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Framework for Compulsory Land Acquisition With & Without Compensation in Nigeria

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The right to acquire, hold and enjoy property is one of the fundamental pillars on which a democratic society rests. The right to property is not however absolute. It is subject to eminent domain, an inherent right of the State to compulsorily acquire private property for common good. In Nigeria, the Land Use Act provides and sets out guidelines through which lands may be compulsorily acquired from landowners. Sections 43 and 44 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) also allude to revocation of rights and interests in land. The Constitution however stipulates that compensation must be paid whenever there is a compulsory acquisition of property rights of the citizen.

However, there are instances in the Land Use Act which deviate from this golden rule by denying land owners of any compensation or allowing payment of what amounts to inadequate compensation for the loss occasioned by the acquisition

Key Takeaways:

  • The compulsory acquisition of land involves a Governmental Authority (“Acquiring Authority”), compulsorily acquiring land and all interests attached to the land.
  • The process under which land is compulsorily acquired is governed by the Land Acquisition and Compensation Act (Vic) 1986 (“Land Acquisition Act“).
  •  Depending on the circumstances the Government or an authority can acquire your land.
  • Properties acquired are used for future roads/freeways, railways, road widening/deviations, parks, reservoirs, sewerage works, drainage reserves etc.

Compulsory Acquisition

Compulsory land acquisition refers to the legal process by which government authorities acquire privately owned land for public use or development, without the consent of the landowners. 

While the practice serves important public interests, such as building roads, schools, hospitals, or other essential infrastructure, it can also have significant implications for affected landowners.

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Circumstances for Compulsory Acquisition

Compulsory land acquisition is typically invoked in circumstances where the government deems it necessary to acquire private land for public use or development. This can include:

Public Infrastructure Projects

Governments under section 28 of the Land Use Act, can exercise compulsory acquisition powers to facilitate the construction of essential infrastructure such as roads, bridges, railways, airports, and utilities. These projects are often deemed critical for improving transportation, enhancing public services, and fostering economic development.

Urban Renewal and Development Initiatives

In urban areas, compulsory land acquisition may be employed as part of urban renewal or redevelopment initiatives aimed at revitalizing deteriorating neighborhoods, addressing housing shortages, or promoting sustainable urban growth. 

Governments may acquire land to create green spaces, construct affordable housing, or attract private investment for commercial or residential developments.

Legal Procedures and Timelines Involved in Compulsory Acquisition

The compulsory land acquisition process in Nigeria is outlined in the Land Use Act (LUA) of 1978 and involves several legal procedures with varying timelines. Here’s a breakdown of the key steps:


  • Public Purpose Justification: The acquiring government agency (federal or state) must demonstrate a compelling public purpose for the land acquisition.
  • Notice of Revocation: A Governor’s notice is issued, revoking existing rights of occupancy on the targeted land. This notice specifies the purpose of acquisition and timelines for response.

Negotiation and Compensation:

  • Claims and Valuation: Affected landowners have a timeframe (outlined in the notice) to submit claims for compensation. The acquiring agency or a designated valuer assesses the land’s market value and any improvements.
  • Negotiation: Landowners and the acquiring agency attempt to reach an agreement on compensation amount. This stage can be time-consuming, depending on the complexity of the case and willingness to negotiate.

Dispute Resolution and Takeover:

  • Disagreement on Compensation: If negotiations fail, the landowner can challenge the compensation offer in court. This process can significantly extend the timeline.
  • Payment and Takeover: Upon reaching an agreement or resolving disputes in court, the acquiring agency pays the compensation, and the land is formally transferred.


It’s difficult to provide a fixed timeline for the entire process. The duration can vary significantly depending on factors like:

  • Complexity of land ownership (multiple claimants, unclear titles)
  • Negotiations and potential court disputes over compensation
  • Efficiency of government agencies involved

While the initial steps (notice and claim submissions) might have specified timelines, the negotiation and dispute resolution stages can be unpredictable, potentially lasting months or even years.

Process of Compulsory Land Acquisition

The process of compulsory land acquisition typically involves several key steps:

Notification and Consultation with Landowners

Government authorities are required to notify affected landowners of their intention to acquire the land. This notification should outline the purpose of the acquisition, the rights of landowners, and the process for determining compensation. 

Consultation with landowners allows them to voice concerns, provide input, and seek clarification on the acquisition process.

Assessment of Compensation Entitlements

Governments are obligated to assess the compensation entitlements of affected landowners in accordance with established legal principles and procedures. 

Compensation may include payment for the value of the land, any improvements made to the land, disturbance costs, and other relevant factors. The assessment process aims to ensure that affected landowners receive fair and just compensation for their loss.

