Real estate practice in Nigeria is governed by a number of laws both at the Federal and State Levels. Apart from the Land Use Act and the Capital Gains Tax Act that are federal enactment regulating real estate practice in Nigeria, almost other laws governing real estate practice in Nigeria are state laws— which differ from one state to the other. Lagos State, because of its commercial versatility, remains the leading state in term of commercial activities. Owing to this fact, Lagos State has a number of laws governing real estate practice, some of which have been adopted by some of the other states. For the purpose of this paper, the salient points in ten (10) of the most important laws in Lagos State governing real estate practice are below highlighted and explained.
1. Land Use Act 1978
a. This is about the most popular law governing real estate practice in Nigeria. It was first enacted by the Federal Government in 1978, but Lagos State has since domesticated it and enacted its own Land Use Act (Cap L60, Laws of Lagos State 2003).
b. The most significant thing about the law is that it vests all the land in each state in Nigeria in the Governor of the State to hold in trust. As a trustee to all the land, the Governor becomes the overlord while the original exclusive owners technically become tenants.
c. The Supreme Court in Nkwocha v. The Governor of Anambra (1984) 6 S.C. 362 has said that “the tenor of the Act as a single piece of legislation, is the nationalisation of land in the country by the vesting of its ownership in the State, leaving the private individual with an interest in land which is a mere right of occupancy…”
d. The law converted and reduced the fee simple (exclusive ownership of land) of the original exclusive owners to right of occupancy (often for a period of 99 years) which is often evidenced by the Certificate of Occupancy.
e. Since the commencement of the law, no land-owner can sell, lease, assign or transfer his/her land without first seeking and getting the consent of the Governor. Any land transaction in this regard without the consent of the Governor will be null and void.
2. Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law of Lagos 2010
a. This law provides for the administration of physical planning, urban development, urban regeneration and building control in Lagos state and for all connected purposes.
b. The law assigns the overall administration and responsibilities of planning and development in Lagos State in the hands of Lagos State Ministry of Urban and Regional Planning. These administration and responsibilities are to be carried out through three agencies in the Ministry: (i) Lagos State Planning Permit Authority (PPA); (ii) Lagos State Building Control Agency (BCA); and (iii) Lagos State Urban Renewal Agency (URA).
c. The PPA is responsible for giving permits for any form of physical development on land in Lagos State. Developers and builders are mandated to obtain permits first before commencing any construction on land in any Lagos State. The BCA is responsible for ensuring compliance with building control regulations. It has powers to remove illegal and non-conforming buildings. The URA monitors and identifies areas in Lagos State qualified for upgrading, and it advises the State on redevelopment or renewal programmes accordingly.
d. Failure to obtain requisite permit before development or failure to comply with approved standard may lead to issuance of (i) Contravention Notice; (ii) Stop Work Order; (iii) Quit Notice; (iv) Seal-up Notice; (v) Regularization Notice; and (vi) Demolition Notice
e. The law also have criminal sanctions which may be payment of fines of up to N500,000 or one month community services, or both.
3. Lagos State Property Protection Law 2016
a. This law is a statutory response to the menace of the omo-onile (land grabbers) in Lagos State. It majorly prohibits four conducts in relation to land in Lagos State: (i) forceful entry to landed properties; (ii) illegal occupation of landed properties; (iii) violent in relation to landed properties; and (iv) fraudulent conducts in relation to landed properties.
b. Some parts of the law have retrospective effects. For example, people that have forcefully obtained the land of other people had only three (3) months grace from the commencement of the law to vacate the land, otherwise they will be deemed to have committed an offence punishable by ten (10) years imprisonment.
c. Then law also punishes trespassers and encroachers who, having been asked to vacate the land, remain in possession. Selling land or landed properties without authority of the owner is also a punishment offence under the law. Acts (by the omo-onile or touts) such as demanding money from the owner or purchaser of the land before allowing them to carry out construction on the land are now punishable with imprisonment.
d. For real estate practitioners (such as lawyers and estate agents) who facilitate land transactions between parties, knowing that such transaction contravene the law or any other law(s), they will be criminally liable for aiding and abetting commission of offence…
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