Black law dictionary 7th edition defines land as “An immovable and indestructible three dimensional areas consisting of a portion of the earth’s surface the space above and below the surface and everything growing on or permanently affixed to the land”.What emerges from the definition above is that land may have both a natural and artificial content, though its natural content namely the ground and its subsoil and things below or above the earth’s surface, where an artificial content includes building and other structures or trees has been added. It further explains that land is immovable. However, the question has arisen whether such additions form an integral part of the ground so as to accrue to the owner of the ground.
Under English law, the part or principle of “quic quid plantatour solo solo credit” which means that whatever is attached or fixed to the land is part of the land is fully operational. Thus building material placed on land do not become land until the building is erected and would cease to be part of the land when the building is demolished.
The applicability of the maxim quic quid plantatour solo solo credit to customary law has been a matter of great controversy amongst writers. In Ezejiofor (1989) view, the maxim quic quid plantatour solo solo credit is not a rule of customary law there under a person who for whatever reasons introduces an improvement unto land without the permission of the landowner is the rightful owner of the improvement. According to Obi (1963), a remarkable aspect of African customary law is that land does not includes things growing on, attached to the soil and that neither economic trees not houses form a part of the land on which they stand. In Yoruba’s customary law, a definition is drawn between land (the soil) and improvements thereon (Lloyd,1962). Expressing a similar view, Kludz (1974) explained that among the Ewes in Modern day Ghana land means the soil itself as well as the subsoil and anything under the soil such as soil minerals but that does not include things as or attached to the soil such as tree, houses or other permanent fixtures to these writers the principles of quic quid plantatour solo solo credit is not part of our customary land law.
According to section 3 (miscellaneous provision) of the Land Use Act of 1978, “immovable property or lands included land, everything attached to the earth, and chattels real, but does not include minerals in the language of the property. Property and Conveyancing Law of Western Nigeria states that land includes land of any tenure, buildings or parts of buildings (whether the division is horizontal, vertical or made in any other way) and other corporal hereditaments and an easement, right, privileged or benefit in, over, or derived from land.
Nwabueze (1982), while endorsing the above definitions, states that land does not only mean the ground and its subsoil but includes also all structures and objects, like buildings and tress standing on it. Coker (1966) stated categorically that in any application of the term land includes building there on. Supporting this view Olienu (1962) had stated: “the term land as understood in customary law has a wide application. It includes things on the soil which are employed with it as being part of the land by nature e.g rivers, streams, lakes, lagoons, growing trees like palmtrees cassava tree or as being artificially fixed to it like houses buildings and structures whatever it is also includes any estate, interest into or over the land denotes e.g. the right to collect snail, herbs or to hurt on land.
From the discussion above, obviously the issues is far from resolved. Suffice it so say that if the Obi and LIoyd’s views are accepted, then there may exist a situation in which a building or other structure vest in one person, while the ground vests in another person. This will certainly create some problems since the owner who in law has a superior title may be deprived of the benefit of making full use of his land as he wishes where someone to whom he has granted an occupational right builds a house during the subsistence of the agreement is held to remain the owner of the house at the determination of the agreement.
For this reason, the views expressed by Coker, Olienu and Nwabueze are to be preferred with the restriction that where landlord and the builder of the house on the land have evidenced a contrary intention such intention should be given effect, in such a case, if land lord and a house builder agree that ownership of house shall continue to vest in the landlord, then the house builder should continue to retain ownership of the building but will be obliged to remove it at the instance of the landlord and pay compensation to the landlord for any damage done to the land.
In Nigeria, land takes up importance as a commodity for daily use for many purposes. For several decades, land has continued to influence the lives of Nigerians socially, economically and politically. In the process of using the land, complex set of relationships has emerged among groups. The more complex various Nigerian communities become, and the more established are the physical manifestations of development, the more friction and clashes are likely over rights in land. This shows that in Nigeria, as in other developing countries generally, land constitutes a sensitive asset whose administration must be based on meaningful policy decisions to benefit most Nigerians.
Land occupies a unique place in the development process of any individual or society. The supply of useable land is however limited. No society therefore exists without a regulation of some kind peculiar to it to rationalize the mode of ownership and the use of land.