5 Modes of Acquiring Land Title or ownership in Nigeria

In an earlier article by Dolapo Ogunlade, she explained that ownership is the association that exists between a person and a thing that is capable of being  owned . Some things cannot be owned . I also explained the definition of ownership as seen in  the case of Abraham v Olorunfunmi where it was held that ownership is  a complete and total right over a property.That is the right  to use , dispose , alienate without the consent of a third party, where the  owner is called the alpha and omega of the property . Ownership refers to the absolute authority a person have over a property. Ownership grants  the owner the right to possession. Out of the concept of ownership stems out proprietary rights .

5 Modes of Acquiring Land Title or Ownership in Nigeria

An owner with legal title in land can transfer ownership to another owner. By acquiring land title or ownership of a land in Nigeria, it means that a person becomes the owner of the land in question with unlimited and unrestricted rights just like the landlord have right over his land, house and his tenants. To acquire and own any landed property in Nigeria, procedures must be obeyed and followed by both the seller and the buyer. Property lawyers can put a person through a seamless means of acquiring a land in Nigeria as they are experienced in that field. There are laws that govern the transfer of land in Nigeria. These laws include:

  1. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)
  2. The Land Use Act 1978
  3. Property and Conveyancing Law (PCL) 1959
  4. Illiterate Protection Act
  5. Registration of Titles Law 2004 of Lagos State
  6. Land Instrument Registration Laws of various States
  7. The Stamp Duties Act LFN 2004 and 
  8. Administration of Estate Laws of States amongst others.

Also, there are various documents that could affect the transfer of land in Nigeria. These documents include: 

  1. Purchase receipt
  2. Contract of sale of Land
  3. Survey plan
  4. Certificate of occupancy
  5. Deed of assignment
  6. Deed of mortgage
  7. Deed of gift
  8. Probate
  9. Letter of administration
  10. Assent
  11. Judgement of court. 


To acquire land in Nigeria, it is necessary that inquiry be made in regards to the land , The vendor must prove that he has good title to the land and the buyer must investigate the good title of the seller. Also, a contract of sale must be prepared as well as a deed of assignment. Thereafter, the perfection of title must be completed. This can be done through governor’s consent, stamping or registration.

In the past , the most common mode of acquiring land was  through land  settlement .That is the first individual, family or community to settled on a piece of land is recognized by law to be the owner with good title . The settler has absolute authority over the land . The individual, family or community proving ownership by settlement must prove that there was no other settler on the land before they settled . This mode of acquisition was seen in the case of Owonyin v Omotosho, where the court held that ownership or title must be given to the first settler where it cannot be proved that both parties settled together on the land or that a joint grant of ownership was in existence. 

Also, any individual who emerges victorious in inter- tribal wars is made the owner of the land owned by the tribe that lost the war . That is ownership of land is transferred immediately to the winner with good title. This mode of acquisition was evident under customary law . The conquered tribe lose their land and the conqueror is seen as the original owner of the land . However , in recent times , acquiring land by settlement and conquest is no longer in place .

Presently in Nigeria, a person can acquire the ownership or title of a land through the sale of land by a seller to a buyer for a price and complete transfer of interest occurs after the procedures mentioned above has been followed . Sale of land in Nigeria creates a system of commercial venture, income creation , wealth generation and means of livelihood because land is a property that appreciates over time . It includes the complete sale and transfer of title and interest in a land from the owner to the buyer.

A person can also acquire the interest in a land through inheritance. This type of transfer is concluded through wills or assents . It is a common type of acquisition of land . Here a probate or letter of administration can be used . A probate refers the the official court ordered process of proving the credibility of a will. The probate grants the beneficiary to take full ownership of the land as it gives the beneficiary complete access to the land as stated in the will . The letter of administration is the right given to an administrator to share the property of a deceased who died intestate .

In addition, land can be acquired as a form of gift . That is when interest in land is transferrred from one person to another without any consideration paid . It is given willingly without payment . Some communities in Nigeria still gift members of the community land to use as investment and help in the development of the community . It is not compulsory for a gift of land to be in writing but to prevent issues in the future , a deed of gift should be executed . It is the document executed by both parties which transfers the ownership of a land from the owner with legal title to another who is a beneficiary.

In conclusion , a person can acquire ownership of land through customary grants . Here the community head gives land to a member of community as a form of compensation for the things done in such community . This is still evident in some communities in Nigeria . 

A claim to ownership of land may be established in any of the five main ways laid down by the Supreme court in Idundun v. Okumagba as follows:

1. By traditional evidence in the form of traditional history.

2. By production of documents of title which must be duly authenticated in the sense that their due execution must be proved, unless they are produced from proper custody in the circumstances giving rise to the presumption in favour of the execution in the case of documents 20 years old or more at the date.

3. Acts of persons claiming the land such as selling, leasing or renting out all or part of the land, or farming on it or on portion of it, provided the acts extend over a sufficient length of time and are numerous and positive enough as to warrant the inference that the person is the true owner.

4) Acts of long possession and enjoyment of the land.

5) Proof of possession of connected or adjacent land, in circumstances rendering it probable that the owner of such connected or adjacent land would in addition, be the owner of the land in dispute.

A party seeking declaration of title will fail unless he adduces evidence to prove one of the five main sources of title above.

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