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Land ownership and tenure systems in Nigeria - SS2 Agriculture Lesson Note

Land ownership and tenure systems refer to the legal and social frameworks that determine how land is owned, used, and transferred within a particular region or country. These systems vary widely across the world, and they play a crucial role in shaping land rights, access to resources, and economic development.

In Nigeria, land ownership and tenure systems are complex and are influenced by historical, cultural, and legal factors.

An extensive discussion of these systems:

  • Customary Land Tenure: Customary land tenure is prevalent in Nigeria, particularly in rural areas. Under this system, land is often owned collectively by communities or families, with individual households having the right to use specific plots of land within the community or family holdings. These rights are typically governed by traditional norms and customs.


  • Statutory Land Tenure: Nigeria also has a statutory land tenure system, which is primarily regulated by formal laws and government institutions. The Land Use Act of 1978 is a key piece of legislation that vested the control and management of all lands in the state governments and the federal government. Individuals and entities can acquire land through government allocation or leasehold, but they do not have outright ownership rights under this system.


  • Land Disputes and Insecurity: Land disputes are common in Nigeria, often arising due to conflicting claims under both customary and statutory systems. Inefficiencies in land administration and weak enforcement of property rights have contributed to land insecurity. This insecurity can hinder investment and economic development.


  • Urbanization and Commercialization: Rapid urbanization in Nigeria has led to increased demand for land in urban areas. This has driven a shift from customary to statutory land tenure systems in some urban regions, where land is often bought, sold, and leased based on formal legal processes.


  • Land Use Planning and Development: Land use planning and development control in Nigeria are often managed by state and local governments. These authorities determine land use zones, issue development permits, and regulate land use activities. However, the effectiveness of these processes varies widely across different regions.


  • Land Reforms: Over the years, Nigeria has attempted land reform initiatives to address land tenure issues and encourage investment. However, progress has been slow, and there is a need for comprehensive land reform to streamline land administration, clarify property rights, and reduce land-related conflicts.


  • Foreign Land Ownership: Nigeria's Land Use Act restricts the ownership of land by non-Nigerians. Foreign individuals and entities can typically only hold land through leases, which can have implications for foreign investment in the country.


In conclusion, land ownership and tenure systems in Nigeria are characterized by a complex interplay of customary and statutory arrangements, leading to land tenure challenges and disputes. 

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