Buying land in Abuja is a wish for many. Abuja is one of the fastest growing capitals in the world and offers an excellent quality of life. Due to the cities rapidly developing nature, the returns on investment are very high.
The land buying process is quite simple as long as you do your homework, employ the services of experienced real estate agents and are represented by a licensed real estate lawyer.
Most importantly, you need to have a clear idea why you want to buy land in Abuja. Is it for investment purposes or for building a home to live in? These are two quite distinct objectives which ultimately determine how and where you go about looking.
In this step by step guide we will cover how you buy both government and private land in Abuja. If you are also thinking about purchasing an already developed property, you might want to have a look at our new construction homes article.
Who owns and manages the land in Abuja?
By default all the land in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), including Abuja, belongs to the Federal Government of Nigeria. Authority over the land in Abuja is given to the FCT Minister, who acts on behalf of the president of Nigeria.
The FCT Minister heads two important agencies that directly oversee land management in Abuja, namely The Federal Capital Development Agency (FCDA) and Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS).
The FCDA is in charge of the overall development of Abuja. The FCDA manages things like designing, planning and construction as the city continues to expand. Their main goal is to ensure that Abuja becomes “a first class Capital City and Territory comparable to the best Capital Cities and Territories in the world.”
On the other hand AGIS directly manages land administration in Abuja. Services offered by AGIS include:
- Issuance of Certificates of Occupancy
- Issuance of Rights of Occupancy
- Naming streets and numbering houses across Abuja
- Providing both textual and graphical data on the FCT (land records, satellite images, aerial photographs etc.)
- Property search and land verification
- Land allocation applications
- Revenue collection
- Other related customer services
Types of land in Abuja: public or government?
Land in Abuja can be classified into public/government land (FCDA or Area Council) and private land.
FCDA land is allocated directly by the FCT Minister with AGIS acting as the administrators of the process.
There are 6 area councils in the FCT, specifically Abaji, Abuja Municipal, Bwari, Gwagwalada, Kuje and Kwali. Previously, land under the control of these area councils were allocated by their respective chairmen. However, as of recent, this responsibility has also shifted to the Minister.
Consequently it is important to note that, currently, the only way to legally acquire FCDA or Area Council land in Abuja is to make an application directly to the FCT Minister.
Private land is that which has already been allocated and registered to a private individual or organization. This type of transaction is done privately. After an appropriate fee has been agreed and paid, an application can be made to AGIS to transfer title ownership (Certificate of Occupancy or Right of Occupancy) to the buyer.
Public land: government acquired and committed land in Abuja
Potential buyers in Abuja need to be aware that some land in the FCT can be considered under government acquisition while some are government committed.
Government acquisition land is that acquired by government for future use. As these lands are not “committed” one may be able to purchase these lands as long as you go through official channels i.e. make an application at AGIS. AGIS has the power to either grant or refuse your application.
Government committed land, on the other hand, is that which the government has no plans of selling under any circumstance. Land designated for uses such as roads, airports, rail tracks, power plants and other related infrastructure are examples of such.
Individuals erecting structures on unapproved government land will eventually have their structures demolished and potentially sued.
The only way to confirm whether the land you are looking to buy is classified as government acquired or committed is conducting an appropriate search at AGIS.
Land buying process in Abuja
As mentioned previously there are generally two types of land you can buy in Abuja, public/government or private. The processes you will need to go through to acquire public and private land differs.
Generally private land is far easier to acquire plus you have access to more locations, including more developed or developing areas with infrastructure.
Currently most government allocated land is in underdeveloped places that are sparsely populated. As well as being a longer more bureaucratic process, public land offers you limited choice: In essence you are allocated land rather than you choosing that which fits your specific requirements.
For these reasons many prefer to deal with and buy private land on the open or secondary market that is already registered with appropriate titles (Right of Occupancy or Certificate of Occupancy).
How to buy government land in Abuja: FCDA or Area Council
To buy land directly from the government you have to make an application through AGIS. The steps to be taken are as follows:
- Download a fresh land application form from the AGIS website. Alternatively you may visit the AGIS office to obtain a new application form.
