We have watched over the decades the problems encountered in acquisition of land and subsequently in obtaining the approval of certificate of occupancy and housing delivery in Nigeria. In the commencement of the Land Use Act 1978, it was stated that “whereas it is in the public interest that the rights of all Nigerians to the land of Nigeria be asserted and preserved by law”. Our concern is not really another criticism against the Act but an in-depth evaluation of how it has achieved its aim if any in the mass provision of housing to the people. That is, where lays the hope of the masses in the current wave of high cost of acquisition of land? It should be noted that one of the cogent reasons why the Act came into existence was because of the nature of trusteeship of land in the past; it was difficult for just anyone to get access to land. Could we now say it is very easy for just anyone to get access to land? Therefore, this research paper critically re-examined in-depth the motives behind the act vis-à-vis the present realities and the implication on housing provision; evaluate the achievements realized so far in terms of implementation since the promulgation of the act and ways to facilitate and sustain housing delivery; and review the areas of bottlenecks and suggest possible ways of ameliorating the identified problems.
Keywords: Land use act, Housing provision, Sustainable development
Today, if you buy land in Nigeria and you do not have the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) from the government, it is not yours, all you have is a lease, that is, you never have a freehold. You cannot even have access to any loan or do anything tangible if you do not have fund of your own, not even the National Housing Fund which was set up by the government to render such assistance. Yet the Certificate of Occupancy is even more difficult than getting the land itself. All efforts by some State Governments especially the Lagos State government to ease the procedure and collection have been described as mere gimmicks. We have heard series of cases where Governors wield their powers to revoke legally acquired rights of occupancy in the interest of the public, whereas it was obvious that they were done on political reasons especially against oppositions. The former President of the federation who was the author of the Act when it was promulgated during his first military administration had to reassure Nigerians on 26th of September 2001 in Abuja that “no government owns land” and that “land belongs to the people”. This statement was made when he was condemning the excesses of the Governors. As stated above, since it is a known philosophy that laws are made by men for men and are operated, implemented and enforced by human beings through various legal institutions, our concern is how the Act has helped in the housing scheme.
Several controversies that were created by the Act have been well documented in different reactions and write-ups (Oduniyi, 1981; Megbolugbe, 1983; Udo, 1990; Onibokun, 1985; 1990; Ayeni, 1991; Tobi, 1997; Mabogunje, 2007; 2011; Aluko, 2009; 2010). Mabogunje (2007; 2011) and Aluko (2007; 2009; 2010) dealt excessively on the gory state of affairs about the housing situations in Lagos State in particular and Nigeria in general and how it could be sustained. In this research paper, we try to examine the effects if any, that the Land Use Act has had on the aspect of housing provision in Nigeria. Since one of the major areas of the Act is to control future uses and open new land for the needs of Nigeria’s growing population especially in urban areas, yet there is still the outcry of the people to affordable housing provision. In Lagos State the municipalities (local governments) have no say in the issue of Certificate of Occupancy as all lands in the State has been declared urban and are all under the control of the governor.
Whereas in the commencement of the Land Use Act 1978 No. 6 on 29th March, 1978, it was stated that “whereas it is in the public interest that the rights of all Nigerians to the land of Nigeria be asserted and preserved by law”. And that “…all lands comprised in the territory of each State in the Federation are hereby vested in the Governor of the State…” The Act also provides that “all land in urban areas shall be under the control and management of the Governor of each State”. Our concern is not really another criticism of the Act but an in-depth evaluation of how it has achieved its aim if any in the mass provision of housing to the people. That is, where lies the hope of the masses in the current wave of high cost of acquisition of land? It should be noted that one of the cogent reasons why the Act came into existence was because of the nature of trusteeship of land in the past. It was difficult for anyone to get access to land. Could we now say it is very easy for anyone to get access to land?