Limitations of Land Use Model in Nigeria

Land is an asset and factor of production for households in Nigeria. However, the level of access and title ownership is determined by the state. Therefore, the land system is characterised by several actors including government, community leaders, families, lawyers, middle men and estate agents among others. All activities of the different actors are regulated by the government through policies and programmes. Generally, land systems thrive on clearly stated property rights. There are two types of proprietary rights: absolute or nonderivative interests and derivative interests. 

The absolute or nonderivative interest is a nonrestrictive access and use of land. The absolute interest on land can also be said to be inclusive of highest scope of proprietary decisions on the use and management of land.

The derivative rights on the other hand cover leaseholds, life interests, mortgage, rents and pledges among others. 

These two types of property rights (absolute or nonderivative interest and derivative interest) exist in Nigeria.

Alt="man working on a farm"

Land Acquisition

Land acquisition is broadly defined as the purchase of ownership rights and the acquisition of user rights, for instance through leases or concessions, whether short or long term. 

Land Tenure System

Land tenure system can be described as the rights and institution (law) that governs access to and use of land. Tenure system of land involves a system of rights, duties and obligations guiding the use, transfer, alienation and ownership security of land and its resources. 

Land is a veritable asset for production and development especially in agriculture and housing sectors of the economy. Nigeria has a total land mass of 924, with population of about 206 million people, according to projections from 2006 population census of 2.8% annual population growth.

Objectives of Land Use Act 1978

The following were the objectives of the 1978 Land Use Act:

  • To make land accessible to all Nigerians
  • To streamline and simply the management and ownership of land
  • To prevent land grabbing and speculative purchasing of communal land
  • To make land available  to the government at all levels for development and general good.
  • To Provide a system of government administration of rights towards improving tenure security

The Act has failed to achieve these objectives as its implementation has been characterized by political considerations in the allocation of land, corruption and rise in lobbyist tendencies. The land use act gives the opportunities to own lands without recourse to families and communal land holdings. The process of obtaining certificates of occupancy is characterised by bureaucratic bottlenecks, high registration fees and perpetual payment of levies and taxes. Despite the enactment of the Land Use Act, land tenure is still governed by customary laws, especially in rural areas in Nigeria. Therefore, tenure security is low as the transactions in the land market are largely informal.

Agriculture provides about 85% jobs in Nigeria especially in the rural areas. Unfortunately, access to land for agriculture is limited as families and community heads are  still custodians of land thereby determining access to land. Going by the provisions of Land Use Act 1978, the beneficiaries of the communal land allocation system are not formally recognised as the legal holders of right to the land. Again, family and community heads rely on memory and reference to natural and artificial features to define plots of land, boundaries that is prone to uncertainty because such can easliy be compromised. This is because most communal land allocations are not documented.

Farming will remain subsistance due to limited access to land. Food security and livelihood depend so much on the availability and accessibility of land.

From estimates, about  95% of agricultural lands in Nigeria are not titled. This hampers the possibility of farmers to use lands as collateral to access farming loans from financial institutions.

Also, the lack of absolute or nonderivative property interest constrains the ability of farmers to plant cash crops, consequently limiting their income generation potentials, and by extension affects national production. It implies that end to food insecurity is not yet in sight as the population increases, while agricultural land becomes scarce in addition to inadequate finance and technology, inconsistent policy regime, infrastructure deficit and adverse climate change impacts.

Read also: Problems Facing Agriculture in Nigeria and Possible Solutions

Ikechukwu Evegbu

Ikechukwu Evegbu is a graduate of Statistics with over 10 years experience as Data Analyst. Worked with Nigeria's Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. A prolific business development content writer. He's the Editor, Business Compiler

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