- Complete the application form. The form contains basic personal detail fields such as your name, age, address and contact details. The form also has space for specifying the general use (residential, commercial, mixed use etc.) and the specific purpose of the land sought e.g. hotel, private housing estate, school, church, mosque etc. The location preferred and the size of the plot sought can also be stated on the form.
- Make an application payment of 100,000 Naira to AGIS through one of the following banks: Zenith Bank, Fidelity Bank, First Bank, Eco Bank, Heritage Bank or SunTrust Savings & Loans Ltd.
- Obtain a receipt from the AGIS Finance department by presenting evidence of making the appropriate application payment.
- Formally make an application at AGIS accompanied with the following documents: completed application form, Tax Clearance Certificate, two passport sized photographs, photocopy of payment receipt, appropriate means of identification (driver’s license, national ID card or international passport).
- Collect an acknowledgment slip in order to claim any land that may eventually be allocated to you.
A successful application results in you being granted a statutory Right of Occupancy. It is important to note that a Right of Occupancy is in essence an offer in respect to the land allocated. This can and should be perfected to a Certificate of Occupancy as soon as possible. Doing so gives you full ownership and rights to the land. The process for obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy can be started at the same AGIS.
How to buy Abuja land on the open/secondary market
Although the process for buying land on the secondary market is usually quicker than buying public land, there are more variables involved when buying from a private individual/company.
Here it is paramount that you hire the services of professionals to include real estate agents, surveyors and property lawyers to ensure that you acquire genuine land that fits your specific needs. Steps to be taken when buying privately include:
You will need to engage the services of competent real estate agents in order to source genuine land for you In Abuja. This is the most important part of the process as working with a good real estate professional makes the rest of the process much easier.
A common mistake that people make is engaging friends or relatives in such matters. They may have good intentions but their knowledge of the Abuja real estate market is limited and as such you will never get the best advice or deals from them. Land acquisition is a big business in Abuja and needs to be taken very seriously so as to get desired outcomes.
Before officially verifying the documents presented by the seller, you should go out and physically inspect the land and do some preliminary checks. Confirm things like location, neighborhood, environment, infrastructure, security, soil structure and size of land to name a few.
It is recommended that you employ the services of a surveyor to help you perform some of these checks. A surveyor can use documentation such as the Survey Plan to locate the land. The Survey Plan indicates the actual size, position, access, and the boundaries of a plot.
It is for this reason that searching for land that is already certified (Certificate of Occupancy) is usually easier than searching for land with an “offer of allocation”. Offer letter of allocation land can be difficult to locate as documentation/data such as plot coordinates is often limited or unavailable at time of purchase.
After sourcing for an appropriate plot of land the next step is to verify the legality of the documents presented. A legal search can be conducted at AGIS. This is a very important step so as to make sure that the plot you are buying is genuine and is registered in the AGIS database. A legal search will also confirm things like the land use purpose e.g. commercial, residential, mixed use and also if there are any outstanding bills to be paid e.g. ground rent (a potential additional cost of purchase).
It is advisable to work with a property lawyer at this stage to help you conduct the search at AGIS and verify other documents like the Deed of Assignment (in the next step).
Deeds of Assignment/Conveyance
Another important document a buyer must verify here is the Deeds of Assignment/Conveyance. This is simply an agreement that shows evidence that a seller has transferred (conveyed) all his rights, his title, his interest and ownership of land to a buyer. In essence a seller has given ownership to a buyer. This is important as you need to verify the true/current owner of the land by looking at the chain of previous ownership from A to B to C.
Purchase the land
If the legal checks come through ok, you can go ahead and negotiate and subsequently pay the purchase price. Before purchasing any land, it is wise to consult with a real estate professional who can conduct a valuation for you. This will ensure that you get the best deal possible. Upon payment relevant documents are to be signed. Notably the Deed of Assignment which will officially transfer ownership over to you.
Perfection of title to land
Once ownership has been transferred to you in the form of a Deed of Assignment, you must perfect your title on the land with the government. Perfection indicates that the land is officially owned by you and any subsequent purchaser would be notified of such when investigating/conducting a legal search at the land registry.
You will again need to engage the services of a lawyer to do so. Documents required include Deed of Assignment, Statutory Right of Occupancy and survey plan.
Looking to buy land? Anywhere in Abuja? Villa Afrika can help. Contact us for further information: +234 708 500 8039.
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