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The Furore about Land Use Act in Nigeria Part 1

In recent times, there have been calls by experts for the land use act to be reviewed, overhauled or totally abolished.

This article looks at how the land use act threatens economic development in Nigeria and why there is so much noise about it. The issue of land tenure system in Nigeria has always come up in discussions pertaining to the land use act.

The Land Use Act of 1978 conferred on State Governors the custodian right to issue certificates of occupancy for land holders in their states but left out the majority already with possessory rights to their land.

Although the Land Use Act of 1978 was meant to usher in a new land reform in Nigeria, it soon became a clog in the wheel of development over the years. This was more so because the Military Government which promulgated it also ensured it was embedded in the Constitution of the country.

Thus, any attempt to rectify its inadequacies required a constitutional amendment.
There were thus many protests both to have the Act expunged from the Constitution and to amend it in many substantial ways.

It was not surprising, therefore, that faced with these contrasting land tenure systems and the considerable hassle in getting land for public purposes especially in southern Nigeria, the military government sought to unify the two systems through the Land Use Decree of 1978.
Seven of the more important provisions of that Decree are indicated below:

  1. All land situated in the territory of each state in the country is vested in the Governor of the state; For southern Nigeria in particular, this means state appropriation of land from families and communities without any compensation except for economic crops and other resources on the land.

  2. All land control and management, including land allocation in urban areas come under the Governor of each state while land located in rural areas becomes the responsibility of the various local governments. Only the Governor can declare parts of the state territory governed by him as an urban area by an order published in the state gazette;

  3. All land in urban areas is to be administered by a body known as the Land Use and Allocation Committee which has the responsibility of advising the Governor on the management of urban land; similarly, a Land Allocation Advisory Committee is provided to advise local governments in like manner;

  4. All land which has already been developed remained the possession of the person in whom it was vested before the Act became effective;

  5. The Governor is empowered to grant statutory certificate of occupancy (C of O) which would be for a definite term to any person for all purposes and rights of access to land under his control;

  6. The maximum area of undeveloped land that any person could hold in any one urban area in a state is one half of a hectare; in the rural areas this must not exceed 500 hectares except with the permission of the governor;

  7. The consent of the Governor must be secured for the transfer of a statutory right of occupancy through either mortgage or assignment. The consent of the Local government or that of the Governor in appropriate cases must also be obtained for the transfer of customary right of occupancy.
    To be continued.

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