstances where government land has been encroached upon or as regards land falling within government acquisition. The department is also charged with processing applications for the grant of building plan approvals in circumstances where structures have been erected on land that fall within government acquisition.

In applying for regularization, a covering letter must accompany the application form. This covering letter must contain the following contact details: address, telephone numbers, mobile phone numbers and where possible an e-mail address of the applicant, not necessarily the owner. In addition, a duly completed application form obtainable from the Lands Bureau, must be dated and signed by the applicant and sworn to before a magistrate or notary public. Other required documents are: four passport sized photographs of the owner; Land Information Certificate; Photocopy of Purchase Receipt duly stamped; Current Special Development Levy; Evidence of payment of Income Tax; Sketch Map of Site Location; Three Original Survey Plans; Photocopy of Proof of Identity and  Letter of Authority, if the application is filed by a person other than the applicant.

Similarly, where building plan approval is required, the additional requirements are as follows:

5 Sets of Architectural Drawings; 5 Sets of Structural Drawings; Clearance Letter in lieu of Title Documents; Sun-print Copy Of Survey Plan; COREN Letter of Supervision; Calculation Sheet; Sworn Affidavit in Lieu of Tenement Rate; EIA report if land title to be granted is commercial;

payment of processing fee for building plan approval and photograph of property (if developed).

Acceptance of applications for Regularisation is at the request of the applicant and does not, in any way, indicate that the application will be approved for Regularisation and it must be noted that only applications that meet specific criteria will be considered for Regularisation.

Some of the basic requirements include, but are not limited to, the followings: the appropriate set-back must be observed; the appropriate distances from drainage systems, canals, oil and gas pipelines; PHCN transformers; high tension wires; electricity and telephone poles; and water pipelines as laid down by Physical Planning and Town Planning laws must be observed. In addition, the beacons on the survey plan must conform with what is on the subject site; the subject site must not fall on road alignment, forest reserve; a committed government area but must fall within the permitted Regularisation areas.

Land regularization is a somewhat complex exercise for a lay person to handle. Even though stakeholders are promised transparency and prompt response to applications, it is not always the case, as the promise of obtaining title within 30 days after payment of land charges remains a mirage. Apart from the technical details required to complete the application form, there are several other questions that most applicants cannot not answer appropriately, and often result in stalled or rejected applications with its attendant additional expenses. Therefore, if you are not prepared for the rigours involved, you can contact your lawyer or any other experienced individual to handle this for you.

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