WHAT IS RIGHT OF OCCUPANCY UNDER THE LAND USE ACT
The Land Use Act of 1978 is the principal Statute regulating land management in Nigeria. The preamble shows that “public interest” is the driving force of the Act; and “the public interest” is the right of all Nigerians to use and enjoy land in Nigeria.
The enactment of the Land Use Act of 1978 gave rise to a new system wherein by virtue of section 1 of the Act, all lands within the territory of a state are vested in the governor of that state who shall hold same in trust for the benefit of the people. By nationalization of land, what is meant is that control and ownership of it had been secured in the state or put in the hands of the state. It means that the citizens have been divested of or denied the ownership of any land in the state. Thus, a person in Nigeria cannot "own" land but rather is conferred the right to occupy the same for a certain time.
The Act did not specifically define a right of occupancy it introduced. The nature of the right introduced would therefore be discerned from the general provisions and tenor of the Act. It however defined a “Customary Right of Occupancy” as “the right of a person or community lawfully using or occupying land in accordance with customary law and includes a customary right of occupancy granted by a Local government under this Act,” and statutory right of occupancy as a right of occupancy granted by the governor under this Act”
Absolute ownership of land is no longer possible since according to the provisions of Section I of the Act all land comprised in the territory of each state in the federation are hereby vested in the governor of the state and such land shall be held in trust and administered for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians in accordance with the provisions of this Decree. Given the vesting of ownership of land in the Governor under the Act, the right of occupancy introduced by it therefore creates a tenurial relationship between the Governor of the state as the supreme land lord and the holder or occupier of the right, as a tenant. The holder, of course, holds in consequence, an interest which is less than the Governor’s ownership.
WRITTEN BY: CHAMAN LAW FIRM TEAM
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