There are various types of land ownership in Nigeria which vary from one place to another and the purpose of this type of ownership is to help regulate land ownership behavior in Nigeria. The types of ownership practiced in Nigeria range from communal ownership, inheritance, leasehold, tenancy, gift, etc and the Land Use Act 1978 is the principal legislation that governs land use and administration in Nigeria.
There were different systems of land ownership which was predominant in Nigeria before the Land Use Act was enacted; this system is called the freehold or customary land tenancy system where individuals or communities exercised control on land ownership based on lands belonging to families, towns, villages, and communities. However, the Land Use Act 1978 was enacted to standardize land administration in Nigeria, where all land in a state geographical region is vested in the state governor, Section 1 of the Act providesthat “all lands comprised in the territory of each state in the Federation are vested in the Governor of that State and such land shall be held in trust and administered for the use and common benefit of all Nigerian in accordance with the provisions of the Act”.
Types of land ownership
Communal Ownership– the Nigerian law recognizes this type of land ownership, the governing power of the land resides in the community, which is headed by the community head, although the land jointly belongs to the community. The community head dictates how and the basis for land distribution in that community. Although this is a common practice in most rural parts of the country, the disadvantage is that a landowner with this root of title cannot use such land as collateral for a loan application.
Traditional Ownership- this customary root of title is vested in the people who founded and settled on land over years in the olden years. This type of ownership is recognized and is consequently legal and the landowners do not require a certificate of occupancy to prove their ownership.
Ownership by Inheritance– in this type of ownership, the land is transferred to another (beneficiary) at the death of the primary owner. The next of kin or new owner resume title to the land ownership.
Ownership by Gift– the ownership rights of a land is bestowed on another as a gift. With this type of ownership, there is no consideration for the gift and it can be used as collateral for securing a loan. Where land has been gifted, the receiver must ensure that there is proof stating that the land was gifted and it does not require any form of registration with the Lands Registry. The disadvantage of this type of ownership is that it can be revoked by a court order.
Ownership by Production of Documents of Title– ownership of land is evidenced byformal land documents which include a certificate of occupancy, right of occupancy, etc issued by the government. Section 1 of the Land Use Act 1978 provides that “all lands comprised in the territory of each state in the Federation are vested in the Governor of that State and such land shall be held in trust and administered for the use and common benefit of all Nigerian in accordance with the provisions of the Act”. By the provision of this section, the government can transfer ownership of title in land to individuals and corporations by this document of title.
Certificate of Occupancy (C of O)- the C of O is an important land title document that evidences the ownership status of a land in Nigeria. It is issued by the State Government to landowners and property buyers as proof of ownership of land and it leases the land under which it is issued to the applicant for a definite period of 99years. Section 5(1) of the Act states that “it shall be lawful for the Governor in respect of land whether or not in an urban area to grant a statutory right of ownership to any person for all purposes”. This legal document indicates that ownership has been granted to anther by the State Government.
Deed of Assignment/Conveyance- thisland document shows evidence that ownership interest in a land has been transferred to another.It is a document that must be demanded for and given to the buyer of land upon the completion of a land transaction either residential or commercial between a buyer and a seller of land, hence, a Deed of Assignment is drafted and executed in favour of the buyer to evidence the transfer of the unexpired residue of the land by the seller to the buyer. It contains amongst others the description of the land, description of the parties to the transaction, and the consideration and date the transfer took effect.
Where a Deed of Assignment has been executed on behalf of the buyer, the buyer of the land owes the duty to perfect his title in the land and it can be perfected by doing the following acts;
- Obtain the Governor’s consent in the State where the land was purchased.
- Stamp the Deed of Assignment at the appropriate Land Registry.
- Register the Deed of Assignment at the Land’s Registry.
Deed of Lease- a Deed of Lease is a land document in Nigeria that evidences the transfer of ownership of land. It t creates an interest in a land for a fixed period for consideration of rent. The unexpired residue in the land is not given to the purchaser because the Lessor (Seller) still enjoys a reversionary interest in the land.
Deed of Mortgage- A Deed of Mortgage is a land title document that transfers the legal interest of land to another as a security, but the interest in the land ceases once the obligation for the loan has been redeemed by the Mortgagee. The Mortgagor using his land as security is still the owner of the land, while the land is only held in custody by the Mortgagee.
Survey Plan- A Survey Plan is a land title document used to evidence the true ownership status of land in Nigeria. The survey plan shows the boundary measurement and coordinates of a parcel of land, giving an exact measurement and full description of the land. The Survey Plan can also help to reveal whether the land to be transacted is under any government acquisition or not.
The above-highlighted types of land ownership were enunciated in the decided case of ELEGUSHI V OSENI (2005) 14 NWLR (PT 945) at 348, where the Supreme Court stated the types of legal ownership of land in Nigeria as;
- By traditional evidence;
- By acts of ownership extending over a sufficient length of time, which acts are numerous and positive enough to warrant the inference that they are owners;
- By proof of possession of connected or adjacent land in circumstances rendering it probable that the owners of such connected or adjacent land would, in addition, be the owners of the land in dispute;
- By production of the document of title which must be authenticated;
- By acts of long possession and enjoyment of the land in dispute.
There are other authorities that support this principle of ownership of land, see also the case of IDUNDUN & ORS V. OKUMAGBA & ORS (1979) 9-10 SC 227 at 246-250 where the Supreme Court also established the five (5) claims of ownership in Nigeria.
The above highlighted, are the types of ownership of land system we have in Nigeria and this are means of establishing title to ownership of land in event of any dispute.