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Sunday, September 28, 2014

CONCEPT OF LAND TENURE SYSTEM IN NIGERIA

            Land tenure is the system of land holding in any given society. It is also define as the holding of land or the right to hold land.
            The  concept of land  tenure  has been described  as a systematization  of the rules which function  by specifying what different classes of persons may or may not must or must not do, with reference to the occupancy, use, abuse or disposition of land.  Such rules define the privileges and obligations,  the rights and  duties of persons in relation  to each other,  with reference to land. The system of land tenure also sets out the method of administration with regard to acquisition, distribution, exploitation and use of specific portions of land.
            Land tenure systems may be extremely complex. It will therefore be helpful to distinguish those rights over land. According to (Amasiatu, 2010), there exist different types of rights exercised over land. Among the varieties are:
  •  Usufructuary right: This is the right to use and profit from property vested in another, so long as the user (usufructuary) does not change the substance of the property. It would include an easement but not a profit a prendre (Real Estate Dictionary, n.d). Another source defined this right as a system of land tenure where land is communally owned and people have free access to use it.
  • Right of Occupancy: This type of right is documented in a certificate of occupancy (C of O) and refers to the right granted to a holder to occupy a property within a limited/defined time frame. In Nigeria, this right came with the land use Act of 1978 which recognizes the right of occupancy as the only interest in land in Nigeria according to Okoronkwo (2009), "the right inherent in the certificate of occupancy does not confer proprietary rights of ownership of land to the holder but of occupancy and use only".
  • Residual Rights: According to Onwuchekwa (1999), this right applies when a land is under pledge. The individual to whom the land is pledged continues to use the land perpetually until the land is redeemed. Property Right: According to a Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO, 2003), the right that a person has in an object such as land may be considered as property… In the case of land tenure, it is sometimes described more precisely as property rights to land. Mbadiwe (1998) adds that land use decisions can only be taken and carried out by people with property rights in land. Property right could be said to confer on its holder, proprietary right as it were.
  • Symbolic Right: This applies where land has been donated for development project without any monetary attachments but mere recognition of the donor (Onwuchekwa, 1999).
  • Grazing Rights: This is a form of right granted to people to graze on another person's land (Onwuchekwa, 1999; FAO (n. d)). Communal Rights: A right of commons where each member of a community has a right to use the holdings of the community independently (FAO (n. d)). 
  • Freehold and leasehold rights: By and large, land rights could be classified as customary rights and statutory rights. Leasehold, freehold and rights of occupancy are examples of statutory rights. They are defined by clearly stated laws/ regulations. Customary rights such as usufructuary rights, symbolic rights, grazing rights, communal rights, property rights etc, are derivatives of customs and traditions. In some instances, some of these rights find their places in both categories.
            However, it must be recognized and stressed that the duality of the Nigeria legal systems, (that is, the administration of both the customary laws and the Received English Laws with respect to land) has resulted in the existence of customary and non-customary land tenure systems in Nigeria.
            Land is of fundamental importance in traditional Nigerian society, and is communally owned, although family or corporate ownership existed side by side with communal ownership. It is a source of wealth and is greatly valued as an indispensable factor of production. Agriculture, the oldest occupation of mankind, takes place on land. Traditional Africa in general and Nigeria in particular maintained a liberal policy of allocation of land resources. Land was allocated to families and individuals, while the community or clan maintained absolute ownership. The chief or the head of the lineage or clan was the custodian of the land. His position was that of a trustee, holding the land for the clan or the whole community. These custodians were invested with the power to manage and administer the communal property but in the interests of members of the community. Strangers and people with problems were easily absorbed and settled without discrimination and with land to use at their discretion. These additions were based on the cultural beliefs and attitudes towards life and hospitality. 
            It must also be recognized that both the customary and non-customary land tenure systems in Nigeria have been qualified by the Land Use Act of 1978 to the extent that the Act now provides for new uniform tenure system in Nigeria although it still preserves the existing title and rights to possession of land.

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