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From time immemorial through the time of agriculture to the time of mechanical advancement and idustrialization, land has remained the most significant property in the life of man and his improvement. It is a wellspring of riches to the individuals who have it and the mother of all properties. As it were, for all intents and purposes all the essential needs of human presence are land subordinate. In perspective of the significance and helpfulness of land to man and his advancement and also the improvement of his environment, each individual for the most part wants to secure and claim a segment of land for housing purpose or to accomplish the different closures for which the land is implied. Subsequently, to make land in Nigeria accessible to all and to guarantee that land is gained and put to an appropriate use for the required improvement, governments amid and after colonial period ordered laws to represent the utilization or organization of land in Nigeria.
Prior to the entry of the colonial masters, there were standard laws which represented the organization of land in Nigeria. These standard laws fluctuated starting with one region then onto the next as a result of the distinctions in traditions of the general population. This represented the variety of land laws in Nigeria preceding the proclamation of the Land Use Act of 1978. These laws were connected in every district to direct land in the area.
Despite the presence of laws regulating land management, the issues of lodging and land organization persevered both in the Northern and Southern Nigeria. There were new issues, for example, land racketeering and speculations. High compensations were demanded by landowners whenever the government acquired land for development or individuals for rent. Thus, acquisition of land by government or individuals was becoming almost impossible in Nigeria.
One of the main considerations that was said to be a hindrance against proficient usage of the Second Development Plan 1975-1980, was absence of land for housing and development projects. To break this boundary and restraining infrastructures of proprietors, the Federal Military Government set up a few boards to consider how best to tackle the issues related with land residency and organization in Nigeria. The report of one of these boards i.e., the Land Use Panel of 1977 inevitably framed the premise of the Land Use Act No. 6 of 1978.
The purpose of this essay therefore, is to critically examine the Land Use Act of 1978 to see the extent to which it has enhanced the administration of land in Nigeria and provision of housing. In this connection, reforms and innovations introduced by the Act to improve the administration of land are critically examined. Bearing in mind that every being has its scar, the Act is not without shortcomings. In this regard, this study further beams its search lights in figuring out the inherent problems of the Act. Finally, this work makes recommendations on how to improve the Act in view of the recent proposal by Government to review the Act.
1.1.0 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The importance of land to man on earth through all ages can hardly be overemphasized. Land, though represents only about two-fifth of the earth’s surface, it provides a platform on which man’s activities are predicated. It is however ironical that while the world population increases, the land in supply appears to be receding. Hence land is never thought to be sufficiently available to meet the need of man in a society. The ownership of land is jealously guarded against. Wars are fought, territories conquered to assert and preserve the ownership of land. The rift between Nigeria and Cameroon over Bakassi Peninsula, wars between Ife and Modakeke and that between Erinle and Offa attest to the above claim.
For few available land to be equitably administered among the people and be maximally utilized there is need for a good land policy to be put in place for effective control and management of land in order to witness the desired development in the society.
Prior to 29th March, 19781 when the Land Use Act was enacted, there were land laws2 which governed land tenure systems in Nigeria before, during and after the advent of the
1 The Land Use Act No. 6 March 29, Cap L5. LFN 2004
2 These pre-existing land laws include-customary, received English land laws and the Land Tenure Law
colonial masters. These laws continued to be in operation until they were found to be defective because despite their existence, the problems of land tenure persisted in Nigeria. One the most serious of these problems was the difficulty in acquiring land by the government in major urban centres for national development because of land
speculations, racketeering and high cost of compensation3 usually demanded by the land owners whenever government acquired land to execute its projects.
Against this background, the Federal Government in a deliberate effort to unify land tenure, streamline and simplify ownership of land in Nigeria, set up the Land Use Panel
in 19774 with certain terms of reference. The recommendations of this panel were particularly related to the land tenure system in the Southern States. The recommendations were studied and adopted by government which promulgated the Land
Use Act, 19785.
This study is carried out against the background of the Land Use Act to evaluate it in the light of its laudable objectives to see whether land is better managed and controlled under the Act. It also points out the inherent problems of the Act which range from interpretation to practical implementation of its provisions. This essay also considers the
3 The Public Land (Miscellaneous) Decree, 1976 which provided for the amount of compensation throughout the whole country. But it has been repealed by the Land Use Act 1978
4 The Land Use Panel set up on the 16th April 1977 headed by Justice Chike Idigbo
prospects of the Act of the act in providing sustainable housing and land management in Nigeria.
1.2.0 THE OBJECTIVES Of THE STUDY:
The importance of land to man, its immense contributions to national development and the yearning for efficacious land legislation has led to a careful and deliberate choice of this topic with the following objectives in view: Firstly, to assess the effectiveness or otherwise of the management of land and provision of sustainable housing under the Land Use Act6. Secondly, to make useful recommendations on how to improve upon the Act, particularly its provisions that seem most unclear and controversial. Thirdly, to make substantial contributions to our knowledge of land law in general and the Land Use Act in particular.
1.3 FOCUS OF THE STUDY
The study particularly appraises the Land Use Act of 1978, concentrating on its efficiency in the provision of sustainable housing and land management. Therefore, a holistic study of this Act is done.
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