Monday, November 26, 2012

Significance of Land use Act of 1978 to Land use Planning in Nigeria


Nigeria Land Use ActLand use regulations and controls are used to restrict the rights of private land holders in the use of land. The regulations are used to protect public interest in the use of private land. The regulations stem from the need to provide public amenities, to increase the efficiency of land-use, to limit urban sprawl and unnecessary encroachment on agricultural land, and to achieve economies of scale and least-cost production of public services (Courtney, 1983:153).  The regulations are also used to ensure the availability of land to all groups, and to ensure that the benefits of development go to the community as a whole.

There are numerous ways through which land use is controlled and regulated.  Land-use planning is used in the allocation of space for different purposes in a local, regional, or national setting. Zoning regulations are used to specify permitted land-uses, and to define norms (such as bulk, height, shape, etc.) for the different land-use categories. Subdivision regulations are used to govern the parceling of land for development. The regulations "prescribe standards for lot sizes and lay-out street improvements, procedures for dedicating private land for public purposes, and other requirements in far more detail than in the zoning plan" (Courtney, 1983:160). Building regulations are used to limit or define the way structures may be built or altered. They specify standards relating to materials of construction, and the assembly of buildings. 

Land use planning in Nigeria.

Land is required for various uses in both the urban and rural areas of all society. It is a major factor of production and a vital element in the socio-economic development of any country or society (FMH&UD, 2003). Thus, as the nation grew in size and rural areas become urban centers and urban centers become large metropolitan areas, there is always increased competition as well as demand for land for different purposes. This requires adequate planning and control to ensure harmonious development and functional efficiency of these uses and settlements. According to Aluko (2000), the forms and patterns of distribution of structures in general to promote the good health, accessibility, convenience and harmonious land use in environment are a function, to a considerable extent, of the rights and methods of dealing with land. To achieve this fundamental and acceptable activity, layouts of various land uses such as residential, commercial, industrial, open spaces and recreation, circulation and institutional uses among others are undertaken to standardize and control physical developments and ensure harmonious growth. To ensure adequate provision of these uses and meet the needs of users of urban facilities and services land allocation and space standards are specified.
Land-use planning is the term used for a branch of public policy encompassing various disciplines which seek to order and regulate land-use in an efficient and ethical way, thus preventing land-use conflicts. Governments use land-use planning to manage the development of land within their jurisdictions. In doing so, the governmental unit can plan for the needs of the community while safeguarding natural resources.To this end, land use planning is the systematic assessment of land and water potential, alternatives for land use, and economic and social conditions in order to select and adopt the best land-use options. Often one element of a comprehensive plan, a land-use plan provides a vision for the future possibilities of development in neighborhoods, districts, cities, or any defined planning area.
Thus, effective urban land control and management particularly in areas with rapid urban sprawl such as Nigeria is crucial to tackling growing land use problems such as slum formation, rising costs of land, accessibility to urban land for land housing, incompatible use, flooding, overcrowding and congestion among others for the purpose of achieving sustainable city development and ensure the safety and health of the people. Thus, in Nigeria, great attention has been paid by researchers, professionals and decision makers to the urban land-use planning and management problems and the design of policies to combat it. In Nigeria, a number of policies that impinge on urban land management has been articulated and implemented. These include the Land use Act of 1978, urban Development Policy of 1992, Urban and Regional Planning Act 1992.
Land-use planning often leads to land-use regulations, also known as zoning, but they are not one and the same. As a tool for implementing land-use plans, zoning regulates the types of activities that can be accommodated on a given piece of land, the amount of space devoted to those activities and the ways that buildings may be placed and shaped.

Significance of the Land Use Act of 1978 to Land-use Planning in Nigeria.

