First thing’s first…what is the Land Use Act?
In simple terms, the Land Use Act is the law responsible for the allocation of land in all urban areas to individuals residing in the state for residential, agricultural and commercial purposes.
There have been several controversies surrounding the Land Use Act. Before we dive into the 10 things you should know about this popular piece of legislation, it will be well worth your time to know what the constitution says about the Land Use Act.
According to Chapter 202 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990, the Land Use Act is:
“An Act to Vest all Land compromised in the territory of each State (except land vested in the Federal government or its agencies) solely in the Governor of the State , who would hold such Land in trust for the people and would henceforth be responsible for allocation of land in all urban areas to individuals resident in the State and to organisations for residential, agriculture, commercial and other purposes while similar powers will with respect to non-urban areas are conferred on Local Governments (27th March 1978) Commencement.”
Now for the 10 things you need to know about the LAND USE ACT:
- The Objectives of the Land Use Act
- The problem of lack of uniformity in the laws governing ownership and land-use
- To achieve fast economic and social transformation;
- To make land more accessible and affordable
- To negate economic inequality caused by appropriation of land by speculators
- You need a guardian to buy land in Nigeria if you are under 21
Section 7 of the Land Use Act, 1978 allows a minor to buy land, as long as they have a guardian who will hold the land as a trustee on their behalf.
- The Government owns all the land in Nigeria
The best way to see land ownership in Nigeria, is to see the Governor’s office as one big landlord. To do anything on your landlord’s property you will need their permission (e.g. having a dog on the property). Same concept applies with the Land Use Act. Land Use Act requires land owners to get the consent of a Governor to sell, lease, mortgage or sublet land in a state. This is not a major point of concern as this consent is not unreasonably withheld.
- The highest title you can get as a land owner
Interested person in land ownership in Nigeria are given a Certificate of Occupancy NOT a Certificate of Ownership.
- Foreigners can own land too
Even a foreigner can own and acquire land in any part of Nigeria. The law reads “persons”, which means both Nigerians and Non-Nigerians, juristic and “juridical” beings, human beings and corporate beings, (companies, association, churches, corporations, societies and incorporated trustees)
- The government can take your land from you BUT…
The question of whether the government can randomly take/seize your land is a highly common one. The Land Use Act recognises that it is your right to own land in any part of Nigeria, however, the government can compulsory acquire the land on the legal ground that it is ‘overriding the public interest’. This is the sole and only purpose under the Act that allows the government to take land.
When a compulsory acquisition occurs, the Governor is not required to pay a compensation for the land however the Governor MUST pay for the improvements, developments, structures and expenditures on such land.
- Not everyone is happy about the Land Use Act
The implementation of the Land Use Act has proven to be highly controversial. Several arguments support that there will be no meaningful growth in the real estate sector if land continues to be under the firm grip of government.
- The Land Use Act helps in settling land disputes.
Land ownership disputes that make it to court cases require the survey of acquired land. A survey is mandatory in order for the government to grant a Certificate of Occupancy.
- Attempts have been made to amend the Land Use Act.
Past Presidents Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Good luck Jonathan during their administrations attempted to amend the Act but their efforts were ineffective due to inherent bottlenecks involved in amending the Constitution.
- The Land Use Act is not the only law governing land administration in Nigeria
Collectively, the laws that govern land administration in Nigeria include the following:
- Land Use Act of 1978
- Registration of Titles Law (Lagos State, 2003)
- Land Instrument Registration Law (1925)
- Registered Land Act of 1965 (Replaced the 1925 law in Lagos State)
- Property and Conveyancing Law (1884)
- Land Use Charge Law (Lagos state)
- Urban and Regional Planning Land Law
- (Decree 88) of 1992