Challenges and Controversies Surrounding Compulsory Acquisition

Compulsory land acquisition without compensation is often accompanied by a myriad of challenges and controversies, which can significantly impact affected landowners and communities. Some of the key issues include:

Displacement and Disruption of Communities

Compulsory acquisition can result in the forced displacement of families, disruption of livelihoods, and disintegration of communities. Landowners may be uprooted from their homes, ancestral lands, and sources of income, leading to social upheaval and emotional distress.

Fairness and Adequacy of Compensation

There are widespread concerns regarding the fairness and adequacy of compensation offered to affected landowners. In many cases, compensation packages fail to reflect the true value of the land, neglecting factors such as market trends, potential for future development, and intangible cultural or historical significance. 

This disparity can exacerbate inequalities and perpetuate injustices among affected communities.

Tiers of Government when Compulsorily Acquiring Land in Nigeria

In Nigeria, compulsory land acquisition involves a coordinated effort between the federal, state, and local governments, following the framework laid out in the Land Use Act (LUA). Here’s a breakdown of their roles:

Federal Government:

  • Limited Role: The Federal Government generally doesn’t have primary authority over land acquisition. Its power kicks in for specific situations like acquiring land rich in minerals or bordering inland waterways.

State Government:

  • Primary Authority: State governments hold the most significant power regarding compulsory acquisition. They can acquire land for public purposes or overriding public interest, following the provisions of the LUA.
  • Governor’s Approval: The Governor plays a key role. Even for federal acquisition of land (excluding mineral-rich areas), the state Governor’s consent is typically required under the LUA.

Local Government:

  • Limited Role: Local governments have a more restricted role in compulsory acquisition. They may be involved in the process depending on the specific circumstances, but the final decision-making authority rests with the state government.

Remedies Available To Landowners

When land is compulsorily acquired, landowners may feel aggrieved and seek remedies. Here are some remedies available to landowners in Nigeria:


Landowners are entitled to fair and adequate compensation for the land acquired. The Land Use Act of 1978 governs land acquisition in Nigeria and provides for the payment of compensation. The compensation should reflect the market value of the land at the time of acquisition, as well as any improvements on the land. Landowners can negotiate with the government or seek legal recourse if they feel the compensation offered is inadequate.

Challenge the acquisition

Landowners have the right to challenge the legality or necessity of the acquisition. They can file a lawsuit to challenge the acquisition if they believe that due process was not followed or that the acquisition is not for a genuine public purpose. In exploring this remedy, legal representation is advisable in such cases.

Negotiation and alternative arrangements

Landowners can negotiate with the government for alternative land or suitable compensation packages. This could involve exchanging the acquired land for an equivalent parcel in a different location or receiving compensation in the form of alternative land or other benefits. Negotiation is often a preferred approach to resolve disputes amicably.

Judicial review

Landowners can seek judicial review of the acquisition process to determine whether the government followed the proper legal procedures. Judicial review can scrutinize the decision-making process, including assessing whether the acquisition was in the public interest and whether the compensation offered is reasonable.

Mediation and arbitration

Landowners can explore alternative dispute resolution mechanisms such as mediation or arbitration to resolve disputes with the government. These processes can provide a forum for open dialogue and negotiation to reach a mutually acceptable resolution.

Consultation and participation

Landowners have the right to be consulted and participate in the decision-making process concerning the acquisition of their land. The government is expected to engage with affected landowners and provide information about the project. Landowners can assert their rights to be involved in the process and raise concerns or propose alternatives.

Notable Instances of Compulsory Land Acquisition in Nigeria

Here are some notable instances of compulsory land acquisition that have been implemented in Nigeria:

Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ) in Lagos State:

  • The Lagos State government acquired large tracts of land in the Lekki area to establish the LFTZ, a major industrial and commercial development project.
  •  This involved the compulsory acquisition of land from local communities, leading to land disputes and protests from residents who felt their rights were not adequately protected.

Abuja Master Plan Implementation:

  •  The development of Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, has involved the compulsory acquisition of land from surrounding communities.
  • This has been a longstanding issue, with local residents often complaining about inadequate compensation and lack of transparency in the land acquisition process.

Petroleum Pipelines Right-of-Way:

  • The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has frequently exercised its powers to compulsorily acquire land for the construction of petroleum pipelines across the country.
  •   This has caused conflicts with local communities who have lost access to their land and natural resources.

Rehabilitation of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway:

  •  The ongoing rehabilitation and expansion of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway has required the compulsory acquisition of land from properties and businesses along the corridor.
  • This has led to disputes over compensation and relocation of affected residents and businesses.

