Registration of Instruments

The Land Registration Act No. 36 of 1924 is the governing law for registering instruments in Nigeria. This Act serves as the foundation legislation for the entire country, with some states adopting and re-enacting it under various names. The Act mandates the registration of all instruments executed after its commencement. To streamline the registration process, each state must establish a land registry overseen by a land register. This register is responsible for handling instruments that impact land within the state and maintaining registered books and files related to such instruments.

Registrable Instruments

A registrable instrument, as defined by the Land Act of 1924, is a document that impacts land by transferring, limiting, charging, or extinguishing rights or titles from one party (grantor) to another party (grantee). This includes certificates of purchase, and powers of attorney, but excludes wills.

Under the land instrument registration law of former Western Nigeria, registrable instruments also encompass estate contracts, deeds of appointment, or discharge trustee documents that contain vesting declarations affecting land. Essentially, a registrable instrument is a document that transfers or establishes rights, titles, or interests in land for the grantee, excluding wills. For example, a purchase receipt is not registrable if it only acknowledges payment without transferring any land interest.

However, in states like Oyo, Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Edo, Ekiti, and Delta in Nigeria, a receipt of mortgage money may be considered registrable if it surrenders or conveys mortgage terms. A partition document that transfers separate interests is registrable, but if it doesn’t affect any legal rights, it is not registrable. In former Western Nigeria, contracts made by individuals with land interests are registrable from the contract date. Additionally, instruments creating equitable mortgages are registrable as estate contracts.

Written lease agreements are generally registrable instruments, except in Lagos State where agreements to sell or lease are exempt from registration. Outside former Western Nigeria, sale agreements are typically not registrable instruments, but mortgage agreements are.

In Lagos State, a written agreement for a lease is exempt from registration, as stated in the relevant regulation. However, in other parts of Nigeria, a sale agreement is generally not required to be registered. On the other hand, an agreement to mortgage land must be registered under the various registration laws in Nigeria.

A power of Attorney is only registrable if it specifically pertains to an interest in land. If Mr. Ifionu is granted a power of Attorney solely to collect rents on land, without any involvement in selling or leasing the land in question, the document does not need to be registered.

For registration purposes, a registrable instrument must be accompanied by a plan of the land in question. However, in the case of a Power of Attorney, such a plan is not necessary.

Effect of Non-Registration of Land Titles

A registrable document that affects land, other than a grant of state land, becomes void if it is not registered within six months. However, suppose the document pertains to land that is the subject of a grant by a native or non-native. In that case, it will only be considered void if it is not registered within six months from the date of exclusion, following the consent of the Governor.

If the instrument is executed outside of Nigeria, non-registration within twelve months renders it void from the date of execution. In all other cases, failure to register the instrument will result in its invalidity.

If a purchaser or lessee of land has the property due to a registered instrument and has paid the purchase price or rent to the vendor or lessor, they hold an equitable interest in the land that is equivalent to a legal estate. This equitable interest can only be defeated by a subsequent purchaser who acquires the land for value without notice of the prior equity.

An unregistered registrable instrument can be admitted as evidence to prove the existence of this equitable interest and the payment made, although it may also serve as an acknowledgement of payment.

In situations where multiple instruments have been executed by the same grantor concerning the same land, the priority is determined by the date of registration when there are competing claims.

However, the registration of an instrument does not rectify any defects in the grantee’s title, regardless of the requirement for registration under the law. Therefore, if the grantee did not possess a valid legal title before registering their title, it cannot be validated solely through registration.

Difference between Registered and Unregistered Lands

1. The process of investigating registered land is significantly easier and faster compared to unregistered land titles.

2. The principle of notice does not apply to registered land. When someone purchases registered land, they are bound by any existing estates, rights, and interests that are protected by entries on the register, but nothing else.

3. When an individual is registered as the owner of an estate in registered land, the Land Registry provides a guarantee for that title. If a mistake needs to be rectified in the registered information, any person who suffers a loss as a result is entitled to receive an indemnity payment from the registry.

Do you need an expert to help with the registration of your landed property? You can contact me today for guidance or assistance cheers!

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