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Land Use Act of Nigeria

Land Use Act: The trend of land acquisition by host Government

It is debatable that the Nigerian Land Use Act of 1978 has not absolutely transferred ownership of land to the Governor of states in Nigeria. In this article, we look at the trend of  Land Acquisition by host Government.

It is argued that the citizens have no rights or interest over the land in the country beyond their occupation because such rights or interest have been taken over by the virtue of section 1 of the Land Use Act, which provides that subject to the provisions of the Act, lands in each state of the Federation is vested in the Governor of that State and such land shall be held in trust and administered for the use and common benefits of all Nigerians.

No doubt, the procedure for compulsory acquisition requires adequate notice to be given to the owner, compensation to be paid and the acquisition must be for ‘public purpose’.

There is no land without owner; the ownership may be individual, corporate, communal or nation at large. Everything depends on land, houses are built on land, food comes from land, and the ultimate relationship between Man and land is that man’s remains are committed to land after death.

Hence, life’s basic needs are expressed to be food, clothing and shelter. Therefore it is true to assert that there is only one fundamental need of life and that is land because food, clothing and shelter are entirely derived from land.

The land comprised in the territory of each state of the Federation is the res over which the governor exercised ownership in trust in accordance with section 1 of the Land Use Act of 1978. It is an immovable property.

Going down memory lane, the Land Use Decree was promulgated on 29 March 1978 following the recommendations of a minority report of a panel appointed by the Federal Military Government at the time to advise on future land policies.

With immediate effect, it vested all land in each state of the Federation in the governor of that state (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1978).

The Decree distinguishes throughout between urban and rural land. In urban areas (to be so designated by the Governor of a state), land was to come under the control and management of the Governor, while in rural areas it was to fall under the appropriate local government.

‘Land Use and Allocation Committees’ appointed for each state by the Governor, were to advise on the administration of land in urban areas while ‘Land Allocation Advisory Committees’ were to exercise equivalent functions with regard to rural land.

In view of the aforementioned, the following objectives are critical to the crux of this article:

(i) What are the provisions of the ACT relating to acquisition and compensation of rural land

(ii)  What are the stands of the ACT as regard valuation for compensation

(iii) Why compensation have been a subject of litigation

Compulsory acquisition or purchase is the process by which local and national governments obtain land and premises for development purposes when they consider this to be in the best interest of the community.

The process of valuation for compensation in compulsory acquisition of land takes place within distinct legal; cultural; socio-economic; political and historical environments which influence the delivery of the process by key actors in it.

The basic principles are perceived to be quite similar even though the practice may vary in different nations or regions, the assessment of compensation is usually influenced by local and national statutes, enactments or laws that provide the basis upon which existing professional standards and methods may be applied

The main statute governing land acquisition and the assessment of compensation in Nigeria is the Land Use Act No.6 of 1978.

Section 28 and 29, provided that:

(1) It shall be lawful for the Governor to revoke a right of occupancy for overriding public interest.

(2) Overriding public interest in the case of a statutory right of occupancy means; (a) The alienation by the occupier by assignment, mortgage, transfer of possession, sublease, or otherwise of any right of occupancy or part thereof contrary to the provisions of this Act or of any regulations made there under; (b) The requirement of the land by the Government of the State or by a Local Government in the State, in either case for public purposes within the State, or the requirement of the land by the Government of the Federation for public purposes of the Federation; (c) The requirement of the land for mining purposes or oil pipelines or for any purpose connected therewith.

(3) Overriding public interest in the case of a customary right of occupancy means; (a) The requirement of the land by the Government of the State or by a Local Government in the State in either case for public purpose within the State, or the requirement of the land by the government of the Federation for public purposes of the Federation; (b) The requirement of the land for mining purposes or oil pipelines or for any purpose connected therewith; (c) The requirement of the land for the extraction of building materials; (d) The alienation by the occupier by sale, assignment, mortgage, transfer of possession, sublease, bequest or otherwise of the right of occupancy without the requisite consent or approval.

(4) The Governor shall revoke a right of occupancy in the event of the issue of a notice by or on behalf of the (Head of the Federal Military Government) if such notice declares such land to be required by the Government for public purposes.

(5) The Military Government may revoke a statutory right of occupancy on the ground of; (a) A breach of any of the provisions which a certificate of occupancy is by section 10 deemed to contain; (b) A breach of any term contained in the certificate of occupancy or in any special contract made under section 8; (c) A refusal or neglect to accept and pay for a certificate which was issued in evidence of a right of occupancy but has been cancelled by the Military Governor under subsection (3) of section 10.

(6) The revocation of a right of occupancy shall be signified under the hand of a public officer duly authorised in that behalf by the Governor and notice thereof shall be given to the holder.

There are a number of observable problems associated with compulsory acquisition and valuation for compensation in different parts of the world. The land use act is silent on the question of “disturbance and injurious affection” which implies that dispossessed land owners are not compensated for certain losses such as goodwill.

The manner by which the governments in many developing countries exercise the rights of compulsory acquisition undermines tenure security because often, little or no compensation is paid, which then have negative impacts on equity and transparency.

Observations on the invocation of Public Land Acquisition and Payment of Compensation in Nigeria have resulted in controversies, lapses and disputes in the past, such as listed; inadequate revocation notices, inadequate compensations, illiteracy of the claimants, inadequate funding of compensation exercise, non-payment of interest on delayed payments, problem of conflicting claims, use of low rate for economic trees and crops, non-enumeration for some crops/economic trees, resistance to allow surveyors to.

The question is how do you justify using investment method of valuation for this house and other improvements on the farm land? Where are the comparables? Where is the rent? Even, undeveloped land here, how do you use market value here? Where is the data? Where is the market survey?

Of a truth, an amendment to the present Land Use Act of Nigeria to reflect realities as regard ownership and transparent methods of assessment for compensation has become imperative

 

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