Generally, land is an asset that will always be in constant demand by individual investors, organizations, and real estate development firms due to its capacity to store and preserve value over a long period of time. In Lagos State particularly, there is an increasing demand to acquire and invest in land because of the commercial viability of the State. As a result, many innocent prospective land buyers fall prey to all sorts of land mistakes. One of these mistakes is “excision in progress” which a lot of real estate development firms and some individual land vendors use as a means to commercially dispose of lands with no adequate legal title. The concept and risks of land with excision in progress are examined in this article.
What is Land Excision in Lagos State?
Literally, according to Cambridge online dictionary, “Excision” means the act of removing something. Prior to the enactment of the Land Use Act in 1978, lands were under customary ownership by the indigenous people and communities. However, by Section 1 of the Land Use Act, all land in the territory of a State is vested in the Governor of the State and held in trust for the benefit of Nigerians.
As a means of recognising these ancestral/indigenous owners, the Lagos State Government introduced a policy of giving back some portions of land to them. Land excision is, therefore, the process by which the government releases, carves out, or partitions a portion of land to those who were previously the indigenous owners. After a land has been excised, it is gazetted and officially removed from government acquired lands.
What is Land Excision in Progress?
Flowing from the above definition of land excision, it can be said that “excision in progress” simply means that the land is still in the process of being released, partitioned, or formally granted to the indigenous communities, families, or real estate development firms. In other words, the land still remains under government acquisition until it is fully excised. Hence, no title is vested from the government to anyone until an application for excision is approved and granted. It is important to note that the government reserves the discretion to grant all or less than the portion of land applied for by the indigenous owners or to refuse the application altogether.
What are the risks with Land “Excision in Progress”?
Many real estate developing firms in Lagos State buy a vast area of land from indigenous communities or families and then apply to the State Governor for the said portion of Land be excised to them. While their application is still pending, they begin to advertise and sell the land to unsuspecting purchasers who have no idea of what excision means or involves. The risks associated with buying land with excision in progress are grave.
First, as stated earlier, the Governor, for whatever reasons, may refuse to excise the portion of land applied for or may decide to partition less than the portion as applied. Where that is the case, the implication is that no title will vest in the Vendor to enable him transfer a valid title to the purchaser and as a result, the purchaser may end up losing his investment or the purchase price for the land not excised.
Secondly, the land is, by law, under government acquisition as it is yet to be excised or partitioned to the vendors. The government may decide to demolish the properties on such land for public use at a later time in the future without being mandated to pay compensation for same.
Thirdly, excision in progress does not confer any legal title on the purchaser of such lands. This is because the vendor does not possess any valid title to start with. As such, an aggrieved purchaser may pursue a claim for breach of contract or recovery of money had-and-obtained from the Vendor.
As a way of mitigating against the risk of losing out completely when purchasing a land upon which an application for excision is in progress, purchasers are often advised to contract the purchase of such lands from a reputable real estate company that can indemnify them by either by a refund of all monies paid or by allocating another parcel land with a good title to the purchasers in the event of a refusal or failure of the application for the excision grant.
In any case, it worthy of note that a document that carries “excision in progress” is nothing more than a mere paper that only indicates that an application for the grant of excision with respect to the parcel of land has been made. Hence, it is important to conduct proper due diligence with respect to the status of any land that has been advertised or offered for sale before purchasing same. It is equally important to employ professional services to oversee the purchase of such lands in order to avoid irredeemable mistakes.
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