Certificate of Occupancy: A quintessential home document

Housing is one of man’s basic needs. Its strategic importance is akin to the survival of man himself. Can you imagine a life in a torrential rain or in a tumultuous storm in the middle of the night without a place to hide one’s head? Your guess is as good as mine. Life will be short, brutal and meaningless. So, is the importance of shelter to mankind.  Therefore, decent and affordable Housing is always a focal point to a government that is truly of the people.

Today, we are taking a look at the Certificate of Occupancy generally called ‘C of O’ for short. This document is not a mere piece of paper. It is really not a document of convenience. It is as good or as important as the house or the land itself. This is the seal of authority to Home ownership. The possession of this document confers legitimate ownership of a landed property on the owner. To an economist; it is also a store of value. To many more people, it means so many different things. The truth of it all is; it is a quintessential document. In several forums where i have had the humble opportunities to speak on home ownership, I did not fail to drive it down the throats of my audience that possessing the certificate of occupancy is as key as owning that house itself. Resting in the oars after erecting the physical structure and heaving a sign of final relieve is akin to laboring through a four year course in the university and abandoning the final degree examination. No one graduates that way. It is therefore a good job to demonstrate the same level of determination to acquire a perfect title deed to your darling home as much as it was required to build or buy the house. It comes handy when the storm comes calling. Is it in establishing real ownership? Are you running after a bank facility? Are you filling in for compensation before an authority? Just mention it; the Certificate of Occupancy is primus inter paris to House ownership.

A Certificate of Occupancy conveniently called the ‘C of O’ is an all important document whose issuance Authority is vested on the State governor in the case of a state or The President in the case of the Federal Capital Territory through their relevant accredited agencies. This is issued to a land owner as evidence of ownership of land or the landed property as the case may be. This all important document contains the very terms and conditions for the grant of the land to which the certificate of occupancy is issued. In The case of the Federal Capital Territory, the President is acted for by the Minister in charge of the FCT.

The Certificate of Occupancy is issued after an individual has made an application for a grant of right of occupancy. The Certificate is issued as a grant of the Right provided the requirements for such a grant are met by the applicant; the Certificate of Occupancy is issued as Evidence of Title to such landed property. This of course is the only evidence under the Nigerian Laws that confers full legal interest over land in the country. In the past, this used to be necessary only in urban centers. This has however changed due to rapid urbanization and increases in awareness on the part of property owners.

In acquiring the Certificate of Occupancy, processes and documentation requirement may defer from state to state in the country. The requirements put in place by states to acquire the C of O by a state may be influenced by a lot of factors that range from economy to development, culture, political or the need to drive housing development in that state. As close as Ogun is to Lagos state, a close examination of their various processes shows some basic differences in the acquisition of the Certificate of Occupancy. While Lagos seems to have very distinct requirements covering various locations, Ogun appears to be more monotonous in their requirements. A closer evaluation, from interactions with house owners in Lagos and Ogun states seem to suggest that it is cheaper to process this document in Lagos than Ogun state. A Professor of Housing & Urban Development who seems to have vested interest in Real Estate in Ogun state made effort to justify such high cost of processing the C of O in Ogun state. He is on the opinion that it is far cheaper to acquire lands and get building approvals in Ogun state than Lagos state. To him, there are far greater costs associated with building in Lagos state. It therefore would not be a logical argument to say it is costlier in Ogun than Lagos state since the C of O cost is just an element of cost in the entire chain. Well, this edition is really not about cost but the importance of the document and the necessity to acquire it.

I will therefore be taking Ogun state, South-west Nigeria as a test case in this all important article. The process and documents required to obtain a certificate of occupancy in Ogun state are stated follows;

The requirements and Procedures for acquiring the Certificate of Occupancy I Ogun State, South-west Nigeria:

1. Completed application form with the fees paid

2. The Publication fee

3. The Development charge

4. The land Purchase receipt & Agreement duly stamped

5. Four copies of Sun prints of Survey Plan of the land

6. The Photocopies of Current Tax Clearance Certificate of Applicants in Ogun State

7. The Photocopies of Ogun State Education Levy (for Corporate bodies within the last four years)

8. The Photocopies of Development levy receipt for individuals within the last four years

9. Four passport photographs of the applicant

10. Photocopies of approved building plan (for developed lands)

11. Photocopy of the Certificate of Registration/Incorporation where the applicant is a corporate body.

12. Photocopies of receipts of all payment made by the applicant

13. Execution fee

14. Survey Inspection fee

15.The Charting fee

The Amosu administration has made very conscious improvement in the C of O processes and documentations in Ogun state, The Certificate of Occupancy for Ogun state now also comes in electronic format. This has made transmission and verification very easy and it is a great plus to the Senator Ibikunle Amosun led Administration. The electronic Certificate of Occupancy surely guarantees the safety and a good and confident assurance of ownership of properties when it is issued. This to a very great extent has in the last few years reduced land tussles in the state and increased investors’ confidence. The Electronic system has also reduced if not totally eliminated the era of document counterfeiting and grasp in the entire process.

It was also on record that Ogun state was one of the states with the highest number of houses without titles before the Amosun administration came in. the processes were fraught with huge irregularities, fraud and unimaginable inconsistencies. House owners lost faith in the processes. It was so bad that border towns like Akute, Lambe, part of Isheri North, Agbara landlords would rather prefere to process their C of Os in Lagos. Since the Amosu led administration came in, all these sharp practices have become a thing of the past. The system has been greatly sanitized and fully upgraded. The old analogue method has been done away with. Today, Ogun has one of the highest figures of houses with full title. This was further enhanced by the ‘Home Ownership Charter’ which came as a bonanza to home owners. The question is; would you still want to play the ostrich game by owning a house without title?

Akhigbe Dominic

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