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Ownership under Nigerian Land Law – Aanuoluwa Oluwapelumi OLA

Ownership under land law

Ownership under Land Law

Ownership entails the total control, which a person has over his property. He has overriding right over his property is subject to no control. He is the owner and omega of his property.

Ownership and Title are synonymous, and can be used interchangeably. The mere fact that you are the owner of a property does not confer on you the possessory right over the property. In other words, you may be an owner of a property, but not in possession (e.g. The case of a Landlord and Tenant).

The possessory right of a Tenant in possession is superior to the Right of the owner of the property. The possessory right is protected by law, and by such, the land law has the given right to seek for protection where he desires such.

The Rent Control and Recovery of Residential Premises Laws of each state makes provisions for the recovery of premises for the Tenant. However, the possessory right of a Tenant in possession cannot lead him to ownership, no matter how long the tenant stays in possession.

JOTS: (Ownership does not confer possession, and possession does not confer ownership)

Under the English common law, the ownership of land is vested in the crown as the absolute and supreme owner. Any citizen acquiring land, will only be granted such land for a specific period by the crown.

The right to use and occupy land granted by the crown is known as ESTATE. While under the customary law, land is early owned by an individual. Rather, ownership is vested on the community as a corporate entity or family as the case may be.

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Also under the land use act, ownership does not lie on individual or on the community, rather it is vested on the governor of the state.

Section 1 of the Land Use Act provides:

“Subject to the provisions of this Act, all land comprised in the territory of each State in the Federation are hereby 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 Nigerians in accordance with the provisions of this Act.”

The right granted under Section 5 & 6 is only a right to occupy and use the land for a period (of 99 years subject to renewal). In other words, the provisions of S 5 & 6, does not grant absolute ownership. See S 1, 5& 6.

See Abraham v Olorunfemi. 1991, 1 NWLR PT 165 @ 53 where the court in explaining the term ownership held as follows: “ownership connotes a complete and total right over a property.

It is not subject to the right of another person because he is the owner. He has the full and final right of alienation or disposition of the property and he can exercise his right of disposition or alienation without the consent of another person because as a matter of law and fact, there is no other parties right over the property that is higher than his own right.”

Coownership under Land Law

Co ownership exist either in terms of tenancy or joint tenancy. A tenancy is a form of ownership of property where two or more ownership have a separate but individual interest in the property.

Each of the owner has a right to possess the entire property but cannot exclude the other, the right of ownership. For instance, where one sibling inherits a quarter portion of the land, each of the siblings has one quarter interest on the entire land. That one quarter can only exist by court order of partition.

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And such a court order – each of the sibling will be entitled to the one quarter as his private property. But where such partition hasn’t been ordered by the court, each of the sibling will have the entire quarter as a joint ownership.

Also, there is Legal or Equitable ownership.

Legal Ownership

Legal Ownership is recognized by law and the law sees the owner of such land especially as someone who owns the property for the benefit of the other. This also connotes a registered title owner;

Equitable Ownership

Equitable Ownership exists where the owner of the property has only a beneficial interest in the property. Eg, a Mortgagee in a mortgaged property only has an equitable right over the mortgaged property which upon resumption of mortgage debt.

In other words, where you have your property mortgage for a loan and you have your document of tittle for a collateral of collecting of that loan. Here, the mortgagee is only entitled to an equitable ownership.

However, a fundamental distinction exists between a legal ownership and an equitable a legal ownership, the owner is entitled to possession, the right to use and the right to convey either by way of sale or assignment,

While an equitable ownership is like a trustee, entrusted with the property for the beneficial interest of the beneficiary. The beneficiary, received all the benefit of that property or land while the trustee is in a fiduciary duty to account to the beneficial owner. But where he fails to account, the court may compel him to account to the beneficiary where in extreme cases he may be removed as a legal owner. And be substituted.

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  • Law Lecturer – Mr Agbana, Obafemi Awolowo University.
  • Wikipedia

About Author:

Aanuoluwa Oluwapelumi OLA Esq. AKA LAPONISM is a former Public Relation Officer of the Law Student Society, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. He loves to impact people.

(4) Comments

  1. Impressive. Please sir, I have questions to ask; what right does the land owner have,after he had sell his land to another person?

    • Hi Raimi,
      Upon the valid conveyance of title to land by way of sale, the previous holder ceases to hold title on such land. And the title is now that of the competent buyer.

      Thank you.

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