Land tenure system in Nigeria

Land tenure system in Nigeria

Land tenure can be defined as the rights of ownership a community or an individual holds with respect to land and the resources on and in the land such as trees, minerals, pastures, and water. A land tenure system defines the rules for allocating property rights, the transference of ownership rights, how land should be used and managed in a region.


In Nigeria, the various land tenure systems vary from state to state and from village to village. An ideal land tenure system acts as a cornerstone for economic growth and an incentive for investment. It makes room for secure land rights and ownership, the inclusion of vulnerable groups like women and low-income earners and reduces conflict. When land rights are unsecured, it leads to conflict, instability, tribal wars and discrimination against women – denying women the right to own or inherit the land.


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The following are the major forms of land tenure systems in Nigeria:

  • The communal land tenure system
  • Open Access Land Tenure System
  • Inheritance tenure system
  • Leasehold tenure system
  • Gift tenure system
  • Rent tenure system
  • Freehold tenure system
  • Tenants at the government will


  1. Communal Land Tenure System

A communal land tenure system ordains the community head as the governing power of the land. Although the land jointly belongs to the community, the head of the community takes the decision of how the land is distributed. This land tenure system is typically used for large scale farming. On the flip side, the land cannot be used as collateral to obtain a loan.

  1. Open Access Land Tenure System

Open access tenure is a tenure where ownership rights are unallocated to anybody and nobody can be excluded. Open tenure typically includes marine residency where access to the high oceans is largely available open to anybody. This might extend to forestry like rangelands and woodlands. Here, animals are allowed to graze freely.




  1. Inheritance Tenure System

Inheritance land tenure system is the transference of land ownership rights to a successor after the death of the primary owner. Under this system, the next of kin of the owner- usually the children- assumes the role as the new owners of the land. The major disadvantage of this land tenure system is, this land allocation could cause disputes between the beneficiary and other family members.

  1. Leasehold Tenure System

The leasehold tenure system is having ownership rights over a property for a given period of time. Simply put, it is owning land temporarily. Here, the temporal owner is called a tenant and the principal owner is called the Landlord. The land in question cannot be used as security to obtain a loan. Depending on the lease period, this system is suitable for permanent crop cultivation.

  1. Gift Tenure System

The gift tenure system is the voluntary transfer of ownership rights from the landowner to another. This type of land ownership can be used as collateral to get a loan by the new landowner. The new owner also enjoys the full benefits of land use. However, under this form of land tenure, the new ownership status can be revoked by a court order.


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  1. Rent Tenure System

The rent tenure system is similar to the leasehold tenure system. The main difference is the duration of time the tenant is allowed to use the land. A lease period could go on for many years but the rent period is typically shorter. Temporal ownership is received after an agreed sum of money is paid. This form of land tenure system discourages the tenant from paying for a long-term plan.

  1. Freehold Tenure System

In this case, an individual or a group pays an agreed sum of money to get the right of ownership to a part of the land. Buying land under this tenure can be expensive. The advantage is, the land can be used to source loans from a financial institution.

  1. Tenants at Government Will

The government can allow a portion of land to an individual or a community. A good example is the Federal Government giving a massive portion of land to farmers to foster agriculture at a low cost. Although the individual or community generally has full autonomy to the usage of the land, the land cannot be used as collateral for the loan.

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