Nigeria's Legal Instruments for Land and Water Use: Implications for National Development

Nigeria's Legal Instruments for Land and Water Use: Implications for National Development

David O. Omole, Julius M. Ndambuki
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7405-9.ch018
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This chapter critically assesses the administration of land and water resources in Nigeria. Reasons why the Land Use Act has not met its objectives are discussed. It also assesses reasons why, despite abundant water resources, numerous laws, and multiple governing institutions, Nigeria is still struggling to meet the national demand for water supply. The chapter concludes by suggesting specific amendments to the administration of both land and water resources. The main thrust of the suggested amendments is to address the current situation where government arrogates absolute authority on all land and water resources to itself. It is suggested that the government should consider adopting a multi-lateral relationship where government, private investors, traditional landowners, and prospective land buyers are co-decision makers in charting the future for the administration of land and water resources. This is aimed at eliminating associated problems such as delays, tenure insecurity, and proliferation of peri-urbanization in the current system.
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Land is one of the core factors of production. The generation of wealth and other economic advantages cannot be separated from land use rights. Centuries ago, Smith (1776) in his well cited publication defined wealth as the ‘annual produce of land and labour’. Since all labour is carried out on land, it is therefore evident that the latter dictates the conditions for the execution of the former. That is, labour is dependent on the availability of material resources. Most material resources required for production are recovered from the land. This explains why history is filled with the struggle for the control of land. As far back as 4500 BC, governments of civilizations like Sumer and Egypt reserved the absolute control of land in the monarch or representatives of the people (Cahill, 2010). In modern times, research shows that just 36 monarchs control a third of the entire land on earth, with three of the leading land owning monarchs being Queen Elizabeth II (6.7 billion acres), King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia (580 million acres) and the Pope (117 million acres) (Cahill, 2010). Aside from monarchs, individuals and corporations also struggle to take control of land. These classes of people are often the wealthy elite in society. It is reported that 36, 000 individuals (0.6% of the total population) in England control a third of the land in England and Wales (Cohen, 2010). In USA, it was observed that wealthy individuals from different parts of the globe who were seeking for ways to protect their wealth from inflation and political witch hunting took advantage of the bargain prices of land in Texas and bought vast expanses (Worcester, 2006). These individuals have then held onto ownership of these lands while indigenous farmers who need the land but lack the required capital and land are compelled to pay rent to these investors. These migrant but wealthy land owners have subsequently dictated and inflated the price of land (Worcester, 2006). With most of the land in the world being controlled by a few, the larger population is compelled to labour for subsistence and part with rent on a perpetual basis. In the hope of redressing inequality, some modern governments have attempted to reform land laws with the promise of empowering the less privileged. The fact is that these reforms only tend to tighten the control of few privileged people on the land and on the resources found on them (Worcester, 2006). One such resource of importance is water.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Customary Law: The traditional, mostly unwritten laws often subscribed to by different communities in Nigeria.

Traditional Land Owners: Those who lay claim to communal land, generations before the Land Use Act and the Nigerian nation came to being.

Peri-Urban: Largely unplanned residential areas adjacent to urban areas where most people in the world have been identified to have erected their homes and businesses.

Stakeholders: Government, traditional land owners, professionals, investors and landlords.

Government: The three political tiers of federal, state and local governments.

Land Use Act: The primary legal instrument on land matters in Nigeria.

Water Resources: Comprising of surface, ground and coastal waters of Nigeria.

Landlords: Owners of land who acquired it either from government or traditional land owners or both.

Nigeria: A West African country.

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