An Appraisal Of The Requirements Of Proving Land Ownership In Nigeria

Project and Seminar Material for Law

An Appraisal Of The Requirements Of Proving Land Ownership In Nigeria

Chapter One


1.1 Introduction

Land is undoubtedly a major factor in the social and economic development of every country; it is perhaps the most important natural resources, in the sense that it affects every aspect of people’s lives.

The word “Land” have various meaning depending on the use and content which they are used, in ordinary sense “Land” is the solid dried surface part of the earth surface.

Proof of title to land is the protection and degree of control which a person has over any given land to buttress the ownership claims to a land and title registration is mainly to protect property rights, to facilitate transactions in land, and to enable land title to be used as collateral for loan. System of land title registration identifies each individual land parcel and provides confirmation by the state that the person named in the register has specified property right in that parcel.

A unified, integrated system of land title registration confers many benefits. For individual, it offers security for tenure, a reduced likelihood of ownership or boundary disputes, simple and less costly land transactions, greater access to credit, and increased market value. For a government administration, it represents a major component of a land information system, assists land use planning and development, improves the land market, stimulates investigation and creates a basis for land taxation. For a society, it can help promote the peaceful, orderly and wise utilization of the natural land resources.

Land ownership in Nigeria before colonial rule, the predominant land tenure system in Nigeria during the pre-colonial period was the customary land tenancy where land holdings were obtained by villages, towns, communities.
Thus, individual has no such interest as the fee simple absolute in possession as the actual ownership of land or absolute interest in the community itself.

In every ethnic group, there was an organized system of land holdings “There is no uniform land law sparing the length and breath of Nigeria. Every locality has land tenure system the principles of which are in the peculiar knowledge”.

This is a result of the different ethnic culture background of our people nevertheless, there exist a common feature. To this end, customary law and received English law has the concept of ownership to land, the Supreme Court has followed its own decisions in variety of cases. In Elegushi V. Oseni and also in the case of Idundun V. Okumagba, the Supreme Court stated that “pertinently”, there are five ways of establishing the ownership of land, which this topic seeks to address.

Primary sources include doctrinal, statutes, case law and secondary materials including textbooks, journal articles, newspapers, magazines and dictionary. The approach will mainly be analytical and the ways of presentation will mainly be very simple, and easy to understand. All these are aimed at land ownership and a comparative analysis of the requirements of proving Land Ownership in Nigeria.

This study deals with Land Ownership and the various ways of owning or requirements of proving Land Ownership in Nigeria.

I shall consider the key points of the topic which constituted the meaning of land, ownership, possession of land and the nature of ownership and proof of ownership in Nigeria.

Nigeria, as in practically all the former British West African colonies, ownership of land in the accepted English sense is unknown. Land is held under community ownership, and not, as a rule, by the individual as such, it is true that the impact of English ideas of property law upon indigenous conceptions, largely due to (a) the efforts of practicing African lawyers trained in English law;

But, before we stop to examine the real nature of this community ownership we may well pose the legal problem: assuming that land in Nigeria is collectively owned, in whom is legal title? Now with regard to the former colony, there are at least four possible hypothesis on which jurist could frame an answer:

That the real ownership of land in the former colony was by the treaty of cession of 1861 vested in the British crown to which belong, in constitutional theory, all the territories of the British common wealth and empire;
That king Docemo of Lagos owned all Lagos and adjacent lands forming the old colony and which he ceded to the British crown in 1861.

1.3 Aims and Objectives

This project aims to address the concept of land ownership in Nigeria giving a comparative analysis of the requirement of proving land ownership in Nigeria and the legal effect created under the Land use act as opposed to customary ownership that was predominant in Nigeria before the promulgation of the Land use act.

This work will discuss more on land registration an important role in a community, provided the functions effectively, through different countries possess specific land registration. Land registration system in Nigeria involves three principal systems of recording the right/ownership to land. These include: Private conveyance, Registration of title, Registration of deeds.

