Why Land Use Act needs to be reformed, by experts

Emeka Eleh


Forty years after it was promulgated to ease access to land and boost housing provision in the country, the clamor for a review of the Land Use Act (alternatively known as Decree 6, of 1978) is yet to abate, as experts last week reiterated its call for a speedy reform of the existing legislation.

Before the coming of the Act, two principal tenural systems operated independently in both the North and South of the country.  With its promulgation however, the decree became the supreme land policy operating all over the country thus replacing the two tenural systems.

To many, rather than being a catalyst to socio-economic development in the country as originally planned, the Act has become a hindrance to the growth of the sector, alienating original landowners from their property and depriving them of the homeownership.

On March 29, the Act clocked 40 years and experts in their assessment said that the law creating more problems than those it intended to resolve. They urged the quick expulsion of the controversial sections of the Act from the Constitution, so that Nigeria can witness an acceleration in development.

A past President of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Mr. Emeka Eleh, said “lack of registrable titles coupled with other issues associated with the implementation of the Land Use Act has effectively contributed to the level of poverty in the country both at the individual and state levels. 

“At individual levels, people are unable to create wealth from their land assets, while at state levels, revenue that should accrue from ground rent receipts is lost due to the fact that the bulk of the land is not covered by registered title and is therefore “unknown” to the state.” 

According to him, the requirement for beneficiaries to use only properties covered by a Certificate of Occupancy as collateral for loans from the National Housing Fund is known to be a major reason for the failure of the Fund to make the desired impact in the economy. 

“This is because majority of the low income earners, who are meant to benefit from the Fund do not have Certificate of Occupancy covering their plots and are therefore excluded.  Whilst some states like Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory have taken commendable steps to streamline and shorten the process of obtaining both Consent and Certificate of Occupancy, a lot still needs to be done,” he said.

Another estate surveyor, Mr. Kola Akomolede stated that since the promulgation of the decree, banks and other financial institutions have not been accepting bare land (no matter the size and value) as collateral for loans and advances, despite the high price paid to purchase same.

“This is as a result of the compensation clause, which has nothing for the owner of bare land if C of O is revoked. These has been a source of serious problem for those who have land and will like to use it as collateral for loans either to develop the land or for other businesses.

“The value of the land can be greater than the value of the development on the land in most high end locations. It is therefore not right to ignore the value of the land and pay compensations only on the land. As private citizens, this is one more way that the Land Use Act is unfavourable towards the housing development in the country.”

In his submission, Chudi Ubosi, President, Africa region, International Real Estate Federation said the objectives of the Land Use Act were no doubt lofty and well-intentioned but it has turned out to be defective in many respects.

“The time for a review in tune with current realities is long overdue. Fettered with institutional failure, dearth of political will and inherent defects, the law has not been able to achieve most of its set objectives.

“Notwithstanding, the desire for economic development through effective, fair and equitable utilisation of land and land resources can still be attained if the law is holistically amended to overturn certain anachronistic and antithetical provisions and replaced with realistic and effective policies that would put Nigeria on the part of economic progress,” he added.

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Emeka ElehLand Use Act
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