Land registration systems provide the mode of identifying formalized rights of a property and of controlling the character and transfer of those rights.


6/16/20228 min read


Quality, not quantity

We have made quality our habit. It’s not something that we just strive for – we live by this principle every day.


Property Sale can be formal through Auctions; but to a large extent it is informal through the introduction by agents and deals between principals. Since most of these transactions are informal, it is the intangible rights that are traded. There ought to be a system where those rights can be protected by a purchaser or other party obtaining an interest. For example, a mortgagee (lender) or leaseholder. Such proof may show the exact boundaries of the land, the time frame of the rights that exist over the property, the proprietary interest; the proprietor etc. This system of recording the interests of property is referred to as Land registration.

There are different types of land registration that exist in different countries of the world. The hallmark of these systems is that the register is available for public inspections. Land registration systems provide the mode of identifying formalized rights of a property and of controlling the character and transfer of those rights. Registries save some interests in land, like information about the nature and spatial extent of these interests and the names of the individuals to whom these interest concern. They also normally record charges and liens, that is rights to retain property against debts as in mortgage, although in some countries these are held in separate registries. Also, some land registries provide documentary evidence that is necessary for resolving property disputes. There are three main types of land registration systems. These are:

  • Private Conveyancing ·

  • Registration of Deeds

  • Registration of Title


In a private conveyancing system, land transactions are carried out by private arrangement. Interests in land are transferred through the signing, sealing and delivery of documents between private individuals without any direct public notice, record, or supervision. The vital documents are in the possession of either the individual to the transaction or an intermediary such as a notary. In such systems, the state has minimal control over the registration process except for controlling the intermediaries, and there is little or no security for errors of fraud. This system is known to be slow and costly.


In a system of registration of deeds, a public repository is made available for the registration of documents concerned with property transactions like deeds, mortgages, plans of survey etc. There are three basic elements needed in deed registration. The logging of the time of entry of a property document and the indexing or referencing the instrument. Moreover, the archiving i.e.storing of the document or a copy thereof.There are many versions of deed registration system; however, they are all based on three essential principles which are:

  • Security

Registration of a document in a public office provides some form of protection against loss, destruction, or fraud.

  • Evidence

Registered documents can be used as evidence to support a claim to a property interest.

  • Notice and priority

Registration of a document gives public notice that a property transaction has taken place and, with exceptions, the time of registration provides a priority claim. Deeds Registration shows a way for registration of title documents only; it does not register property title. Registration is often not compulsory and, as a general rule, many rights are not registered. Reviewing and assessing all the documents needed to ascertain the validity of an ownership claim can often be extremely tiring and costly to carry out and sometimes open to conflicts.. The commonly used system of land registration in Nigeria today is Land Instrument Registration. Every State of the Federation has its own Land Instruments Registration Law.


In this type of system, the register shows the current property ownership and the outstanding charges and liens. Here, registration is usually mandatory, and the state plays a crucial role in studying and warranting transactions. In most cases where it is used,, the entry in the register the proof of ownership. In fact, in most cases, title, once issued, is unchangeable. If someone with a better claim to the land shows his claim he does not recover ‘his’ property but rather has a remedy against the state in indemnity.

There are different types of title registration system; the best known is that introduced by Sir Robert Torrens in Australia in the later half of the nineteenth century. The Torrens registration system is based on three principles:

1) The mirror principle the register shows the current state of title; hence it is necessary to look somewhere else for proof of title.

2) The curtain principle the register is the main source of title information. As a result, all former transactions are blocked. There is no need to go beyond the current record to review historical document.

3) The insurance principle the state handles the veracity of the register and for providing compensation in the case of errors or omissions, thus providing financial security for the owners.Title registration systems represented a significant improvement over the rudimentary deeds registration systems. However, these title registration systems have been criticized for being often too expensive and cumbersome to implement and also for the length of time required for state examination and approval of the title and survey evidence. Some overriding interests that are not specifically registered gradually diminishes the significance of the mirror principle. The details on the title certificate do not reflect all the rights as they exist on ground (Dale and McLaughlin, 1999). The title registration system is unfortunately not popular in Nigeria. It was operated only in some parts of the old colony of Lagos. These include the present day Lagos Island, Victoria Island, Apapa, Ikoyi, Yaba, Surulere and part of Mushin (Imhanobe,2007). Despite this, registration of titles is still valid under our Laws.


As aforementioned, Land instruments registration is the most commonly used land registration system in Nigeria. The Land Registration Act No 36 of 1924 as amended is the major law controlling land registration in Nigeria, and it has been adopted in most states under different laws.

