How to Verify Certificate of Occupancy (CofO) In Lagos  By Dennis Isong

In Lagos, Nigeria, a Certificate of Occupancy (CofO) is a crucial document for landowners. It proves legal ownership of land under the Land Use Act of 1978. 

With the rising cases of land fraud, verifying the authenticity of a CofO has become essential. 

Below is a comprehensive guide on how to verify a Certificate of Occupancy in Lagos.

Understanding Certificate of Occupancy: A Certificate of Occupancy is a legal document issued by the Lagos State Government to landowners and property buyers as a legitimate proof of ownership. This document specifies the rights of the individual or entity to the property and land.

Steps to Verify a Certificate of Occupancy
1: Visit the Lagos State Lands Bureau Physical Verification: The first step in verifying a CofO is to visit the Lagos State Lands Bureau. This agency is responsible for land administration and registry in Lagos State. They have the complete database and records of all issued Certificates of Occupancy.

2: Submit a Verification Request
Request Submission:
 At the Lands Bureau, submit a request for the verification of a C of O. You will be required to provide details such as the plot number, block number, survey plan number, and the C of O number. It’s essential to have all these details accurate to facilitate the verification process.

3: Pay the Verification Fee
Payment of Fees: 
Verification of a CofO comes with a fee. Ensure you inquire about the current fee and make the payment accordingly. Receipt of payment will be required as part of the verification process.

4: Verification Process
Processing Time
: After submission and payment, the Lands Bureau will conduct a thorough verification of the C of O against their records. This process may take some time, ranging from a few days to weeks, depending on the volume of requests being processed.

5: Collect Verification Report
Collection of Report
: Once the verification process is complete, you will be issued a verification report. This report will indicate the authenticity of the C of O. If the document is verified to be authentic, the report will serve as an added proof of the legality of your property’s ownership.

Why Verify a Certificate of Occupancy?
The importance of verifying a CofO cannot be overstated. Here are some reasons why it’s essential:

Fraud Prevention: Verification helps to prevent falling victim to land scams and purchasing properties with forged documents.

Confirms Authenticity: It assures the buyer or current owner of the land’s authenticity and legal standing.

Facilitates Transactions: A verified CofO is often required by financial institutions for loan approvals against land or property.

Common Certificate of Occupancy Frauds in Lagos; While the Certificate of Occupancy is a critical document for property owners in Lagos, it is also a focal point for various fraudulent activities. Being aware of these common frauds can help property buyers and owners stay vigilant and protect their investments.

Forged Documents
Counterfeit CofO: There are instances where fraudsters create counterfeit CofO Occupancy. These documents may look remarkably similar to the original but lack the legal backing and verification from the Lagos State Lands Bureau.

Double Allocation Fraud
Multiple Owners: This occurs when a single plot of land is sold to multiple buyers, each provided with a seemingly legitimate C of O. This fraudulent practice not only leads to legal battles but also questions the authenticity of the CofO issued.

Land Grabbing
Illegal Seizure: Land grabbers, also known as “Omo Onile” in local parlance, might forge a CofO to claim ownership of lands they do not legally own. They exploit unsuspecting buyers by selling these lands and providing fake certificates as proof of ownership.

Bribery and Corruption
Inside Job: Some fraudulent activities involve insiders within the land administration system. Unscrupulous officials might collude with fraudsters to issue or endorse fake Certificates of Occupancy for personal gain.

How to Protect Yourself from CofO Frauds: To safeguard against these frauds, consider the following precautions:

Verify Before Purchase; Always verify the CofO through the Lagos State Lands Bureau before proceeding with any land purchase. This step cannot be overstated in its importance.

Legal Counsel; Engage a reputable lawyer or a property verification expert to conduct due diligence on the property and its documents.

Research the Seller; Conduct thorough research on the seller or property developer. Check their reputation, past projects, and reviews from previous buyers.

Insist on Transparency; Demand transparency in every step of the buying process. Any reluctance to provide detailed information or rush the process should raise red flags.

Report Suspicious Activities: If you encounter any suspicious activities or individuals during your property transaction, report them to the authorities. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) of the Nigeria Police are competent authorities to handle such cases.

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Dennis Isong is a Top Realtor in LAGOS. He Helps Nigerians in Diaspora to Own Property In Lagos Nigeria STRESS-FREE. For Questions WhatsApp/Call 2348164741041