Generally, before the Act, Nigeria land tenure systems emphasized landholding and commercialization of land as opposed to putting the land into effective use. The concept of ownership under the systems did not go with the duty to develop such lands. As such they encouraged the growth of a horde of land speculators who bought lands, held them for as long as they liked until the value had appreciated sufficiently before disposing such lands.
A critical look at the provisions of the Act reveals that some physical planning terminologies are stated in the Act. Example of these are: Land Use, Urban areas, Resettlement of person affected by the revocation of rights of occupancy, Developed land, Undeveloped land, Erection of any building, wall fence or other structures upon any land, Contravention.
The land-use planning in Nigeria is enforced through the use of permits and approvals by public agencies and institutions. The Land Use Act provides that Land Allocation Committees would be created which would dispense the land through the granting of Certificates of Occupancy. With the land use act, individual ownership was disallowed, and the state governor replaced the chief, family head or emir as the controlling force behind the land.
Under the Act, some areas in the state are declared as urban areas where any person is to have the right of occupancy of not more than half hectare (1.2 acres) of undeveloped land that can be used for all purposes. The Act recognises the establishment of both State and Local Government Land Allocation Committees. In non-urban areas, the Governor has the power to grant a right of occupancy to a person on ‘400 hectares’ (988 acres) of land prospecting for building materials like stones, gravels. The Local Government has the power to use up to ‘500 hectare’ (1,235 acres) for ‘agricultural purposes’, and up to ‘5000 hectare’ (12.355 acres) for ‘grazing purposes.’ If any Local Government wants to grant more than the above to any person, etc., it must obtain the Governor’s consent before doing so.
No person or group of person has the power to sub-divide or layout any land above half hectare (1.2 acres) in any urban area, and transfer any plot therein to any person without the consent of the Governor. That is, no person or family or company, etc., can lay out any land more than half hectare in any urban area and submit same to the Governor for approval as was being done before the promulgation of the Land Use Act in 1978.
 “Contravention,” in the realm of Town Planning, means an illegal or unauthorized development having no approved building plan. That is, any structure erected anywhere above or underneath the ground without any approval is a contravention. This is frowned at by the Act in section 43.

The Land Use Act is significant to land-use planning because:

  1. The Act controls the manner in which land is used.
  2. Land acquire by government would be made easier for urban expansion: so that ethnicity would be less of a factor in land ownership in urban areas as indigenous groups often controlled land in the older urban areas; to encourage the nonindigenous population have access to land, and to curtail land speculation by limiting the amount of land owned by individuals.
  3. The legal status of the Nigerian land user becomes that of statutory occupancy, not one of ownership and the economic interests and benefits of 'statutory rights of occupancy are severely limited by law since proprietary interests in land are lost and claims are restricted to improvements made on the land. Thus, subdivision regulations, height and building limit, etc., are included in the Certificate of Occupancy granted, to control development of project in certain area for aesthetic and convenience of the economy. In other word, The Act enable the Government to bring under control the use to which land can be put in all parts of the country and thus facilitates planning and zoning programme for particular use.
  4. The Act empowers the Governor to revoke rights of occupancy for reasons of overriding public interest: such as alienation of the land by the occupier without due approval, requirement of the land by Federal, State or Local Government for public purposes. In such cases, compensation may be paid but only for 'unexhausted improvements' on land and not for the land itself since with the Act, land no longer has an economic value. Prior to the introduction of the Act, exorbitant compensations were demanded by landowners whenever the government acquired land for project execution. Thus, acquisition of land by government or individuals was becoming almost impossible in Nigeria.
  5. The act sought to break up large land holdings, and hence facilitate the transfer of land for housing development and to encourage rehabilitation of older indigenous areas in prime commercial locations in city centers.
  6. By the state ownership and control of land, and by the trusteeship arrangement, speculations in land which largely accounted for astronomical rise in the value of land especially in urban areas were done away with. Speculators now found alternative outlets for their capital and entrepreneurial ability and this has contributed to the stabilization of land value. Such stabilization has in turn contributed to the stabilization of the cost of government projects especially in urban areas of the country.
  7. Since all the undeveloped land in every state has been vested in the Governor, the physical planner can plan vacant land and zone any part thereof for any use including public open space.
  8. The Land Use Act enables the Town planner to plan in such a manner that different land uses are juxtaposed in the most harmonious and beneficial relationship for the good of the people in an area or in a state. This is because the end product of scientific planning is the optimum use of land in any area for the good of the people in the affected area at any given time frame.
  9. The Act imposed obligations on the right holder to utilize his land and the consequence of breach of these obligations. The strongest argument for the introduction of rights of occupancy was the process of facilitating planned development as an aspect of land tenure. While at common law, the freehold system is characterized by discretion in the owner to use or neglect the use of his land expressed as the concept guaranteed, the right of occupancy is characterized by the adoption of the principle that security of tenure depends on land utilization.
In conclusion, Land Use Act has secured for every Nigerian a piece of land for his use within his financial means. There have also been reductions in the incidence of land disputes. The Act has regulate the manner and type of developments on the schemes in other to ensure that lands are used and developed in the best planning principles. Of course, the foregoing is among the overall objectives the policy the Act intended to achieve.


  • Afolabi A. (2008). Improving Urban Land Use Planning and Management In Nigeria: The Case Of Akure. Theoretical and Empirical Researches in Urban Management, Year 3, Number 9.
  • Aluko, O. E. (2000): “Development Control in Nigeria’s New Civil Rule Programme”. Journal of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (JNITP) 13, 78 – 88.
  • Federal Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (FMH&UD), (2003). Sustainable Human Settlements Development: National Urban Strategies. Petral Digital Press, Abuja.
  • Sadiq E.R. (2011): The Land Use Act Of 1978: Appraisal, Problems and Prospects

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