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What is Compulsory Land Acquisition in Nigeria

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The law of compulsory acquisition of land in Nigeria is rooted in the Nigerian Constitution, that every Nigerian has the right to own private property and that such property shall not be acquired compulsorily, except in the manner and for the purposes prescribed by a law that requires both the payment of prompt compensation and compliance with the rule of law on access to the court.

In Nigeria, every citizen possesses the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria. However, the right to own immovable property, like every other right enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), is not total but subject to certain qualifications.

Key Takeaways:

  • Under the Land Acquisition and Compensation Act 1986, land required for a public purpose can be acquired or resumed by government departments and agencies.
  • Properties acquired are used for future infrastructure projects such as roads, railways, parks, and sewerage works.
  • Once you receive the notice, you cannot sell or enter into a new lease for the property.
  • The Acquiring Authority has six months to acquire the land after serving the Notice of Intention. If they don’t acquire your property within this period, the notice lapses.
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What is Compulsory Land Acquisition?

Compulsory land acquisition, also known as eminent domain or compulsory purchase, is the legal process by which a government or public authority can acquire private property for public use or benefit, even if the owner is unwilling to sell.

Compulsory acquisition of land by the government for public purposes or overriding public interest can be in several phases as stressed by the Land Use Act 1978 such as infrastructure development, urban planning, or economic projects. Talking about overriding public interest, it means the acquisition of private individual land, by the government, for the use of the state. It must however be noted that where it is discovered that such acquisition made by the government was not for public purpose, then such acquisition may be marred.

Remedies Available To Landowners Whose Land Are Compulsorily Acquired

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

Compensation

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.

Importance and Purpose of Compulsory Land Acquisition

The practice of compulsory land acquisition plays a crucial role in facilitating infrastructure development, urban renewal, and other projects essential for the public welfare. It allows governments to secure land needed for constructing roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, and other public facilities that benefit communities at large.

Compulsory land acquisition also serves as a mechanism for implementing urban planning initiatives, addressing housing shortages, and promoting economic development. By acquiring land for strategic purposes, governments can revitalize blighted areas, create job opportunities, and enhance the overall quality of life for residents.

While compulsory land acquisition can yield significant benefits for society, it also raises important questions about property rights, social justice, and community well-being. 

Balancing the interests of landowners with the broader public interest is a delicate process that requires adherence to legal principles, transparency in decision-making, and fair compensation for affected parties.

Legal Framework for Compulsory Land Acquisition

Compulsory land acquisition operates within a defined legal framework that varies from country to country. In many jurisdictions, including Nigeria, the power of compulsory acquisition is vested in the government or authorized agencies through legislation and constitutional provisions.

Overview of Laws and Regulations

Laws governing compulsory land acquisition typically outline the procedures, criteria, and limitations under which land can be acquired for public purposes. 

These laws may specify the types of projects or public interests for which land can be acquired, the process for identifying and valuing affected properties, and the rights and compensation due to landowners.

In Nigeria, the primary laws and regulations governing compulsory land acquisition (CLA) are:

Land Use Act of 1978

This is the principal legislation that governs land acquisition and use in Nigeria. Specifically, Section 28 of the Act empowers the Governor of a state to revoke a statutory right of occupancy for overriding public interest, subject to the payment of compensation.

State Land Acquisition Laws

Many states have enacted their land acquisition laws that provide specific procedures and guidelines for CLA within their respective jurisdictions. For example Lagos State Land Acquisition Laws (1976), Ogun State Land Acquisition Laws (1976), Rivers State Land Acquisition Laws (1976)

These state laws typically outline the process for issuing notices, conducting surveys and valuations, determining compensation, and addressing disputes related to land acquisition.

Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Act

This Act governs land acquisition and development in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. It empowers the Minister of the FCT to acquire land for public purposes, subject to the payment of compensation.

Public Lands Acquisition Laws

Some states have specific laws that govern the acquisition of public lands, such as the Public Lands Acquisition Law of Lagos State (1976).

