Registering Properties In Nigeria: A Case For Streamlining The Process

The ease with which title to real properties is perfected enhances the property rights enjoyed by private persons as well as corporates in any country. Land acquisition and security of title and interest in land (as guaranteed by perfection of title), is fundamental to the harnessing of investments, expansion of businesses and the growth of economies.

In recognition of the importance of security of interest and title to land to foreign direct investments, the World Bank, last year, included “registering property” as one of the new indices used in its annual Doing Business report. Hitherto, these indices were limited to: (i) starting a business; (ii) dealing with construction permits; (iii) getting credit; (iv) protecting minority investors; (v) paying taxes; (vi) getting electricity; (vii) trading across borders; (viii) enforcing contracts; and (ix) resolving insolvency.

In the 2016 Doing Business Report, published by the World Bank and tagged “Measuring Regulatory Quality and Efficiency”; Nigeria is ranked 185th out of 189 countries rated globally with respect to the “Ease of Registering Properties”. Although Nigeria ranks 169th in the overall Ease of Doing Business Index, it is clearly a disincentive, to prospective investors interested in land acquisition deals (and/or investors who are willing to provide debt capital) when faced with the seemingly daunting regulatory issues as well as the high cost of registration connected with registering title to property or creating security over landed property; more so in the light of the World Bank ranking.

To help with a better appreciation of the legal and regulatory maze bemoaning land matters in Nigeria, this article will expatiate on the process of perfecting title to land in Nigeria, especially as it obtains in Lagos State, with some mention of other States and the Federal Capital Territory. This article will also analyze the challenges encountered in registering properties and creating security over land.

CRUCIAL FOR CAPITAL FORMATION

“In our basic economics, land is a very important asset to capital formation… you can’t start a bank, you can’t start a business, you can’t farm; you can’t even extract crude oil without identifying a particular piece of land or oil well (embedded in land). So it’s the basics of capital formation, it’s the basics of prosperity; it’s the basics of economic well-being and the basics for job,” said Babatunde Fashola, the erstwhile governor of Lagos State, at the signing into law in January 2015 of a Bill to consolidate all land-related laws in the State.

As a valuable investment vehicle and collateral for obtaining credit, property is a catalyst for growth. However, property-backed investments and transactions (such as leases, mortgages, and assignments) can only be properly and securely concluded, where the relevant property transaction is appropriately registered in a depository, usually called the “lands registry”, for ease of verification. Indeed, countries where property registrations are governed by investment-friendly and seamless legal and regulatory frameworks enjoy favourable perception from investors globally.


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