But, before going into all that, we must first know or have a clear understanding of the meaning of land, ownership, possession. Which will be discussed in this project.

1.4 The Research Methodology

According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, methodology means “a set of methods and principles used to perform a particular activity”. According to Martin Bulner; “…..methodology denotes the systematic and logical study or the general principles…..concerned in the broadest sense with the question of how? …..knowledge is established, and how others can be convinced that the knowledge is correct”.

Sociological Research method; An introduction; London Macmillan press Ltd 1977 p.4.

In legal research, there is always a starting point for the researcher. He has to map out a strategy for the research operations and decide what research technique to employ.

Research techniques are the specific manipulative and fact finding operations which are used to yield data about the social world.

Research strategy on the other hand refers to the way in which one particular combination of available research technique is employed. In respect of this research, we shall employ the doctrinal research method. Under this method, the researcher shall analyze the law as it is in the statute. Both primary and secondary sources of material will be used. Primary sources which are those document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offers an inside view of a particular event. Some types of primary sources include:

Original document (excerpt or translations acceptable):

Diaries, Speeches, Manuscripts, letter, Interview, News, Film footages.

Creative works:

Poetry, Drama, Novels, Music’s.

Relics or Articles:

Pottery, Furniture, Clothing, Buildings

A secondary source interprets and analyzes the primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may have pictures, quotes or graphics of primary sources in them. Some types of secondary sources include:

  • Publications: Textbooks, Magazines articles, Histories, Criticisms, Commentaries, Encyclopedias.
  • A journal / Magazines articles which interpret or reviews previous findings
  • A history textbook

The research approach is therefore, analytical and expository.

1.5 Scope of Research

This research is centered on land ownership in Nigeria. It is therefore mandatory to define the coverage of this study.

This study shall be restricted mainly on ways of proofing land ownership in Nigeria, meaning of land, ownership and possession, and nature of land ownership in Nigeria. A comparative analysis of the requirements of proving land ownership in Nigeria. The approach will mainly be analytical and ways of presentation will mainly be very simple and easy to understand.

Chapter Five

Conclusion and Recommendations

5.1 Conclusion

The land ownership system in pre-colonial Nigeria was communal. Land was deemed not owned by individuals but by communities and families in trust for all the family members. The legal estate under customary land tenancy is vested in the family or community as a unit. Because land ownership in pre-colonial Nigeria was communal, the colonial authorities initiated laws and regulations governing land ownership, land use and development among others to enable them acquire and convey titles to land for the purposes of commerce and governance. However, while these laws were enacted to make lands available for use by the colonial government, they were implemented to eliminate the pre-colonial land tenural system in the country and facilitate private ownership of land, particularly in Southern Nigeria. Thus with the advent of colonial rule, commerce and commercialization, it had become possible for individuals to own private land and deal with such land liberally and subsequently, land began to be sold, leased or mortgaged to individuals or groups.

The Land Use Act of 1978 was enacted to redirect the general philosophies of pre-existing land tenure systems in Nigeria through the application of a uniform statutory regulation of ownership and control of land rights and to stimulate easier access to land for greater economic development as well as promote national and social cohesion. In an attempt to harmonize the different land tenure systems previously existing in the country, the Act has created multiple forms of tenure resulting in insecurity of right of occupancy granted under the Act, excessive bureaucracy in obtaining Governor’s consent and approval for land transactions and certificate of occupancy, among other shortcomings. The multiple forms of tenure created by the Act have also generated confusion concerning legal estates which can be owned in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

5.2 Recommendations

There is urgent need for the amendment of the nation’s Land Use Act to eliminate all legal ambiguities currently associated with private land ownership in the country and to facilitate access to land with ease for various purposes. Such amendment should ensure that Nigerians can own freehold interest in land in the country and can transact with their land without the consent of the Governor. It should also strengthen the government to effectively exercise the power of eminent domain in the acquisition of land in any part of the country for public overriding purposes.

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