Proof of land ownership refers to the way one claims the property to land. It is the degree of protection and control someone has over a piece of land.


6/15/20225 min read


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Proof of land ownership refers to the way one claims the property to land. It is the degree of protection and control someone has over a piece of land. This is just a means of identifying each person’s land and an indication by the State that the said person has ownership of the land.

Land disputes are predominant in Nigeria. Most communal clashes are as a result of land disputes. Besides Internet fraud, land transaction may be a common tool within the hands of fraudsters.

The ability to prove ownership of land is a very important skill in Nigeria. Ahead of a land dispute, the skill will aid land owners, sellers, purchasers and beneficiaries of land gifts to get important land documents and remain alert for land disputes at all times. This makes the work of prosecution and defense lawyers easy.

The words of the Court of Appeal on this issue are thus:

”It is now well accepted that in a claim for declaration of title, a Plaintiff as well as a Defendant/counter claiming declaration of title to land has open to him five way by which to prove his title to the land in dispute. These five ways, which have crystallized over the years in a long line of decided cases as are replete in our law reports are each if proved by credible and cogent evidence sufficient to ground title in the party who so claims. These five methods are namely: (a) Evidence of traditional history of title (b) By production of title documents (c) By acts of ownership
(d) By acts of possession long enough to warrant the person in possession as the owner. € By acts of possession of a adjoining or adjacent land in such a way as would make it probable that the owner of the adjoining or adjacent land is also the owner of the land in dispute”.

  • A claim to ownership of land in Nigeria could be established in any of the five main ways laid down by the Supreme Court within the celebrated case of IDUNDUN & ORS V. OKUMAGBA & ORS as follows:

  • By traditional evidence in the form of traditional history.

  • By production of documents of title

  • By proving act of ownership and possession over a sufficient length of time and are numerous and positive enough as to warrant the inference that the person is the true owner.

  • By proving acts of long possession and enjoyment of land; and

  • By proof of possession of connected and adjacent land, in circumstances which make it probable that the owner of such adjacent or connected land is probably the owner of the land in dispute.

There are other authorities in support of this age-long principle of proof of title to or ownership of land and a person is required to establish only one of them to succeed. See the case of MOGAJI VS. CADBURY NIG LTD (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt.7) 393; ALLI VS.ALESINLOYE (2000) 6 NWLR (Pt.600) 177.

The law is equally well settled that, in a situation of conflicting claims, where each of the opposing parties can establish proof of ownership by any of the appropriate modes of proof of title to or ownership of the same piece or parcel of land, then the party that shows better title will be entitled to the judgment of the Court. See the case of IDOWU AND ORS VS. THE REGISTERED TRUSTEES OF ONA IWA MIMO CHERUBIM AND SERAPHIM CHURCH OF NIGERIA (2012) LPELR 7863 (CA), where it had been stated:

“When the issue as to which of two claimants has better right to a piece of land in dispute, the law will ascribe such possession and/or occupation to the person who proves a better title.” See FASORO VS. BEYEKU (1988) 2 NWLR (Pt.76) 263; ONYENEYIN VS.AKINKUGBE (2010) 4 NWLR (Pt. 1184) 265; AROMIRE V5.AWOYEMI (1972) 7 ALL NLR at 10.

It is no news that the worth of Naira continues to depreciate and so many people have come to the conclusion that the oldest variety of investment of owning land is taken into account as the surest guard against inflation.

There’s an old wisdom that still remains valid. Many people are familiar with it, Land appreciates, and it does not depreciate and in sincerity it’s the reality.

When you invest in a property after a while it appreciates which provides room for investors to get more than what they actually purchase that land at the initial deposit. Now many people have bought into this reasoning.

It is also important to grasp that with the challenge where some land grabbers commonly known or called Omonile which implies ‘Son of the land’ in the southwest sells one land to several people, it is important to know what kind of documents that can help in such case, ln some cases, two persons may be laying claims to the same land which may lead to legal quagmire.

To avoid all these headaches and problems, there are four main documents that validate land ownership and they are:

Deed of Assignment or Conveyance

This legal document shows the parties to the agreement; it traces the history of how the land has the changing hand to the current owner of the land. It is also vital that it must have the names of the members of the family who sold the land and it must be duly signed and stamped by the individuals concerned. ·

A Valid Survey Plan

This is considered to a valuable document that you just must demand from the family selling the land to you. It is advisable that this should be one of the documents to ask for during land investment. Having the survey plan, you can go for the geographical search to confirm if the piece of land has not been designated for government in the future. Some people have burned their fingers over failure to carry out a detailed research on land before investing.

Survey plan shows all the beacon number, plan number the name of the qualified surveyor, finally, lack of production of title documents can lead to loss of one’s property. Always get legal and professional advice about your property from a reputable real estate investment company before committing putting your money. ·

Mode of payment

This document is very vital and important during the process of land purchase or investment. Many land grabbers (Omonile) insists on cash deposits on land. Few have paid cash in ignorance. One problem of cash payment for land is that it is untraceable in time of problem or keeping records. This is understood to be done immediately after deposit, the money is distributed between members of the family and if there’s a problem with ownership, this method of payment would not hold water.

The most advisable mode of payment should be in a bank draft or cheque and there must be a lawyer involved in the transaction. The role of the lawyer is to serve as a witness in a time of the dispute.

A family Receipt

This document is also an essential factor in most lands in the country apart from government acquisition which is owned by a specific family who first settles on the land. It is also crucial that you deal with right family or authorized representative. After payment, a family receipt from the head which must be witnessed by the family secretary and keyed family member. It’s crucial that the receipt must bear the family name that is selling the property and that is why it’s advisable to purchase a property from a real estate company so you do not go through all this rigorous stress.

In Conclusion

Since it has been established that land fraud is very rampant in Nigeria, it is therefore very essential for people to be aware of all it entails to prove the ownership of Land in Nigeria.

NB: This article is not a legal advice, and under no circumstance should you take it as such. All information provided are for general purpose only. For information, please contact



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