Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) has generated a lot of reactions from the public in the past. It is believed that the process of acquiring it demands that whoever wants to acquire it must be well connected and must also be ready to spend a great deal of money to acquire it. Some also think it’s only the rich that need it. This belief, however, has prevented so many to acquire it. Not having a C of O prevents most people from fighting for the ownership of their property when the need arises and they end up losing them. In some cases, where the government is in need of lands or when some houses has to be demolished for the development of the state, some lose the chance of being duly compensated when they cannot provide the certificate that affords them the rightful ownership of the property they are claiming.
ENCOMIUM Weekly had a chat with the Public Affairs Officers of the Land Bureau in Lagos state, Mr. Kayode Sutton, who shed light on the requirements and the processes for acquiring the Certificate of Occupancy in Lagos state.
We have realized that most landlords in the state don’t have the Certificate of Occupancy, why is that?
First, the C of O is the main document that gives you the ownership of your property and if you have a property in Lagos state as it were and you don’t have a Certificate of Occupancy, it means you still have a lot more to do. Apart from the fact that it gives you the complete ownership of that property, it gives you lots of other opportunities. With the C of O, you can apply for so many facilities in any of the financial institutions. It can be used for collateral for a lot of other things that can add value to one’s life. Back to your question, getting a C of O is not hard at all. I don’t know why people don’t come forward for them. And the requirements for acquiring a C of O, they are things you can easily come by. Of course, when you buy your land, you will be given a receipt. Even if you buy your land for N10,000, you would be given a receipt. One of the requirement for applying for C of O is your land receipt and it is assumed, it is believed that you work somewhere before you can buy a land. Therefore you should be paying tax. You come with your tax clearance, there are some forms you will take from us here that you will fill with your data, your name, date of birth, where the land is situated, land information, how we can assess that land, how do we get there, your passport photographs. These are the basic things, then your application letter. You want to get something, you apply for it. You come with your ID card. These are all we need that gets you C of O. it’s not difficult to get when you have all the requirements.
With your explanation, anybody that has a landed property without a C of O is not the rightful owner?
Basically, you know that you are the owner of the property but to me or the government, you are not the owner because it’s the C of O that gives you utmost entitlement to that land. For instance now, you have a property and for public interest, government is taking over the land, what documents do you have to claim it and how do you justify the fact that this land belongs to you? For you to talk to me as government, you need to present a document. You can’t just tell me with the words of mouth that the land belongs to me.
The only document that gives you the sole right to that land is the C of O. Assuming the government takes over your land today and you are to be paid compensation, what document do you put across to me as a government official to get compensated. Even if one million people come forward to testify that you are the owner of that land, I won’t document that. I will require you to give me a document that shows that you bought the land and you have registered it with the government and that is the C of O. Let me give you another instance. You bought a land and failed to register it with the government and somebody else goes behind your back to register the land and gets a C of O. Automatically, that person is the owner of the land. Maybe the person conspired with some people to get receipt and other things to point him as the rightful owner and he gets the C of O, you become a loser. Whoever has the C of O is the owner.
But for a poor man who struggles to put up a room and parlour on his piece of land, is there a convenient means for him to acquire the C of O?
For you to own a land, you are not a poor man. For you to erect a building no matter how small, it means you are not a poor man. And besides, to get a C of O, it doesn’t require you to pay as much as the amount used in buying the land.
Is it possible to know how much it cost to get a C of O?
There are some stipulated charges you pay to get the C of O. You need to pay an amount called the publication charges of N10,000. The publication fee is for us to put your name in the papers for anybody that feels the land does not belong to you for objections and that takes 21 days. If after that 21 days nobody raises an eyebrow to your ownership of the land, then we continue with the process. You pay some other charges and these charges are receipted for and these amounts are not as huge as what people say out there.
Most people still believe that you have to bribe your way to get your C of O, is that true?
That is not true. You see, one thing that I know and will advice people is that, if they want to get C of O, they should not go through touts. There is hardly anywhere you go now that you won’t see touts. When I say touts, I mean those that are not officials of that office. Here at the Bureau, we have officials, we have people that are detailed to carry out all the task.
Ensure you meet the right person, don’t pay to anyone, pay to the bank and get a receipt you will present to us. Whoever wants to do C of O should come straight down to the Land’s Bureau. Do your land information if the land is not under drainage or alignment, if it’s not under acquisition, if it’s not under whatever. When you get the result of your land information, you pay for your publication fee and it’s published. Then after 21 days with no objections, then you proceed to the next step. Like I said, you present your receipt, four passport photographs (5 by 5 on white background), your work ID, copies of survey plan, details about the land and so on.
How many days does the process take?
It takes nothing more than 30 days. By the end of the 30 days, you have your C of O ready.
What effort is the government putting into sensitizing the public?
The government is trying its best. We’ve been to the radio. Like the one you are doing now, a lot of people will get to know more about it and so many media houses have been here too.
We are planning to celebrate a year of this administration. A lot will be said about this and other things.
Will you say there’s improvement in people’s awareness compared to years before?
Of course, there has always been improvement. People are getting to know more about it and since the governor assumed office, he has signed about 6,000 of them. So, people are gaining more awareness.
What do you have to tell the public?
My advice to the public is for them to take the issue of C of O seriously. There is a lot of benefit in it. It avails them a lot of opportunities and they should also go through the right channel to avoid being duped. They should not wait till when they’ve built on the land because they might need to pay fine. The C of O is meant to be done on a virgin land because you will need it for your plan approval when building on it.
Requirements for Certificate of Occupancy
- Application form
- 4 copies of survey plan (2 clothes and 2 papers)
- Land information certificate
- Purchase receipt
- 4 copies of deed of assignment
- Picture of the site showing time, date, and street name where the property is located
- Site location sketch
- Tax Clarence certificate
- Current development levy
- Four passport photography (5 by 5 on white background)
- Application letter
- ID card
- Publication/Inspection fees