Resettlement of Victims of Boko Haram Insurgency:

  • The Nigerian government has compulsorily acquired land in parts of the northeast to resettle communities displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency.
  • This process has been criticized for inadequate compensation and lack of consultation with the affected communities.

These are some of the prominent cases where compulsory land acquisition has been implemented in Nigeria, often leading to tensions and disputes with local communities. The lack of transparency and adequate compensation in these processes has been a recurring concern.

Challenging Compulsory Land Acquisition and Seeking Fair Compensation in Nigeria

The Land Use Act (LUA) of 1978 outlines the process for compulsory land acquisition in Nigeria. However, landowners who feel the acquisition is unfair or the compensation inadequate have legal avenues to challenge it. Here’s a breakdown of the procedures:

Grounds for Challenge:

  • Lack of Public Purpose: You can contest the stated purpose of the acquisition if it’s not genuinely for public benefit.
  • Procedural Irregularities: If the government agency didn’t follow the proper procedures outlined in the LUA, including providing adequate notice or failing to consider your claim, you may have grounds for challenge.
  • Inadequate Compensation: This is a common issue. You can argue that the offered compensation doesn’t reflect the fair market value of the land, including any improvements or developments.

Legal Options:

  • Negotiation: This is the initial step. Try to negotiate a fair compensation amount directly with the acquiring agency.
  • Valuation Disputes: If the agency’s valuation is deemed unfair, you can request a re-evaluation by an independent valuer.
  • Court Action: If negotiations and re-valuation fail, you can file a lawsuit in the High Court challenging the acquisition itself, the compensation offered, or both. This is a complex process and requires legal representation.

Key Points in Court Challenges:

  • Evidence Gathering: You’ll need to gather evidence to support your claims. This might include land ownership documents, valuation reports from independent valuers, and any documentation highlighting procedural flaws in the acquisition process.
  • Legal Representation: Land acquisition law is complex. Hiring a lawyer specializing in this area is crucial for navigating the legal system and presenting your case effectively.
  • Judicial Review: The court will review the government’s decision based on its legality and adherence to the LUA. It can potentially: Uphold the acquisition but order a re-evaluation of compensation or quash the acquisition entirely if deemed unlawful.
  • Lengthy Process: Court battles can be lengthy and expensive. Be prepared for a potentially long process to reach a resolution.

Additional Considerations:

  • Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): In some cases, mediation or arbitration outside the court system can be a quicker and less expensive option to resolve disputes over compensation.
  • Seeking Support: Landowner associations or community groups might offer support and resources during the challenge process.

Government Policies and Reform Efforts

In response to growing concerns and controversies surrounding compulsory land acquisition, governments are increasingly implementing policies and reform efforts aimed at addressing issues of fairness, transparency, and accountability. Some key initiatives include:

Enhancing Compensation Mechanisms

Governments are exploring ways to enhance compensation mechanisms to ensure that affected landowners receive fair and just compensation for their loss. This may involve conducting comprehensive valuation assessments, engaging in meaningful consultations with affected communities, and adopting transparent compensation frameworks.

Strengthening Legal Protections

Efforts are underway to strengthen legal protections and safeguards for affected landowners, ensuring that their rights are respected and upheld throughout the compulsory acquisition process. 

This may include enacting legislation to regulate land acquisition procedures, establishing independent oversight bodies to monitor compliance with legal requirements, and providing avenues for grievance redress and dispute resolution.


In summary, ownership of land is the right of every citizen in Nigeria. The right to own land has made it possible to both acquire and dispose of the land. However, this right to acquire and hold land is subject to the power given to the governor of each state by the Land Use Act as well as the right given under the constitution, therefore. The government can only acquire individuals’ land compulsorily upon the payment of compensations and when such acquisition is for public purpose. Where any individual finds the acquisition of his/her land to be unlawful, such an individual can successfully challenge the acquisition in a court of law.


How will you know your property is being acquired?

You will receive a “Notice of Intention to Acquire” the property from the Acquiring Authority (often being VicRoads, the State Government or a Council). This document will provide information about why your property is being acquired, and the approximate date of when the proposed land is to be acquired.

What can you do with your property once you have been served with a Notice of Intention to Acquire?

Once you receive a Notice of Intention to Acquire you cannot sell or enter into a new lease for the property.

How long after the Notice of Intention to Acquire will my land be acquired?

The Acquiring Authority has six months to acquire the land after serving the Notice of Intention to Acquire. If they do not acquire your property within six months, the Notice of Intention to Acquire lapses.
If the Acquiring Authority does acquire your property, a notice will be published in the Government Gazette. The date of this publication is the date of acquisition.

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