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What does it mean for government to acquire private property for public use

By Bamidele Kolawole

Acquisition of private landed property by the government is known as revocation of statutory right of occupancy, in some other jurisdiction, it is known as “Eminent Domain” which is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a right of a government to take private property for public use by virtue of the superior dominion of the sovereign power over all lands within its jurisdiction

Olubunmi Akinseye Esq

The concept of “Eminent Domain”, is a Legal term meaning the “Power of Government to Acquire Private Property for Public use”.

It is a common Practice and if conducted in line and precision with the Provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria or the enabling Law of the Country of the specific Government, to Acquire Private Property for the use of the Public, that is, to serve a cooperative purpose.

For instance, the ONDO STATE’S Secretariat, the Mother & Child Medical Facility at Oke-Aro in Akure etc, are all built on properties that originally belonged to private families, but whatever was on the lands in question gave way to accommodate these Facilities and structures that are meant purposely for the use of every citizens.

Of course, the government paid what is called “compensation” to the affected private owners. Likewise, ” SHAGARI VILLAGE” in AKURE, “FEDERAL UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY AKURE”, ADEKUNLE AJASIN UNIVERSITY, AKUNGBA AKOKO, et-al across the country,  either own by the State or Federal Government are all occupying formally privately owned properties after displacing original owners, some structures as the case may be.

The government needs such Powers, to allow for infrastructural Development and the expansion of Government institutions.

The power of the government to take over private property and convert it into public use

This can also be called right of compulsory acquisition and it’s governed by the Land use act of the 1978. According to S. 1 of the Land Use Act all land in the state of the federation is vested in the governor of the state and he’s to hold it in trust for the common use of the public.

Eminent domain is a principle that allows the government to take private property for public use with compensation provided to the owner. It’s a principle that literally means the needs of the public can sometimes outweigh individual property right.

There are some key factors of the principle eminent domain which are as follows

1. For Public Purpose: The Nigerian government can acquire land for public purposes, which include infrastructure development, urban renewal, and other projects that benefit the public. The Land Use Act specifies that such acquisitions must serve the public interest and for the common use of the public.

2. Compensation: Adequate compensation is a constitutional requirement. The compensation must reflect the value of the property, including improvements.

The Constitution of Nigeria, specifically Section 44 of the 1999 Constitution, mandates that the government provide prompt payment of compensation for property compulsorily acquired for public use.

Before the compulsory acquisition of the property, the government must issue a notice of acquisition to the property owner. This notice will detail the purpose of the acquisition and the extent of the land needed.

However property owners have the right to object to the acquisition. They can present their case to an appropriate authority or tribunal. The law provides for a hearing where the owner can contest both the necessity of the acquisition and the amount of compensation offered.

There are legal framework backing up the principle of eminent domain in Nigeria which are as follows;

1)The Land Use Act of 1978: This act vested absolute power to control and management of land in each state under the state governor, who acts as a trustee for the people. It outlines the procedures and conditions under which land can be acquired for public purposes.

2)The Nigerian Constitution: Section 44 of the 1999 Constitution provides the overarching legal basis for compulsory acquisition and the requirement for just compensation.

In summary, while the principle of eminent domain in Nigeria aims to balance public interest with private property rights, its implementation faces practical challenges such as corruption and mismanagement from the authority that need to be addressed to ensure fairness and transparency.

Olabanjo Ayenakin Esq

The acquisition of property for public use in Nigeria is governed by the Land Use Act of 1978, which empowers the government to acquire land for public purposes.

By virtue of the Land Use Act, all land in a state is vested in the Governor who holds the land in trust for the people. However, private interest in landed property is recognized as private persons are permitted to hold interest in land for personal use.

Moreover, the Governor has the right under the Land Use Act to acquire private land from the landowners and vest same in government for public use. Before this can legitimately be done; certain preconditions must be fulfilled.

The process involves:

1. Notification: The government notifies the property owner of the intention to acquire the land.

2. Negotiation: The government negotiates with the owner to reach an agreement on compensation.

3. Compulsory Acquisition: If an agreement cannot be reached, the government may compulsorily acquire the land, subject to payment of compensation.

4. Valuation: The value of the property is determined by the Chief Lands Officer or a designated valuer.

5. Payment of Compensation: The government pays the agreed or determined compensation to the property owner.

Public purposes for which land can be acquired in Nigeria include:

– Infrastructure development (roads, bridges, etc.)

– Public buildings (schools, hospitals, etc.)

– Utilities (power lines, water supply, etc.)

– Environmental protection

– Urban planning and development

It’s important to note that the acquisition process must follow due process, and property owners have rights to fair compensation and legal recourse if they disagree with the acquisition or compensation amount.

