TAKING CARE OF YOUR ASSET
TAKING CARE OF YOUR ASSET
One of the purposes of law in human society is the protection of property. Thus the law frowns at the taking of a person’s property without his consent. In Nigeria, stealing is an offence both legally and morally. The society would be lawless if the property of members of the society could be unjustly taken by any other person. This explains why stealing has been made a criminal act.
Definition of the Offence of Theft
Theft/stealing is literally understood as taking someone else’s property without the person’s permission. A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly takes the property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.
Land can be described as a free gift of nature. It provides a means to help man’s existence with huge mineral resources. Properties cannot exist without land and whatever is permanently invested on land becomes part of the land.
Investment in Land is a capital project hence the need to safeguard it. Victims of Land scam have suffered great financial losses.
How can we then protect ourselves and our properties from theft?
The perfect proof of ownership of land is the Title document. Investors must understand that the title document is the instrument that empowers, strengthens and legitimize a hold on a land investment.
Types of Title Document
Certificate of Occupancy (C of O):
The Nigerian Constitution and the Land Use Act vested power in the government of a state to grant a statutory right of occupancy to any person who wishes to purchase any land. The grant of a right of occupancy is evidenced in the certificate of occupancy issued.
The purpose of the Certificate of Occupancy is to make sure your property is fit for occupancy and its official lease tenure to the applicant is usually for 99 yrs.
It is very important that a Certificate of occupancy is authenticated through the roots of title before purchase is made because a mere certificate of occupancy will not confer legal ownership if it can be shown that the root of title is defective. A certificate of occupancy procured through fraud and misrepresentation will be set aside and considered to be of no legal effect whatsoever.
What is a Root of Title?
The Root of title is a document that shows that the vendor owns the property and has the valid right to sell the land if it is unencumbered.
Deed of Sublease
This is a document that is issued when the original owner of the root title or C of O has sold his rights or interest in the property, he divests his rights through a sublease or Deed of Assignment if he is handing over the entire root title.
Deed of Assignment
This is prepared when the vendor is assigning his entire interest to a new buyer. He hands over his root of title (i.e., C of O) to the buyer who will now apply for his consent papers with prepared deed at the governor’s office or Lands Registry. This is a very popular document in Nigerian real estate market.
The Land Use Act of 1978 puts all land in a State under the control of the Governor and Local Government Chairman respectively in trust for the people of the state.
Consequent upon this, section 22 of the Act then states that, “it shall not be lawful for the holder of a statutory Right of Occupancy granted by the Governor to alienate his Right of Occupancy or any part thereof by assignment, sublease etc without the prior consent of the Governor”
Simply put, even though a property has Certificate of Occupancy which makes the beneficiary the legal interest holder on the land for 99 years or the residue, if he decides to resell, mortgage or do anything with the property the Governor has to approve the transaction, otherwise, the title that will pass will not be perfected.
A simple formula to follow is this: The first person on a Virgin Land that has neither been occupied by another person nor under acquisition by the Government is entitled to get a Certificate of Occupancy on that land.
If that person with the C of O decides to sell his land to another person after so many years, that person must now obtain the Consent of the Governor before that transaction can be deemed legal in the eyes of the Government and so on.