Can Foreigners Buy Land in Nigeria?

  | 6 min read
Can Foreigners Buy Land in Nigeria?

Nigeria stands out as a prime destination for international investors eyeing real estate opportunities, boasting stunning landscapes, a vibrant cultural heritage, and welcoming locals.

However, navigating the intricacies of purchasing property abroad can prove daunting, especially given the array of legal frameworks and regulations at play.

Foreign ownership of land and property in Nigeria is subject to a complex interplay of laws and regulations, subject to change. Thus, it’s prudent to seek counsel from legal professionals and governmental bodies to ensure compliance with the latest requirements.

Outlined below are critical factors to ponder concerning foreign property acquisition in Nigeria, including implications related to capital controls.

Can foreigners buy land in Nigeria?

Yes, foreigners can buy land in Nigeria, but there are certain regulations and restrictions they must adhere to. The Land Use Act of 1978 is the principal legislation governing land ownership in Nigeria. According to this act, all land in each state of Nigeria is vested in the state governor who holds it in trust for the people.

Foreigners who wish to acquire land in Nigeria must do so through leaseholds or obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) from the state government. The C of O grants the holder the right to use and develop the land for a specified period, typically 99 years.

Additionally, foreigners may be required to obtain consent from the Minister of Lands in order to acquire land in certain parts of Nigeria. This is especially true for land deemed to be of strategic importance, such as land near borders or in certain urban areas.

It’s important for foreigners interested in buying land in Nigeria to seek legal advice and ensure they understand the regulations and procedures involved in land acquisition to avoid any complications or legal issues.

Foreign individuals and entities seeking to acquire land in Nigeria can do so by securing a Certificate of Occupancy from the pertinent state government. Nevertheless, direct land ownership by non-Nigerians is prohibited under the Land Use Act.


Foreigners have the option to engage in lease agreements for land and property. These leasehold agreements typically extend for considerable durations, often spanning as long as 99 years.

Property Ownership:

Foreign individuals and entities are permitted to possess and invest in buildings and structures situated on leased land within Nigeria.

How can an American buy land in Nigeria?

For an American to buy land in Nigeria, they would need to navigate several legal and administrative steps:

  1. Legal Consultation: Seek advice from legal experts knowledgeable about Nigerian property law. This step is crucial to understanding the intricacies of land ownership regulations in Nigeria and ensuring compliance.
  2. Identify Suitable Property: Locate a property in Nigeria that meets your requirements and aligns with your investment goals. Consider factors such as location, price, land title, and potential for development.
  3. Due Diligence: Conduct thorough due diligence on the chosen property. This involves verifying the land title, confirming ownership, checking for any encumbrances or legal issues, and assessing the property’s suitability for your intended use.
  4. Engage a Local Lawyer: Retain the services of a reputable local lawyer in Nigeria. They will guide you through the legal processes, assist in drafting and reviewing contracts, and ensure compliance with Nigerian property laws.
  5. Obtain Necessary Approvals: Depending on the location and type of property, you may need to obtain approvals from relevant government authorities. This could include permits from the Land Registry, approvals from local planning authorities, and consent from the Minister of Lands, especially for certain categories of land.
  6. Negotiate Purchase Agreement: Negotiate the terms of the purchase agreement with the seller or their representative. Ensure that all relevant details are clearly outlined, including the purchase price, payment terms, timelines, and any conditions precedent.
  7. Execute Transfer Documents: Once the terms are agreed upon, the transfer documents, such as the Deed of Assignment or Lease Agreement, need to be executed by both parties in the presence of witnesses and notarized.
  8. Payment and Registration: Complete the payment for the property as per the agreed terms. After payment, the transfer documents should be registered with the appropriate government authority to formalize the transfer of ownership.
  9. Compliance with Tax Obligations: Fulfill any tax obligations associated with the purchase, such as stamp duties and property taxes, in accordance with Nigerian laws.
  10. Regularize Ownership: If acquiring land on a leasehold basis, ensure timely renewal of leases to maintain ownership rights. For land acquired with a Certificate of Occupancy, adhere to renewal requirements to prevent expiration.

Do you need a lawyer to buy real estate in Nigeria?

When buying property in Nigeria, enlisting the expertise of a local lawyer can prove indispensable in navigating legal intricacies and ensuring a smooth transaction.

A pivotal document they facilitate is the Deed of Assignment, a binding agreement delineating sale terms between buyer and seller.

Additionally, Nigerian legal counsel aids in conducting a Property Title Search, verifying ownership status, and uncovering any legal entanglements.

Furthermore, they shepherd the acquisition process, securing requisite permits and approvals from local Land Registries and authorities, while ensuring adherence to tax and fee obligations like Property Transfer Tax and Stamp Duties per Nigerian statutes.

What are the risks when purchasing a property in Nigeria?

Ambiguous title deeds: Securing a clear, valid title deed in Nigeria poses challenges due to labyrinthine land registry systems and opacity, potentially leading to disputes over property ownership.
Property-related crimes: Nigeria contends with elevated rates of property crimes like burglary, squatting, and land encroachment, leaving buyers vulnerable if unaware of associated risks.
Infrastructure deficits: Many Nigerian locales lack basic infrastructure such as roads, power, and water, hindering property accessibility and utility.
Political volatility: Nigeria’s volatile political climate may precipitate abrupt policy shifts impacting property markets, potentially devaluing properties and impeding future resale prospects.

Documents needed for a real estate transaction in Nigeria

When buying a property in Nigeria, the following documents are typically required:

1. A valid means of identification, such as a driver’s license, national ID card or international passport.

2. A valid Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) or a valid Governor’s Consent.

3. An authenticated survey plan of the property.

4. A deed of Assignment or Agreement of Sale.

5. A deed of Mortgage or other security documents, if applicable.

6. Evidence of payment of Stamp Duty.

7. A Letter of Allocation or Deed of Lease, if applicable.

8. A valid Certificate of Occupancy or Governor’s Consent in the case of a leasehold property.

In conclusion, investing in real estate in Nigeria offers lucrative opportunities for both domestic and foreign investors. With its growing economy, rich cultural heritage, and increasing urbanization, Nigeria presents a diverse range of investment options across residential, commercial, and industrial sectors.

However, potential investors should approach with caution and conduct thorough due diligence to mitigate risks associated with property acquisition in Nigeria. Understanding the legal frameworks, navigating bureaucratic procedures, and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements are paramount for a successful investment journey.

Moreover, seeking guidance from local legal experts and real estate professionals can provide invaluable insights and assistance throughout the investment process. By leveraging market knowledge, strategic planning, and prudent decision-making, investors can capitalize on the potential of Nigeria’s real estate market and achieve long-term growth and returns.

Christian Nduaguba