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Legal Pitfalls in Real Estate Transactions: Considerations for Investors in Nigeria

Posted by John Igbaifua on March 29, 2024

In Nigeria, several essential real estate documents serve as evidence of ownership and are crucial for establishing legal rights and interests in property transactions. These documents include:

  1. Certificate of Occupancy (C of O):
    • Issued by state governments, the Certificate of Occupancy is a primary legal document that confirms ownership and grants the holder the right to use, lease, or transfer land for specified purposes.
  2. Deed of Assignment:
    • A Deed of Assignment is a legal document used to transfer ownership of land or property from one party (the assignor) to another (the assignee). It serves as evidence of the transfer of title and outlines the terms and conditions of the transfer.
  3. Survey Plan:
    • A Survey Plan is a detailed graphical representation of a property’s boundaries, dimensions, and geographical features. It is prepared by a licensed surveyor and serves as crucial evidence of land demarcation and ownership.
  4. Governor’s Consent:
    • Governor’s Consent is required for the transfer of land ownership rights in certain states in Nigeria. It involves obtaining formal approval from the state governor or relevant authority for transactions involving land with a Certificate of Occupancy.
  5. Building Plan Approval:
    • Building Plan Approval is a document issued by the appropriate government agency, confirming that proposed construction or development plans comply with building regulations, zoning laws, and safety standards.
  6. Registered Power of Attorney:
    • A Power of Attorney is a legal document that grants authority to an individual or entity to act on behalf of another party in real estate transactions. When registered, it serves as evidence of authority to represent the property owner in legal matters.
  7. Receipt of Payment:
    • A Receipt of Payment serves as evidence of financial transactions related to the purchase or acquisition of property. It indicates the amount paid, date of payment, and parties involved, providing proof of ownership transfer or financial commitment.
  8. Certificate of Occupancy Root of Title:
    • The Certificate of Occupancy Root of Title is a document that traces the ownership history of a property back to the original grant by the government. It provides a comprehensive record of previous transactions and encumbrances affecting the property.
  9. Tax Clearance Certificate:
    • A Tax Clearance Certificate verifies that the property owner has fulfilled tax obligations to the relevant tax authorities. It may be required for certain property transactions and serves as evidence of compliance with tax laws.
  10. Receipts for Statutory Payments:
    • Receipts for statutory payments such as land use charges, development levies, or property taxes serve as evidence of compliance with regulatory requirements and financial obligations associated with property ownership.


Real estate transactions in Nigeria are subject to a myriad of legal complexities, regulations, and potential pitfalls that investors must navigate to ensure successful outcomes.

From land title disputes to regulatory compliance issues, understanding and mitigating legal risks is paramount for safeguarding investments and avoiding costly disputes.

Despite the above documents, there are common legal pitfalls in real estate transactions in Nigeria, and, we will provide practical insights and examples to help investors navigate these challenges effectively.


1. Land Title Issues:

Unclear Title Ownership:

  • Example: A developer purchases land for a commercial project, only to discover later that multiple parties claim ownership, leading to protracted legal battles and project delays.

Invalid Land Titles:

  • Example: An investor acquires land with a purported title document that is later found to be fake or fraudulently obtained, resulting in loss of investment and legal liabilities.

 Incomplete Documentation:

  • Example: Incomplete or missing land documents, such as survey plans, certificates of occupancy (C of O), or deeds of assignment, can jeopardize the validity of property transactions and expose investors to legal risks.

2. Regulatory Compliance:

Building Permits and Approvals:

  • Example: Failure to obtain necessary building permits or approvals from relevant authorities can result in demolition orders, fines, or legal injunctions against development projects.

Environmental Regulations:

  • Example: Ignoring environmental impact assessment (EIA) requirements or violating environmental regulations can lead to legal liabilities, fines, or project shutdowns due to environmental damage or pollution.

Zoning and Land Use Regulations:

  • Example: Developing a property in violation of zoning regulations or land use restrictions can result in legal disputes with local authorities or neighboring property owners and costly remediation measures.

3. Contractual Agreements:

Ambiguous Contract Terms:

  • Example: Ambiguous or poorly drafted contract terms can lead to misunderstandings, disputes, and litigation between parties over issues such as payment terms, project timelines, or property specifications.

Breach of Contract:

  • Example: One party failing to fulfill contractual obligations, such as delivering clear title or completing construction work as agreed, can result in breach of contract claims and legal remedies sought by the aggrieved party.

Non-Compliance with Sale Agreements:

  • Example: Failure to adhere to sale agreements, such as delayed payment or refusal to vacate a property after sale completion, can lead to legal actions for specific performance, damages, or rescission of the contract.

4. Due Diligence and Documentation:

Inadequate Due Diligence:

  • Example: Inadequate due diligence, such as failure to verify property ownership, assess encumbrances, or investigate legal issues, can result in unexpected liabilities or disputes post-transaction.

Poor Documentation Practices:

  • Example: Poor record-keeping, incomplete documentation, or reliance on oral agreements can undermine the validity of real estate transactions and hinder legal recourse in case of disputes.

The Bottom Line:

Navigating legal pitfalls in real estate transactions in Nigeria requires meticulous attention to detail, thorough due diligence, and proactive risk management strategies.

By identifying common legal risks, ensuring regulatory compliance, drafting clear and enforceable contracts, and conducting comprehensive due diligence, investors can mitigate legal liabilities and safeguard their investments.

Consulting legal experts, engaging experienced real estate professionals, and staying informed about evolving legal and regulatory frameworks are essential for navigating the complex legalities of real estate transactions in Nigeria.

Proactively addressing legal issues and mitigating risks, investors can enhance the likelihood of successful real estate transactions and protect their interests in Nigeria’s dynamic real estate market. Now selling; is the Casa Milano Apartments with all the documents and other legal issues attended to by Plusworld realtors lawyers. You’ve nothing to fear or loose. Get in touch now.

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