Furthermore, any acquisition of private land for purposes other than public use will be declared invalid. Similarly, any acquisition of land that fails to follow the necessary preconditions will be void.

The following are landmark judicial authorities for acquisition of private land for public use in Nigeria.

1. *Attorney-General of Kaduna State v. Alhaji Hassan Usman (1985)*: The Supreme Court held that the government’s power to acquire land for public use must be exercised in accordance with the provisions of the Land Use Act.

2. *Owoade v. Registered Trustees of the University of Lagos (1987)*: The Court of Appeal held that the acquisition of land for public use must be for a legitimate public purpose and not for the benefit of a private individual or body.

3. *Afolabi v. Governor of Ondo State (2003)*: The Supreme Court held that the government’s power to acquire land for public use is not unlimited and must be exercised in accordance with the provisions of the Land Use Act and the Constitution.

4. *Nigerian Ports Authority v. Panalpina World Transport (Nigeria) Ltd. (2008)*: The Court of Appeal held that the acquisition of land for public use must be in accordance with the provisions of the Land Use Act and the Constitution, and that the owner of the land is entitled to compensation.

5. *Ogunsanya v. Governor of Lagos State (2013)*: The Supreme Court held that the government’s power to acquire land for public use is subject to the payment of fair and reasonable compensation to the owner of the land.

These cases highlight the importance of following due process and paying fair compensation to landowners when acquiring land for public use in Nigeria.

Adeola Turton Esq

A nation’s government has a basic duty to collectively contribute to the well-being, prosperity, and stability of its citizens. Part of these duties is providing social welfare as well as public goods and services. Providing essential services and infrastructure such as transportation, education, healthcare, sanitation, and utilities that benefit the public as a whole.

However, governments can acquire private properties for various public purposes, including:

Infrastructure development (roads, bridges, airports, etc.); public utilities (electricity, water, sewage systems); conservation and environmental protection; urban renewal and redevelopment;

Public safety (construction of police, hospitals or fire stations); economic development (creation of industrial parks, revitalization of blighted areas).

Governments acquire private property for public use through a legal process known as eminent domain. However, there are conditions that must be met, including demonstrating that the acquisition is for a public purpose and providing just compensation to the property owner. Therefore these acquisitions are typically justified by showing that they serve the greater good of the community or nation.

Benjamin Salami Esq

Acquisition of private landed property by the government is known as revocation of statutory right of occupancy, in some other jurisdiction, it is known as “Eminent Domain” which is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a right of a government to take private property for public use by virtue of the superior dominion of the sovereign power over all lands within its jurisdiction”.

It must be noted that in Nigeria, the Land Use Act vest all land in the territory of each State solely in the Governor of the State, who would hold such land in trust for the people and would henceforth be responsible for allocation of land to individuals resident in the State for residential, agriculture, commercial and other purposes.

Section. 43 of the 1999 Constitution guarantees the right to own property by stating that “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, every citizen of Nigeria shall have the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria”.

Indubitably, the fundamental rights, has provided for in Chapter 4 of the Constitution are not absolute, there are exceptions to how and when these rights can be infringed and suspended.

Thus, Section. 44 which follows immediately after Section. 43 of the 1999 Constitution provides that “No moveable property or any interest in an immovable property shall be taken possession of compulsorily and no right over or interest in any such property shall be acquired compulsorily in any part of Nigeria except in the manner and for the purposes prescribed by a law that, among other things -(a) requires the prompt payment of compensation therefore and (b) gives to any person claiming such compensation a right of access for the determination of his interest in the property and the amount of compensation to a court of law or tribunal or body having jurisdiction in that part of Nigeria.”

Also, S. 44(3) is noteworthy, as it put the control of all mineral, oil and natural gas in Nigeria and the territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone of Nigeria in the government of the Federation and that it shall be managed in such a manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.

The combined reading of the above Sections is to the effect that there is right to own property but same is subject to the express provisions of S.44 which provides for grounds upon which the Government can revoke the right of occupancy for overriding public interest subject to adequate notice and payment of compensation.

Also, S. 28 of the Land Use Act further empowers the Governor of State to revoke private rights over land for “overriding public interest”. There must be just and equitable determination of the quantum of compensation payable to persons whose rights over a land is compulsorily acquired.

In Nig. Eng. Works Ltd. V. Denap Ltd & Anor, the Supreme Court held “that the powers of the Governor to revoke any right of occupancy must be exercised in the overriding interest of the public and more importantly, the holder of the right of occupancy if revoked must be notified in advance”.

Government can only acquire individuals’ land compulsorily for public purpose and such persons must be duly compensated.

