C of O – Meaning, Implication and Procedure

A certificate of occupancy (C of O) is one of the most important land documents in Nigeria because it legally confers an exclusive right of ownership on their holders. Thus, it can be used to resolve land disputes and prevent the government from repossessing the said land.

According to the Federal Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development, a Certificate of Occupancy is a land title issued by the government to show that a landowner has the right to occupy and use the said piece of land under certain terms of the contract.

By law (the Land Use Act 1978), all land in Nigeria belongs to the government. Through the issuance of the C of O, the government confers on the holder of the land the right to occupy it for 99 years. The document describes whether or not the holder can use the property for residential, commercial, or mixed development.

In a situation where the government decides to use its overriding control to recover a property that has a C of O, it will duly compensate the holder.

Reasons Why You Should Get A C of O

  1. It prevents multiple claims on same property
  2. It prevents government’s confiscation without compensation
  3. C of O shows the true owner of a piece of land
  4. C of O adds commercial value to a piece of land
  5. Banks accept Certificate of Occupancy as collateral.

ALSO READ: 5 Reasons Why You May Not Own A House In Your LifeTime

Properties That Are Eligible For A C of O

The properties that are eligible for a C of O in Nigeria are those that presently lack one, and are not under government committed acquisition. Properties under acquisition that are rectifiable can also get a C of O.

Details Of A Certificate of Occupancy

Some of the details on a valid C of O are:

  1. Plot size
  2. Plot number
  3. File number
  4. Certificate of Occupancy number
  5. Date issued
  6. Land use purpose
  7. Terms and conditions
  8. Survey plan and graph
  9. Lease term
  10. Initial annual ground rent fee etc.

ALSO READ: Excision

Procedure For Obtaining A Certificate Of Occupancy (C of O)

The applicant will provide the requirements in number 1 – 6 below. These numbers constitute the first section of the procedure.

Section A:

  1. You have to verify that the landed property in question is not under government acquisition;
  2. Then purchase and submit the application pack to the Land Use Allocation Committee. At submission, you will collect an acknowledgement slip and a letter of allocation offer.
  3. You will have to submit the application pack with the following accompanying documents:
    1. Land Information Certificate,
    2. Land Information Fee receipt,
    3. Receipt for the application form,
    4. Fee for publication/inspection,
    5. Land purchase receipt and agreement,
    6. Current Tax Clearance Certificate,
    7. Development levy receipt,
    8. Sketch of site location,
    9. 4 copies of white-background passport photograph of the Applicant,
    10. Approved Building Plan (for buildings),
    11. Tenement Rate Receipt or Land Used Charge (for occupied buildings),
    12. A written cover letter Addressed to the Executive Secretary of the Land Use and Allocation Committee.
  4. The applicant will be required to make payment for the allocated land within 90 days.
  5. Within the application period, it will be advertised to attract objection if the property is owned by someone other than the applicant.
  6. The applicant will be issued a confirmation letter that has a plot and block number.

Section B:

  1. Scheme Officer processes the application, signs on the form, and forwards it to the executive secretary of the Land Use Allocation Committee.
  2. The Surveyor General provides the Scheme Officer with a digitized survey.
  3. A letter of allocation will be issued by the executive secretary of the Land Use Allocation Committee when the process is approved.
  4. The executive secretary of the Land Use Allocation Committee will sign the file and send it to the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Lands.
  5. The Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Lands will vets the entire file and send it with a covering memo to the Permanent Secretary of Land Bureau.
  6. A message will be relayed back by notification if the file has an issue. If there’s no query on the file, the Permanent Secretary signs the memo and sends the file to the Governor.
  7. The governor will relay a message back to the Permanent Secretary if the file has a query. Otherwise, he will approve it. The Governor will then electronically sign the Certificate of Occupancy and send the file to the Deputy Registrar for further processing.
  8. The Deputy Registrar signs and forwards the file to the Registrar. The Registrar then registers the Certificate of Occupancy, signs it, and requests for its printing.

Change Of Ownership Title Of A C of O

Real estate investors who bought land that already possesses a C of O only need to change the ownership title of the C of O at the land registry. Since a C of O has a 99 years lease period, anyone who buys a piece of land with an existing C of O buys whatever is left of the 99 years.

Revocation Of A C of O

The government revokes Certificate of Occupancies whose holders breach its terms and conditions. However, if its root is defective, it is already null and void on arrival.


With the exclusive right of ownership that a certificate of Occupancy confers on its holder, the property of interest is secured. If the holder of the C of O in Nigeria doesn’t breach its terms and conditions, the property remains safe and secured.

Breaching the terms and conditions of your C of O leads to its revocation, some punishments or fine.

Must Read: Free Insight on 8 Important Landed Property Title Documents

Let’s get your questions and comments in the comment box.