Land is important for every human activity on earth as it is the source of all material wealth. In order to regulate the ownership, use and development of land and land resources, countries all over the world have instituted land ownership systems aimed at consistent balancing of the interests of the government. The concept of land ownership in Nigeria is wide, thus, for the purpose of this paper, the ownership of land in Nigeria will be restricted to the right(s) of a minor owning land in Nigeria.
There are situations where parents make decisions to purchase Land for their children as birthday gifts, especially as lands appreciate in value, and in their bid to provide the best for their children, as well as secure their future. There are however certain factors to consider before such a purchase is made.
This paper will therefore discuss the following:
- The meaning of Land.
- The meaning of the word “minor”.
- The concept and incidents of Land Ownership.
- The regulatory bodies applicable to the ownership of land.
- The rights of a minor owning land in Nigeria.
Meaning of Land
Land is anything that is attached to the earth or permanently fastened to anything attached to the earth, irrespective of whether the land is on or below the surface. It is the part of the earth’s surface that is not covered by water.
Implications of the term “Minor”
A Minor is an individual under the age of full legal capacity. Section 29 (4) (a) of the 1999 Constitution, defines full age as the age of eighteen years and above. In other words, anyone from seventeen and below, will be regarded as a minor.
Concept and Incidents of Land Ownership
The ownership, alienation, acquisition, administration and management of land within the Federal Republic of Nigeria is being regulated by the Land Use Act. Land Use Act vests all land comprised in the territory of each state in the Federation of Nigeria 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 the Act.
Owning a land in Nigeria means that the owner of land has the right to possess, use, or otherwise benefit from, as well as dispose of, the land.
Regulatory Bodies Applicable to the Ownership of Land in Nigeria.
The major regulatory bodies that give rights to the ownership of land in Nigeria are:
- The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended.
- The Land Use Act 1978.
The 1999 Constitution
The constitution provides for the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria. According to the Constitution, every citizen of Nigeria shall have the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria. The Constitution gives right to every individual who is a citizen of Nigeria, the right to own immovable property in Nigeria. In other words, anyone, so long as the person is a Nigerian, can own a land in Nigeria.
The Land Use Act
As indicated earlier, Land Use Act vests the Governor of the State with the statutory right to own land. The Land Use Act provides for the control and management of land in Nigeria. The Act was created to ensure the effective and equitable utilisation of Land.
Rights of a Minor Owning Land in Nigeria
The Constitution has provided that every citizen can own immovable property in Nigeria and the Land Use Act states that; with respect to land, it shall be lawful for the Governor to grant statutory rights of occupancy to any person for all purposes, whether or not it is in an Urban Area.
On the other hand, the Act provides that it will be unlawful for the Governor to grant a statutory right of occupancy or consent to the assignment, or subletting of a statutory right of occupancy to a person under the age of 21 years. In other words, any person below the age of 21 cannot at first instance own a land.
The Act provides an exception as to how a person below the age of 21 can own a land. According to the Act, a person under the age of 21 can only own a land in Nigeria through duly appointed trustee. Therefore, the only way a person below 21 can own a land in Nigeria, is through a trustee.
Furthermore, if in the event the trustee dies, the person whose land is being held, shall have the liabilities and obligations with respect to right of occupancy, as if he were of full age. Therefore, for the purposes of land ownership in Nigeria, a person of full age is a person who has attained the age of 21.