Where any individual finds the acquisition of his land to be for private use or grant to private persons, same is unlawful, illegal and unjustifiable, such persons can successfully seek remedies from a competent court of law to challenge the acquisition or demand adequate compensation where the compensation paid is unreasonable inadequate.

Obada Toyosi Charles Esq

In Nigeria, the government’s power to acquire private property for public use is known as “eminent domain” or “compulsory acquisition”. This means the government can take possession of private land or property for a legitimate public purpose, following the provisions of the Land Use Act (1978) and the Constitution (1999).

The government must:

1. Declare the acquisition is for a public purpose (e.g., infrastructure development, public buildings, or utility projects).

2. Follow due process, including notification and compensation to the property owner.

3. Ensure fair market value is paid to the property owner as compensation.

This power is exercised by the federal, state, or local governments, and the acquisition process typically involves:

1. Notice of acquisition

2. Assessment of compensation

3. Payment of compensation

4. Taking possession of the property

The goal is to balance public needs with private property rights, while ensuring fair compensation for property owners. However, the process can be controversial, and disputes may arise over compensation or the acquisition process itself.

Jerry Adeyogbe Esq

, in land law, every Citizen of Nigeria by virtue of Section 43 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) has the inherent and inalienable rights to acquire land anywhere in Nigeria.

However, the right is subject to certain conditions depending on where the Land is situate.

Under the Land Use Act, 1978, the Governor of a State is vested with the powers to hold in trust and administer land for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians in accordance with provisions of the Land Use Act.

In recognizing the Rights of individuals over their land, the government issues a Right of Occupancy under the Land Use Act of 1978 which could either be; A Statutory Right of Occupancy and/or A Customary Right of Occupancy.

Under the Statutory Right of Occupancy, the Governor issues a certificate of occupancy to the holder of the land, particularly when the land is situate at an urban area for all purposes in line with Section 5 (1) of the Land Use Act, 1978.

According to Section 5 (1) (I) of the Act, the certificate of occupancy will however state the duration for which the  land may be used and where such period is not stated in the certificate, the period will be determined by the term and/or duration of the Statutory Right of Occupancy.

Pursuant to Section 28 of the Land Use Act, 1978 (“the Act”)a government shall lawfully revoke a right of occupancy for overriding public interest only in line with Sub-sections 1, 2(a)-(c), 3 (a)-(d) of the said Section 28 of the Act,

However, before such land could be revoked for such purpose, the Act by virtue of Sub-section 4 of the Act prescribes that notice of revocation shall been issued and served on the lawful owner of the said land.

Furthermore, Sub-section 5 of the same Section 28 of the Act prescribes that a right of occupancy shall be revoked on the grounds of (a) breach of any of the provisions which a certificate of occupancy is by section 10 deemed to contain; (b) breach of any term contained in the certificate of occupancy or in any special contract made under section 8 (which relates to the definite duration for being a holder of such right of occupancy and such terms granted subject to the terms of any contract)  (c) a refusal or neglect to accept and pay for a certificate which was issued in evidence of a right of occupancy, but has been cancelled by the Military Governor under sub-section 3 of section 10 of the Act.

The law pursuant to Sub-section 2 of the Section 28 of the Act defines Overriding public interest in the case of statutory right of occupancy as follows (a) the alienation by the occupier by assignment, mortgage, transfer of possession, sublease or otherwise of any right of occupancy or part thereof contrary to the provisions of the Act or of any regulations made thereunder which further includes: (b) the requirement of the land by the Government of the State or by a local government Federal government for public purposes within the state or federation as the case may be; (c) the requirement of the land for mining purposes or oil pipelines or any purpose connected therewith;

Pursuant to Sub-section 3 of Section 28 of the Act, the revocation of a customary right of occupancy for overriding public interest includes: (a)the requirement of the land by the Government of the State or by a local government or Federal government for public purposes within the state or federation as the case may be; (b) the requirement of the land for mining purposes or oil pipelines or for any purpose connected therewith; (c) the requirement of the land for the extraction of building materials;

The law however prescribes the procedure for revocation of the Right of Occupancy to include: (a) the issuance and service of a notice of revocation of such right of occupancy to be served on the holder of such right of occupancy and (b) the prompt payment of reasonable compensation due to the holder of such right of occupancy.

Where reasonable compensation is not paid to such holder, the law by virtue of Section 44 (1) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) empowers such individual to approach a competent court of law to determine the amount of compensation such individual is entitled to receive.

Summarily, the Government (either at the Federal, State or the Local government levels) can legally revoke the ownership and/or interest of such Nigerian over land only if it is done in line with the law.

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What does it mean for government to acquire private property for public use

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