Parley on Lagos Land registration law
Legal experts query high fees, condemn federal lands registry in Lagos
It was a two-day gathering of property law experts. And the purpose was to examine the underpinning philosophy of the Lagos State Lands Registration Law 2015 (LSLRL), the legal framework, practice and dialectics of the registration process.
The property eggheads did just that and appealed to Lagos State Government to reduce the cost of registering land and other property documentation so that more people can easily obtain their titles.
Among the experts were former Federal Commissioner of Works, Alhaji Femi Okunnu (SAN); former Lagos Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Muiz Banire (SAN); Dr Abiola Sanni of the Department of Commercial and Industrial Law, University of Lagos (UNILAG); former Lagos state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Olasupo Shasore (SAN); a former Dean, Faculty of Law, UNILAG Prof. Imran Smith (SAN); the dean of the faculty of law, University of Lagos, Prof. Akin Ibidapo-Obe as well as the acting head of department, Private and Property law of the University of Lagos, Dr. Babatunde Oni among others.
According to them, the high fees charged by the state discourage people from registering their property, with the government losing more money than it makes.
The workshop was organised by the Department of Private and Property Law, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos (UNILAG).
Okunnu who was the chairman of the occasion in his opening speech, said fees charged at the Land Registry should be minimal so that people can afford to register their properties.
“The excessive fees charged by Lagos State Government deters people from registering their properties,” he said.
According to him, compulsory land registration will help meaningful and orderly physical planning and urban development of Lagos State.
The elder statesman declared that the establishment of a Federal Lands Registry was one of the illegalities or unconstitutional acts committed by the Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency.
He noted that the bill reportedly planned to be introduced in the National Assembly as the National Grazing Route and Reserve Act under a statutory authority to acquire lands for the purpose of grazing and ranching will test the limits of the constitution. “It will be illegal. Cows and goats are not human beings to claim the right of movement in Nigeria. It is, I suggest, the duty of the state governments on the states where the owners of these animals reside to provide adequate grazing and ranching grounds on lands for their trade, and transport them – not by foot – to the point of sale”, he declared.
Banire, who chaired the first working session, said if the cost is reduced, more people will register their titles and the government will earn more money.
“The government seems myopic. If you lower the amount chargeable, the turnover will even be higher than what they’re getting now,” he said.
Sanni said if possible, title registration should be free.
He believes registration should be very low, or free if possible, because land registration ideally should not be a primary means of generating revenue.
He said: “Ideally, the purpose of registration is not mainly to generate revenue but for management/regulatory purposes, while the essence of taxation is revenue generation.”
Shasore urged the state to deploy necessary human and material resources to ensure proper functioning of the land registry and land information management system.
He also urged the government to ensure increased transparency in its land management process, so as to increase confidence in the system.
He called for the abolition through constitutional means what he termed an anomaly of a Federal Lands Registry in Lagos, saying it is unconstitutional.
“There is not Federal existing law governing the operation of Federal Land Registry. It is instructive to note that the only laws in the 1958 edition of laws of Nigeria relating to registration of land viz the registration of Titles Act and Lands Registration Act were omitted from the 2004 Edition of the laws of Federation of Nigeria because the laws had taken effect as laws of Lagos State.
“The only reference to a Federal Land Registry can be found in section 5 of the lands (Title Vesting, etc.) Act 1993, [Decree 52 of 1993 later Cap L7 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2010], which refers to a Federal Lands Registry”, he declared, adding that the Act cannot be an authority for establishing and maintaining a Federal Lands Registry.
Shasore who spoke on the topic: “The history of Land Registration in Lagos” said the Lagos State Lands Registration Law 2015 (LSLRL) consolidated and integrated the provisions of the Lands Instruments Registration Law 1925 (LIRL), Registration of Titles Law 1935 (RTL), Registered Land Law 1965 (RLL) and the Electronic Document Management System Law 2007 (EDMSL) into one legislation.
His words: “Some of the provisions in the preceding legislations relating to first registration, adjudication of interests and rights in land, which are now only of historical relevance have been removed from the LSLRL.”
Smith, who gave the keynote address, identified gaps in the Land Registration Law of 2015.
Among others, he said the law does not contain indemnity provisions for a person who has suffered a loss as a result of fraudulent or negligent act or omission of another party or a land registry officer.
He also pointed out that section 76(3) of the Law makes it mandatory that an instrument executed in Nigeria by an illiterate grantor or grantors shall be so executed before and attested to by a Magistrate, Justice of the Peace, Notary public or Commissioner for oaths. “What is the relevance of exception contained under section 5 of the illiterates Protection Law where the instrument is prepared by a Legal Practitioner? He queried.
The expert in property law also explained that the law provides for application of the Magistrates Court Rules in proceedings before the Registrar and on appeal from his decision pending the making of Rules by the Chief Judge of Lagos State.
He then queried: “What is the potency or efficacy of applying Magistrates Court Rules to disputes relating purely to land titles? Investigation of title and the process of land registration require special rules of procedure to enhance the process of land registration.”
Dean, Faculty of Law, UNILAG, faulted the plan to enact a law for a national grazing route to protect the rights of herdsmen and cattle rustlers.
“To claim that anyone can graze on any land is a recipe for violence,” he said.
Ibidapo-Obe said the government has to be careful when it comes to the issue of land. According to him, federalism does not mean unitarianism. He poured encomium on the department of Private and Property law of the University for putting up the programme. “We are very proud of what the department is doing”, he submitted.
The representative of Adeniji Kazeem, the Attorney General of Lagos State, Mrs Omobola Omotimire said the government of Lagos appreciates the department of Private and Property law of the University of Lagos.
She pledged that the outcome of the workshop would be communicated to the AG for implementation.
Earlier in his address, the acting head of department, Private and Property law of the University of Lagos, Dr. Babatunde Oni said property laws are domiciled in his department.
He explained that the department is always in the lookout for what Lagos State Government is doing in respect of legislations in the area of properties with a view to contributing for its improvement. He added that unfortunately, the government is not always in constant consultation with the department.
There is no doubt that participants would now be in a better position to appreciate the law, its challenges and prospects in property relations.