SUPREME COURT VICTORY FOR LAGOS OVER FG LAND
*here is how you can get a Lagos State C of O on a Federal Land
The Supreme Court recently struck out a suit filed by the Federal Government seeking an order wresting the control and management of its land in Lagos State from the state government. A five-man panel of the Supreme Court led by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, unanimously struck out the Federal Government’s suit after upholding the preliminary objection filed by the Lagos State Government to challenge the competence of the suit. Justice Dattijo Muhammad, who read the apex court’s lead ruling, agreed with the State Government that the court lacked the power to exercise its “original jurisdiction” in the suit because the Federal Government had “transferred its title in the land to others”.’
It will be recalled that the dispute between the federal and Lagos State governments was about “general control and management of federal land within Lagos State particularly the re-issuance of certificates of occupancy, granting consent or exercising rights of ownership.” The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) represented by Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), had in a suit with reference number SC/50/ 2011, invoked the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to challenge the Lagos State Government over the development. While arguing the case, Agbakoba had cited particular properties where title holders were required by Lagos State to pay certain amount as “Ratification” of their title before any other transactions can be permitted on such land.
But by way of a preliminary objection, the State Government raised objection to the effect that the Supreme Court could not exercise original jurisdiction in the matter, reason being that the subject matter was a land matter within the exclusive jurisdiction of the High Court. The office of the State’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, also argued that the AGF lacked the locus to file the action on behalf of the Federation against the State Government on account of the fact that the matter in dispute was between Federal Government and the Lagos State Government.
The arguments of the State was said to have been based on a recent judgment of the Supreme Court delivered in 2014 where the apex court held that disputes between a State Government and the Federal Government cannot be arrogated to the Federation of Nigeria in order to cloak the Supreme Court with Jurisdiction to hear same.
After considering arguments for and against the suit, the Supreme Court held that although it did not agree that it could not entertain the matter in its original jurisdiction, but from available evidence, the Federal Government had divested itself of the titles to properties which were subject of the suit and therefore had no locus to bring the action. The preliminary objection of the State Government was therefore upheld and the suit dismissed.
RATIFICATION OF FEDERAL LAND IN LAGOS STATE
For land/property investors who are not familiar with the issue that was in contention, here is how and why owners of Federal Government Land in Lagos State are now required to get a Lagos State Certificate of Occupancy even if they had a Federal Government Certificate of Occupancy.
As the former Federal Capital Territory, there are plots in Lagos on which Federal Titles are still being granted. That areas on the Island where such plots are located includes: Banana Island, Ikoyi and Victoria Island, while on the Mainland such plots can be found in areas like Apapa GRA, Festac Town, Satellite Town, Ikeja GRA, Amuwo Odofin and in Aboru, Abesan Estate and Gowon Estate extensions all in the Alimosho axis. Title to such plots are a Federal Certificate of Occupancy. However, buyers of Federal Plots in Lagos State even with their Federal Certificate of Occupancy will not be granted approval to develop them if they do not get a Lagos State Certificate of Occupancy. So how can owners, buyers of Federal Government Plots in Lagos State get a valid title from the State Government?
The process of doing that is known as Regularization of Federal Government Title in Lagos State. It will be recalled that in October 2007, the Lagos State Government created a unit known as the Federal Government Grant Unit under the Land Use and Allocation Department of the Lagos State Lands Bureau to handle all matters relating to Federal Titles in Lagos State and the unit is headed by the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Land Matters.
The Work Flow for Regularisation of Federal Government Title in Lagos State requires the writing of an application for Regularisation of Federal Government Land to Federal Government Grant Unit (FGGU) of the Land Use and Allocation Department (FGCU). After receiving the application, the FGGU carries out charting and investigation to determine status of land. If affected area is queried (had a pending litigation, acquired by government or has any dispute) application is forwarded for further investigation. However, if the affected area is un-queried (free from all encumbrances) application containing assessment for land charges is sent to the Directorate of Land Services of the Lands Bureau (DLS). The DLS sign-off on the assessment on land charges and sends the application to the Executive Secretary of the LUAD for further verification. This could however take up to three days before the applicant can move to the next stage which is the point where the Executive Secretary sends the application to the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Governor on Land Matters for further vetting of the files.
The SSA after two to three days of vetting the files and application will then send it with a covering memo to the Governor via the Permanent Secretary of the Lands Bureau. The Permanent Secretary at this stage appends his signature on the memo and returns it to the SSA who will ultimately transmit it to the Governor for clearance and approval. After the Governor’s approval, the application is returned to the SSA who then returns the application to FGGU through the Executive Secretary of the Lands Use and Allocation Department. This entire process is expected to take up to one week.
Upon receiving the approved application, The FGGU prepares Letter of Allocation for the Executive Secretary to sign and also ensure that a Survey Plan is prepared by the Surveyor General’s Office to go with the documents. The applicant at this level pays for the allocation and forward Registered Treasury Receipts of payment to FGGU. This would take another two days to accomplish. The FGGU also prepares a Certificate of Occupancy within another two days and then sends the entire application with the prepared Certificate of Occupancy to the Permanent Secretary Lands Bureau through the Executive Secretary of the Land Use and Allocation Department. The Permanent Secretary takes a final look at the entire documents and then sends it back to the SSA for presentation to the Governor for signing.
After the Governor has appended his signature on the Certificate of Occupancy, it is returned to the SSA who then sends it back to the FGGU via the Executive Secretary to process it for STAMPING, REGISTRATION and final delivery to the applicant. It is important to note that if the applicant is able to as at and when due present all required documents and ensure payment is made promptly, the stipulated time frame for Regularisation of a Federal Government Title is 30days, but in many cases applicants have had to go through the process over a period of more than six months.
The required documents for Regularisation of a Federal Government Title in Lagos State includes a Formal Letter addressed to the Executive Secretary Land Use and Allocation Committee, Block 13, Room 4, Lands Bureau, The Secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja. It is also includes a Standard Allocation Form – Ikoyi, V/Island and Lagos Island (Form for Prime Land); other areas (Forms for General). Other documents are: Purchase Receipt of the Land, Two Passport Photographs, Evidence of Payment of Income Tax, Development Levy (In case of company, two Directors Evidence of payment of Income Tax of two Directors and Development Levy Receipts), Survey Plan, All payment receipts of Land Charges and a Certified True Copy of the Root of Title.