How Just is Nigeria’s Compulsory Acquisition Policy

Compulsory acquisition was the subject of my University Term Paper in 1975, long before I knew I would be involved in the process as a Real Estate Practitioner.

I have had a continuous hands on experience in the last 12 years, for federal, state and local governments as well as private organizations in the acquisition and compensation process in the country. The intent of this essay is to assist “victims” of compulsory acquisition on how best they can minimize their losses, given the draconian land use act that governs the process.

People talk about the institutionalisation of corrupt practices and about corruption being endemic and systemic in Nigeria. The process of compulsory acquisition and compensation is one such system – skewed towards such tendencies, by virtue of the laws that govern it. The land use decree/act is not only unjust, it is also simply unfair, and falls below international standards.

Laws Governing Land Acquisition and Compensation
The land use decree of 1978, and land use act of 2004, promulgated, and inserted in the 1999 Federal Republic of Nigeria Constitution, is a study of how not to treat citizens of a nation. The act, reveals a flawed process whose intent and spirit leans too much on the rights of government, disguised as public purpose, while emasculating individual rights.

Contrary to the arguments for enacting the act and keeping it in our statute books, which are: to curb sharp practices on cost of land and make it easily accessible for developmental purposes, the act has multiplied the ills; “the process has suffered political and social abuse over the years” noted Samos Biobaku, calling for a repeal or at least an amendment. Individual rights to own property are neither justiceablebly treated or attended to, as I will try to explain herewith.

  1. The law empowers government to take your land without compensation under a dubious claim for public purpose, then turn round to sell the same to you or to any person, through certificate of occupancy, and annual lease what was forcefully removed from you. Otedola estate in GRA Ikeja is a typical example of this. This land moved through colonialist acquisition for BOAC, through WAAC to Nigerian Airways to the military during the war, then Lagos State Government, claiming to use it for stadium, but today shared to individuals.
  2. Under the law, the government will only pay for improvements, if structures and a colonial rate for crops. Section, 29 0f the 1978 For example, a mature mango tree, that has given a farmer a yield of 20,000. Naira per season for 10 years will be paid only 5,000. Naira as compensation. Is this fair compensation or has it put the individual in a state of equivalence? Take a 3million Naira construction cost property built on land, first bought from the indigenes for 200,000, Naira, then processed for CofO from government at a cost 250,000, Naira, at a yearly lease of 20, 000, Naira, plus rate/tax of 45,000 per annum for 5 years, when acquired, government pays according to section 51 of the act, for the “depreciated” value of the improvement. For our case study is 2.7m. Financial loss of 1.79m, excluding the cost for intangibles is recorded. To rebuild, you will need to go through the acquisition, process, but this time you have to acquire land in a remote location.
  3. Section 29, subsection 4, places the onus of providing a federal government, the CBN interest rate as evidence for payment on delayed compensation on the disposed land owner.
  4. It provides that excess in monetary value, for accepting settlement, is a loan to be paid by the victim.
  5. You can not challenge the adequacy of compensation to be paid or paid. Section, 47 prohibits any court in Nigeria from adjudicating in a citizens maltreatment by government.

How to operate profitably within this unwholesome situation is the subject of our next post.