Land Use Policies Since 1960

Posted by on 2/27/2004 3:17:34 PM |

Land Use Policies Since 1960

After independence in 1960, the Government of Northern Nigeria enacted a new law titled 'Land Tenure Law 1962.' It is pertinent to note that one of the major declarations of the 1962 Land Tenure Law, like its predecessor, was that all lands in north- ern Nigeria were under the control and subject to the disposition of the Governor and were to be held and administered for the use and common benefit of the Natives of Northern Nigeria.

Consequently, two titles to native land were recognised: customary rights of occupancy administered by traditional authorities which covered all those tenure systems administered by communities or their leaders since pre-colonial times; and statutory rights of occupancy which were administered by State Governments. These were usually evidenced by certificates of occupancy that were granted to any persons including foreigners, usually for a specific purpose.

Title to it may be granted on prescribed terms and for periods of up to ninety-nine years. Subsequent developments on land management in Nigeria led to the modification of the Northern Nigeria Land Tenure Law of 1962, into the Land Use Act of 1978. Prior to the enactment of the Land Use Act, it had frequently been stated that private individuals and the Government increasingly faced difficulties in acquiring land for development purposes. Demand for land had been occasioned principally by increasing urbanisation particularly at the periurban fringe and the growth of the national economy due mainlv to revenues derived from oil.

Such difficulties were clearly stated in the Third National Development Plan viz: although legislation exists empowering Governments to acquire land compulsorily for public purposes, it has become difficult to do so at reasonable cost in some of Nigeria's urban centres. Several projects in the Second Development Plan (1970- 1974) have failed to take off because of the difficulty of obtaining land in major urban centres. (Equally too), many private projects must have also run into similar obstacles.

(Moreover), even where land was readily available, the prices are often prohibitive, and compensation claimed and paid by Governments have been generally much higher than the true opportunity cost of land. This situation has obviously been aggravated by the activities of land speculators who purchase land which they do not intend to develop (immediately), hold on to them until development has substantially increased their market value and then sell at abnormal profits (op. cit. 293).

In order to overcome the above difficulties and solve the high inflationary problem in the country, the Federal Government set up the Anti-Inflation Task Force on 15th August, 1975. The main term of reference of the Task Force, amongst others, was to examine the existing inflationary tendencies in the economy and identify their causes. In its first report, the Task Force recommended in the section under land,' inter alia, 'a comprehensive national policy on land by the promulgation of a Decree that will vest all land in principle in the State Government.' This report was not accepted by the Federal Government. But the persistence of the difficulties on the acquisition of land for development noted above, and the incidence of high rents demanded by property developers, an incidence occasioned by not only the high costs of building materials but also land, led to the setting up of a Rent Panel on 6th January, 1977.

While the Panel dealt exclusively with the high incidence of soaring house rents, it nevertheless recommended the need for the establishment of a land reform Commission to be charged with four main functions, namely: to study very closely the various aspects of our land tenure systems and to recom- mend to the Federal Government steps to be taken to streamline them; to take stock of the land situation in the country and establish an order of priorities; to control future uses and open new lands for the needs of Nigeria's growing population especially in the urban centres: that a decree be promulgated which will vest in the State Governments within two years... all undeveloped sites in private layouts within defined urban centres (Nigeria: Fieport of Rent Panel 1976: 67).

In the same year, some members of the Constitution Drafting Committee, (which was to draft and recommend a constitution for Nigeria) also recommended the nationalisation of all unde- veloped lands in Nigeria. According to them, 11 is revolting to one's sense of justice and equity that one person alone should own about ten or more plots of State lands...when others have none'. Thus, it became crystal clear that the Federal Government should take urgent action to redress the anomalies in the existing land tenure system in Nigeria as highlighted by the several panels noted above. Consequently, on 6th May 1977, the Federal Military Government led by General Olusegun Obasanjo decided to establish a Land Use Panel, inaugurated on the 20th May, 1977, with the follow- ing terms of reference:

(i) to undertake an indepth study of the var- ious land tenure, land use and conser- vation practices in the country and rec' ornmend steps to be taken to streamline them;

(ii) to study and analyse the implications o a uniform land policy for the country, as well as examine the feasibility of a uni' form land policy for the entire country make necessary recommendations anc propose guidelines for their implementa' tion; and

(iii) to examine steps necessary for control' ling future land use and also openinc and developing new lands for the needs of the Government and Nigeria's (ever growing population in both urban anc rural areas, and make appropriate recornmendations (Nigeria: Land Use Panel 1977:1)

The Land Use Panel submitted two reports main and minority - to the Pederal Government in early 1978. It is pertinent to note that in the mail report of the panel, it advised in unequivocal terms against either the nationalisation of land or the extension of the land tenure system of the northern states to the whole country. But the minority report while characterising the authors of the main report as 'protectors of vested interest inilitating agains the rational socio-economic use of land,' Advocated its nationalisation, slating that 'the idea of Government being the custodian of land (as) in the Northern States is germane and should remain acceptable base for land use (Francis 1984:7). The Federal Military Government concurred with the authors of the Minority Report and accord- ingly promulgated a decree on land use, and called it The Land Use Decree No. 6 of 1978.'




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