Other Relevant Laws 

Other laws that may come into play during CLA processes include the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act, which requires an assessment of the environmental impacts of proposed projects, and the National Urban and Regional Planning Act, which provides guidelines for urban planning and development.

Government Authority and Process

Compulsory land acquisition is initiated by the government or designated authorities responsible for public infrastructure and development projects. These entities have the legal authority to identify land parcels needed for public use, notify affected landowners, assess the value of the land, and negotiate compensation agreements.

In the case of the Lagos-Calabar road project and the issues with Landmark Village, the responsible government agency is the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, specifically the Federal Road Construction Agency.

The process for compulsory land acquisition for federal road projects like this typically involves the following steps:

Identification of land required

The Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, through its technical teams, identifies the land parcels required for the proposed road project’s right-of-way and other associated infrastructure.

Issuance of Notice of Intent

The Federal Road Construction Agency, on behalf of the Ministry, issues a Notice of Intent to Acquire Land to the affected landowners, such as Landmark Village. This notice outlines the government’s intention to acquire the land for the road project.

Survey and valuation

The Ministry, through its appointed surveyors and valuers, conducts surveys and valuations of the affected land parcels to determine the appropriate compensation for the landowners.

Negotiation and Compensation

The Ministry enters into negotiations with the affected landowners, such as Landmark Village, to reach an agreement on the compensation amount based on the valuations. If an agreement cannot be reached through negotiations, the Ministry can initiate compulsory acquisition proceedings.

Compulsory acquisition proceedings

If negotiations fail, the Ministry can invoke the provisions of the Land Use Act and the relevant state land acquisition laws to initiate compulsory acquisition proceedings. This involves issuing a revocation notice to the landowners and following the legal process for acquiring the land.

Payment of compensation

Once the compulsory acquisition process is completed, the Ministry is required to pay the landowners the compensation amount determined through the valuation process or as awarded by the court, if there is a dispute.

It’s important to note that the affected landowners have the right to challenge the compulsory acquisition or the compensation amount offered by the government through legal channels, such as filing objections or seeking judicial review.

In the case of Landmark Village, the company has reportedly challenged the compulsory acquisition process and the compensation offered by the government, leading to ongoing legal disputes and delays in the road project.

Process of Compulsory Land Acquisition

The process of compulsory land acquisition typically follows a series of steps designed to ensure fairness, transparency, and adherence to legal requirements.

Identification of Land for Acquisition

The first step in the process involves identifying land parcels required for public projects or development initiatives. This may involve conducting surveys, feasibility studies, and consultations with relevant stakeholders to determine the need for land acquisition and the suitability of available properties.

Notification and Consultation with Landowners

Once the land parcels are identified, affected landowners are notified of the government’s intention to acquire their properties. This notification should include information about the purpose of the acquisition, the legal basis for the action, and the rights of the landowners to contest the decision or seek compensation.

Valuation of Land and Compensation

Landowners are entitled to fair and adequate compensation for the loss of their properties. 

The value of the land is determined through independent valuation assessments conducted by qualified professionals. Compensation should reflect the market value of the land, as well as any improvements or losses suffered by the landowners as a result of the acquisition.

Legal Procedures and Appeals

Landowners have the right to challenge the compulsory acquisition through legal avenues if they believe their rights have been violated or if they dispute the valuation or compensation offered by the government. 

This may involve filing appeals with administrative bodies, seeking judicial review, or pursuing alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

Understanding the process of compulsory land acquisition is essential for landowners, government agencies, and communities affected by such actions. 

By adhering to established legal procedures and principles, governments can ensure that compulsory land acquisition serves the public interest while respecting the rights and interests of affected parties.

Reasons for Compulsory Land Acquisition

Compulsory land acquisition is undertaken for various reasons, primarily aimed at advancing public welfare, promoting development, and addressing pressing societal needs. Several key rationales underpin the necessity for compulsory land acquisition:

Infrastructure Development

One of the primary reasons for compulsory land acquisition is to facilitate the construction of essential infrastructure projects such as roads, highways, bridges, railways, airports, and utilities. These infrastructure developments serve as lifelines for communities, enhancing connectivity, accessibility, and economic growth.

