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Land tenure system in Nigeria

Land Tenure System in Nigeria

The Land Tenure System in Nigeria was established solely for the regulation of land ownership behaviors among Nigerians. The term ‘tenure’ simply means “to hold’. In simple definition, the Land Tenure System refers to the rights, as well as the institution that is concerned with the governing of the use of land in the country.


This aged system of tenure focuses on the rights, responsibilities, duties concerning the ownership security, use, alienation and transfer of land & its resources.


Nigeria has a large land mass, covering an area of  924,768 sq.km. With an annual growth rate of 2.8% in population size, over 200 million people are living in Nigeria. This suggests the need for a system to regulate land use.


The history of Land tenure system in Nigeria

The history of the land tenure system in Nigeria can be traced to the pre-colonial days. Certain structures guided the use of land during the pre-colonial period, as well as the colonial period. 

Basically, land tenure system history has 3 categories: pre-colonial period, colonial period, and post-colonial period.



Pre-colonial Land Tenure System in Nigeria

Families and communities owned lands in Nigeria before the colonial masters took over. In fact, Family heads and community heads originally owned lands. Then they allocate to their subordinates based on their needs or family size.



Colonial Land Tenure Structure

Colonial masters regulated land ownership during the colonial period in Nigeria. There were certain legislation guiding the use of Land:

  • Treaty of Cession: 1861
  • Land Proclamation Ordinance: 1900
  • Land and Native Rights Act: 1916
  • Public Lands Acquisition: 1917
  • State Land Acts: 1918
  • Town & Country Planning Act: 1947 




Post-colonial Land Tenure Structure

After independence in 1960, only 2 major legislation have been validated. 

    • Land Tenure Law of Northern Nigeria: 1962
    • Land Use Act of 1978



Types of Land tenure system in Nigeria


The Communal Land Tenure System

The Community owns the land in this system. This sets the Community head as the controlling power of the community land. Only farming is allowed on the land. This is a major disadvantage.



Tenancy at Government Will

The use of land in this tenure system is based on the granted permission of the state or federal government. Government supports farmers by giving out land for agriculture. This is a typical example of tenancy at government will. A major setback is that the land cannot be used as collateral for loan.



Inheritance Land Tenure System

In Nigeria, the inheritance Land tenure system makes land ownership rights transferable to a successor, usually after the death of the primary land owner.


Leasehold Land Tenure System

The Leasehold system allows for the temporary ownership of a land or property over a certain period of time. A landlord is the principal owner while a tenant is the temporary owner.


Freehold Land Tenure  System

Although the Freehold land tenure system is expensive, it is of greater advantage. You (or a group) can pay an agreed amount of money to acquire the right of ownership.


Open Access Land Tenure System

No one has ownership rights to land in open access land tenure system. Therefore, anyone can access such land for different use like marine residency or animal grazing.




The knowledge of the Land Tenure System in Nigeria is required for a smooth running of a real estate business in Nigeria. In fact, you can become a proud owner of a land or property in Lagos without having to bother about the land tenure system. Contact Property Lagos today!

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