Revisiting Conveyancing risks under the Legal Regime for Land Registration in Nigeria: A Case for Title Insurance

AuthorAkaayar Simon Viashima
PositionLecturer, Department of Commercial & Industrial Law, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Nigeria
Private Law
Revisiting Conveyancing risks under the
Legal Regime for Land Registration in
Nigeria: A Case for Title Insurance
Akaayar Simon VIASHIMA
Abstract: This research investigates the conveyancing risks which cannot be cured under the present
legal regime for land registration in Nigeria. Two fundamental issues motivated this study. The first is
that, in Nigeria, registration of title to land is mandatory and meant to assure certainty of registered
title amongst other reasons. However, it is settled law that registration of title per se cannot cure any
defect in the title or confer validity which it does not possess. This phenomenon not only exposed
registered title holders to hidden conveyancing risks, but also th reatened the effectiveness and public
trust in registration of title regime. The second problem is the lack of appropriate risk control
measures that are specifically designed for registered title holders in country. Consequently, this
paper evaluates the existing conveyancing risks in the particular context of the extant rules on land
registration. Although the paper commends legal efforts aim at strengthening land registration in
Nigeria, it demonstrates that there is enormity of conveying perils which largely defeats the b enefits
of registering title to land. In that regard, the study proposes the establishment of title insurance as
new commercial model that will be tailored for conveyancing risks control in the country. It
concludes that since insurance regulation is the exclusive preserve of the Federal government, the
National Insurance Commission should pioneer the reform suggested in this paper by invoking
section 101 of the Insurance Act 2003.
Keywords: Land registration; Conveyancing risks; Title insurance; Regulation; Nigeria
1. Introduction
The practice of registration of title to or interest in land, which remains the kernel
of modern conveyancing in Nigeria today, has its root from the colonial era. This is
largely because before the era of colonization, the area now known as Nigeria did
not exist as country, in the first place. In the second place, there was no
conveyancing law for the registration of instruments affecting land. However, the
Lecturer, Department of Commercial & Industrial Law, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos,
Nigeria, Address: Akoka, Lagos, Nigeria, Corresponding author:
AUDJ, vol. 13, no. 1/2017, pp. 186-203
British, through conquest, took over the various indigenous land practices and set
up English land administration, beginning with the compulsory Registration
Ordinance of 1883. Since then, the land registration law was continuously
reformed during the colonial era with several enactments such as Land Registry
Proclamations of 1900 and 1910 as well as Land Registration Ordinances of 1915
and 1924. After attainment of Nigerias independence in 1960, particularly with the
enactment of the Land Use Act of 1978, all land in the Nigeria become vested in
the Governor of each of the 36 States, except the Federal Capital Territory (FCT)
Abuja, which is under the control of the Government of the Federation. In that
regard, all the 36 States of the Federation have their respective Land Registration
Laws, with Lagos State leading with recent reform by enactment of Lagos State
Land Registration Law (LRL) 2015.
The central implications of these Land Registration Laws are to safeguard certainty
of title to land, guarantee priority of interests, and promote public confidence in
real property transactions amongst other connected matters (Smith, 2007). Above
all, the laws are meant to ensure that no encumbrances exist on land and that the
purchaser would enjoy quiet possession and use of the land (Umezulike, 2013, p.
371). Nevertheless, the fundamental problem is that no matter how ingenious land
registration law could be, there exist potential conveyancing risks, which land
registration per se, cannot cure. This position has long been rightly accepted by the
Supreme Court in Omosanya v. Anifowosho (1959) F.S.C. 94, where it was held
that registration of land per se cannot cure any existing defect or confer validity to
invalid title. Consequently, several nations has turned searchlight to other methods
of controlling the effect of conveyancing risks. From the perspective of insurance
as a risk control mechanism, therefore, one of the parallel models that have
globally evolved for the purpose of mitigating land conveyancing risks or damages
is title insurance” (Gosdin, 2008; Pelkey, 1927, pp. 38-52). As will be seen in the
subsequent part of this article, the rationale for title insurance is multifaceted and
includes providing protection from real property loss such as: unknown title
defects, existing liens or encumbrances against the property title, errors in surveys
and public records, title fraud, and other title-related risks that can affect valid sell,
mortgage or lease of property in the future.
In fact, the central idea behind emergence of title insurance is the quest for
effective and efficient conveyancing practices, which land registration per se may
not achieve. This is largely because title to land, which is the subject matter of
land registration laws in Nigeria, is characterized as being permanent in nature, yet
with a unique history of transactions involving persons who at one time held
interests in it for divergent purposes (Arrunada, 2002, p. 582). These pre-existing

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