Problems of Land Tenure System in Nigeria

Firstly, what does the term, land tenure system mean?

Land tenure is an institution with rules invented by societal norms or government laws in order to define access, allocation, use, and control of the land. Land tenure is used to regulate behaviour and relationships with respect to land. Land tenure systems are important because they determine who can use what particular land, duration to be used, and under what conditions.

In Nigeria, there are various land tenure systems in operation in different places. The land tenure system in Nigeria is used to regulate land ownership and usage behaviour in the country. Below are the various forms of land tenure systems in Nigeria, they are:

  • Communal Ownership
  • Inheritance Tenure System
  • Leasehold Tenure System
  • Rent Tenure System
  • Gift Tenure System
  • Freehold Tenure System
  • Tenant at Government will

You might be wondering the importance of land tenure systems. Land tenure systems are important for the following reasons:

  • Land tenure system helps to foster economic growth through activities such as farming, sales, investment, etc.
  • Land tenure systems determine the security of land rights and ownership.
  • Land tenure system also determines the inclusion of vulnerable groups of people in the society such as women and low-income earners and their right to own or inherit the land.
  • Land tenure systems also reduce conflict: This is because when land rights are not secure by law, it could lead to conflict, war, and instability.

Problems of Land tenure systems in Nigeria

Problems of Land Tenure System in Nigeria

Communal Ownership

The indigenous land tenure system operating in Nigeria is communal ownership. This means that anyone can have access to the land as long as they are members of the community by birth. Under the communal ownership tenure system, rights to natural resources such as land, plants, animals, and water are also commonly owned.

The effect of communal ownership of land is that everyone is able to have access to, exploit and manage all other resources that have to do with land such as hunting of animals, collection of firewood, harvesting of fruits, farming of livestock, etc. The community also has the right to allocate land to individuals for the purpose of individual or household farming. There is a common group interest that composes of family and the entire village. Under communal ownership, the power to control of land is given to a council of chiefs or elders who hold the land in trust for all members of the community. One of the advantages of communal ownership is the sustained conservation of natural resources. This is because natural resources are used for different purposes such as traditional health care delivery, food source, and even as a means of livelihood for many households. Most communities also have traditional rules, regulations, and taboos which helps to conserve natural resources. Such an example is the reservation of forest for shrines or those regarded as evil and forbidden bushes. However, the world has become more secularized and these traditional rules and taboos have eroded or evolved with time. There is also the inability to enforce these traditional rules above state laws. Thus, these traditional methods, although suitable for conservation of resources cannot meet with modern requirements.

Inheritance Tenure System

Another land tenure system is the Inheritance Tenure system where people own lands individually via inheritance. This tenure system is encouraged by the commercialization of agricultural products such as cash crops, cocoa, rubber, etc. With the inheritance tenure system, people have strong ownership of land and dominant user rights.

An advantage of the Inheritance Tenure system is that landowners have full control of land which encourages crop farming and production.

Disadvantages of the Inheritance Tenure system

Misuse and Abuse of land: This is because no other party has any influence over the control and use of land. The misuse and abuse of land can lead to other problems such as erosion and general degradation of the soil which then affects farming and economic activities.

Inequality: The individual land tenure system also allows for unequal access to land. The individual land tenure system has led to the concentration of land in the hands of just a wealthy few and then depriving others of ownership opportunities.

Rendering farmers landless: The individual tenure system makes farmers not have land because they have no access to the land via sale or inheritance. Farmers are then forced to migrate to areas where farmlands are relatively abundant and leave an area of the country lacking in farming activities.

Leasehold Tenure System

The leasehold tenure system allows a person to own a land temporarily. Under the Leasehold tenure system, the temporal owner is called a tenant while the principal owner is called the Landlord. An advantage of the Leasehold Tenure system is that it encourages farming activities such as crop cultivation (depending on the duration of the lease)

A disadvantage of the Leasehold Tenure system is that land leased cannot be used as security for loans.

 Gift Tenure System

The gift tenure system as the name implies means the voluntary transfer of land ownership rights from one person to the other. Land under this tenure system can be used as collateral to get a loan. Also, the new landowner enjoys the full benefits of land use. The downside to this tenure system however is that land ownership can be revoked by a court order.

Rent Tenure System

The rent tenure system is quite similar to the leasehold tenure system with a difference only in the duration of time with which the tenant is allowed to use the land. While a lease period could go on for many years, land rent is usually shorter. The owner has the land-only temporarily. The rent tenure system does not encourage long term planning.

Freehold Tenure System

Under the freehold tenure system, an individual or a group buys the right of ownership to land. Although buying land under this tenure can be expensive, the land can however be used to secure loans.

Tenants at Government Will

This tenure system is the government that gives a portion of land to an individual or a community. Under this tenure system, the individual or community has full usage of the land, however, the land cannot be used as collateral for the loan.



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