The Land instruments Registration Laws of the different states of the federation have been sanctioned by S. 48 of the Land Use Act of 1978 to the extent of their conformity with the Act. Also, S. 315(5)(d) of the 1999 Constitution posits for the sanctity of the Land Use Act.

The Constitution, thus, gave the Land Use Act a strong footing.These laws provides for the establishment of a land registry in the respective states under a land registrar given the responsibilities of registering instruments affecting land in the state and to keep registered books and files in relation thereto.The Land Registration Act (1924) defines a registrable instrument as a document affecting land where one party called the grantor confers, transfers, limits,charges or extinguishes in favour of another party called the grantee any right, titleor interest in land. These include a certificate of purchase, deed of assignment,power of attorney as it relates to interest in land, deed of mortgage, instrument creating equitable mortgage is registrable as an estate contract, and so forth but does not include a will.


S. 2(3)(a) of the Land Use Act, 1978 provides for not less than two persons having qualifications approved for appointment to the public service as Estate Surveyors or Land Officers and who have had such experience for not less than five years; as members of the Land Use and Allocation Committee.

The final stage in the chain of events that began with the contract shows that the purchaser has accepted the title offered by the vendor. After this, the conveyance is completed. The main features of the completion stage are:- the payment of any balance of purchase money;- the execution of the conveyance;- delivery of title document; and- the purchaser acquire legal title.


After completion, the vendor is discharged. However, the purchaser will still have some things to do to ensure compliance with relevant statutes and protect the validity of his acquired title. This is the post completion stage or perfection of title in legal terminology. It includes Stamping, Governor’s Consent and Registration.


S. 22 of the Stamp Duty Act posits that a conveyance must be stamped. Within thirty days of first execution. In practice, documents are submitted to the Stamp Duty Commissioner of the State where the land is situated for assessment and payment. S. 23(1)(3) of the Stamp Duty Act posits for punishment where document is stamped outside thirty days. There are two consequences of failure to stamp a document. The document will not be accepted for registration and It cannot be tendered in evidence to prove title. Governor’s Consent: S. 22 of the Land Use Act makes it compulsory for the holder of right of occupancy to get the consent of the Governor before alienating his interest inland. Otherwise, the transaction is void. The Supreme Court followed this line of thought in Savannah Bank (Nig) Ltd v Ajilo (1989) INWLR 305. However, in Awojugbagbe Light Industries v Chinukwe (1995) 4 NWLR 379 the Supreme Court reversed itself. The position of the law now is that the transaction is not void.


S. 2 of the Land Instrument Registration Law (Lagos) is similar to that of other states and the federation. It defines an instrument as a document affecting land in Nigeria by which one party confers, transfers, limits, charges, or extinguishers in benefit of another party any right or title to, or interest in land. It includes a certificate of purchaser and a power of attorney under which any instrument for registration. The purpose of registering instruments is to prevent fraud and problems arising from the suppression or omission of instruments when title is deduced.

However, S. 25 of the Land Instrument Registration Law (Lagos) provides that registration will not cure defects in tittle.

In practice, the application for consent and registration will usually go together, the applicant shall deliver copies of the instrument duly stamped to Registrar of Deeds for registration. The consequences of non-registration of an instrument are: Under S. 15 of the Land Instrument Registration Law, the instrument cannot be admitted in evidence or pleaded in court to prove title.

Nevertheless, an unregistered instrument is admissible to show the exercise of an act of ownership. Under S. 16 of the Land Instrument Registration Law, instruments take priority in accordance to the date of registration.

“A purchaser of land who has paid and taken possession by virtue of a registerable instrument that has not been registered has thereby acquired an equitable interest that is as good as a legal estate. In other words, the possession of a receipt by a party for payment for the sale of land and the possession of the land by the party raises equitable interest. This may be converted into a legal estate by specific performance. The equitable interest can only be defeated by a purchaser of the land for value without notice of the prior equity”.

The procedure for perfecting instruments in Nigeria is usually very cumbersome because of the delays in obtaining the Governor’s Consent and the associated bureaucracy. This has caused untold hardship to purchasers, their solicitors, and agents. A way around this which is very common is practice is that a Power of Attorney is prepared and executed alongside with the Deed of Assignment or other transfer instruments. This kind of Power of Attorney does not require the Governor ’s Consent for registration. When registered, it serves as notice to the whole world of the existence of the purchaser’s interest pending Governor’s Consent and registration of the transfer instrument.

In Conclusion,There are different types of Land registration in Nigeria as aforementioned. However, the bottom line is that it is very crucial for one’s land to be registered.

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 chamanlawfirm@gmail.com


EMAIL: chamanlawfirm@gmail.com

TEL: 08065553671, 08024230080