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Registering Properties In Nigeria: A Case For Streamlining The Process

A right of occupancy is granted for a fixed term of years. The convention is to grant a right of occupancy for a maximum term of ninety nine (99) years where the application is for residential uses. Terms ranging from thirty-five (35) to seventy (70) years are typically granted where the land is sought for other (commercial) uses.

The question of whether there would be a renewal after expiration of the term, and on what terms such a renewal would be granted, is one on which there is as yet no definite answer. Academic opinions on this issue are polarised.

The grant of a right of occupancy is subject to certain conditions, which are spelled out in the certificate of occupancy and the holding of this right is not absolute. Indeed, Section 28(1) of the Act empowers the Governor of a State to revoke any right of occupancy granted to any person. Specifically, in the case of statutory rights of occupancy, a breach of the express or implied terms and conditions of the C of O is also a valid ground for revoking the right of occupancy.

Without prejudice to the terms and conditions specified in the C of O, the primary ground on which a right of occupancy can be validly revoked is to satisfy an overriding public interest. “Overriding public interest” with regards to a statutory right of occupancy, is defined to include “unlawful alienation, requirement of the land by the Local, State or Federal Government for public purposes, and the requirement of the land for mining purpose or oil pipelines or any purpose connected therewith. The same applies to customary rights of occupancy, save for the addition of the requirement of the land for extraction of building materials”. Section 51 of the Act further defines “public purposes” to mean, among other things, purposes:

(i) for exclusive Government use or for general public use;

(ii) for obtaining control over land contiguous to any part or over land the value of which will be enhanced by the construction of any railway, road or other public work or convenience about to be undertaken or provided by the Government;

(iii) for obtaining control over land required for or in connection with planned urban or rural development or settlement; and

(iv) for obtaining control over land required for or in connection with economic, industrial or agricultural development.

From the foregoing, any purported revocation by the Governor for public interest or purpose must fall within the ambit of the above definitions.