'He is not a full man who does not own a piece of land' ~ Hebrew Proverb
Land acquisition and use is a major highlight of any real estate market in the world. Land is relatively immutable and unmovable so it provides a good collateral for securing finance. However, only a well-titled land will suffice for such kind of investment as land transactions are required to be formal and registered. Investment in land is affected by the security of property rights such that without the proper land documentation, an individual cannot be said to be the rightful owner of a portion of land. These and more were some of the issues addressed by the land tenure and reform laws evident in the Land Use Act of 1978 which led to a number of advantages and disadvantages alike.
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This article seeks to shine the light on the pros and cons of the land use act in Nigeria while highlighting possible solutions to the challenges. The Land use Act promulgated in 1978 and made an integral part of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was aimed at promoting the proper and efficient use of land.
Advantages of the Land Use Act
To a large extent, the land use act achieved its aims and objectives:
- Ensuring that whosoever requires land for any purpose with the ability to make optimum use of it will obtain it.
- Making it illegal for indigenes to allocate land without prior government’s approval as only the Governor of each state has the power to allocate urban lands, and the local area councils have the power to allocate rural lands.
- Preventing the practice of land speculators buying up large acres of land, especially in developed urban locations with no intent of immediate or future use, but to tie it down in order to obtain high prices for a future sale to another person.
- Reduction in boundary disputes, the number, and frequency of court cases of land ownership since the survey of acquired land is mandatory for occupancy right to be granted.
- Allowing for easy acquisition of land for agricultural use as it provides farmers with not more than 500 hectares of land for crop production or 5000 hectares of land for grazing.
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Disadvantages of the Land Use Act
The Land Use Act, however, is not without pitfalls as there a number of challenges associated with the act and many have argued for the need to have a Land Adjudication Act (LAA) to address these issues. The adoption of systematic titling and registration will help combat the challenge of value gap between a land with a registered title and one without it. For example, an individual with a registered title to his plot of land is potentially wealthier and better positioned to take advantage of opportunities than another individual with land in abundance but without a registered title.
- Abuse of Office: Another fault of the Land Use Act was in the transfer of title and ownership of land from individuals and communities to the Governors who hold the land in trust but many of whom have been known to have abused the power and privileges conferred on them by the Act. Section 22 requires the acquisition of Governor’s consent before a statutory right of occupancy can be alienated as this is necessary where there is a transfer of title from a vendor to a purchaser.
- Delay in land acquisition: Acquisition of land by individuals and corporate bodies for commercial and economic development purposes have been extremely difficult as a result of the Land Use Act. The government’s approval amongst other reasons from the Land Use Act results in the delay in making land accessible to an average Nigerian.
For any law or Act to have a full effect on the populace it must be free from loopholes and easy to adhere to by the common man. That being established, it is highly imperative for the government and lawmakers alike to critically look into the Land Use Act and address all possible faults pointed out by major stakeholders within the real estate industry.