Urban Renewal and Development Projects

Compulsory land acquisition is often employed as a tool for urban renewal initiatives aimed at revitalizing blighted or deteriorating urban areas. By acquiring land for redevelopment projects, governments can transform dilapidated neighborhoods into vibrant, sustainable, and modern urban spaces.

Public Welfare and Necessity

In cases where there is a pressing public need or emergency situation, compulsory land acquisition may be invoked to secure land for critical purposes such as disaster management, environmental conservation, public health facilities, educational institutions, and government offices. 

These initiatives are geared towards safeguarding the well-being and interests of the broader community.

Economic Development and Investment

Compulsory land acquisition may also be utilized to attract investment, stimulate economic development, and create employment opportunities. By acquiring land for industrial parks, special economic zones, tourism developments, and commercial ventures, governments can foster economic growth, diversification, and competitiveness.

Social Infrastructure and Housing Projects

Access to adequate housing, healthcare, education, and social amenities is fundamental to human well-being and societal progress. Compulsory land acquisition enables governments to acquire land for the construction of affordable housing units, healthcare facilities, schools, parks, and community centers, thereby enhancing the quality of life and social cohesion within communities.

In essence, compulsory land acquisition is driven by the imperative to balance the collective interests of society with the rights and interests of individual landowners. 

While it is a powerful tool for advancing public objectives and development agendas, it must be exercised judiciously, transparently, and in accordance with legal and ethical standards to ensure equitable outcomes for all stakeholders involved.

Challenges and Controversies

Despite its noble intentions, compulsory land acquisition often encounters challenges and controversies that stem from its implementation and impact on affected communities:

Displacement of Communities and Individuals

One of the most significant challenges associated with compulsory land acquisition is the displacement of communities and individuals from their homes and livelihoods. Displaced populations may face social, economic, and psychological hardships as they are uprooted from familiar surroundings and support networks.

Compensation Disputes and Inadequacies

Disputes over compensation amounts and adequacy are common in compulsory land acquisition processes. Landowners may feel that the compensation offered by the government does not reflect the true value of their properties or adequately compensate them for the loss of land, assets, and livelihoods.

Environmental and Social Impacts

Compulsory land acquisition can have adverse environmental and social impacts, particularly when it involves the clearance of forests, wetlands, or ecologically sensitive areas. Disruptions to ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, and disruption of traditional land-use practices can exacerbate environmental degradation and threaten the well-being of local communities.

Legal Rights and Protections for Landowners

In the context of compulsory land acquisition, landowners possess certain legal rights and protections aimed at safeguarding their interests and ensuring fair treatment throughout the process:

Right to Fair Compensation

Landowners have the fundamental right to receive fair and adequate compensation for the acquisition of their properties. This compensation should reflect the market value of the land, including any improvements or investments made by the landowner, and mitigate the financial losses incurred as a result of the acquisition.

Right to Due Process and Legal Representation

Landowners are entitled to due process and legal representation to advocate for their rights and interests in compulsory land acquisition proceedings. This includes the right to be informed of the government’s intentions, participate in consultations and negotiations, and seek recourse through legal channels if their rights are infringed upon or if they dispute the terms of the acquisition.

Conclusion

Compulsory land acquisition is a powerful tool that governments wield to advance public welfare, promote development, and address pressing societal needs. However, its implementation often gives rise to complex challenges and controversies, including displacement of communities, compensation disputes, environmental degradation, and social unrest.

Despite these challenges, compulsory land acquisition can be managed effectively through adherence to legal frameworks, stakeholder engagement, transparency, and accountability. 

By upholding the rights of landowners, conducting comprehensive impact assessments, and adopting best practices in consultation and decision-making, governments can mitigate adverse impacts, promote equitable outcomes, and foster sustainable development.

FAQs

What is compulsory land acquisition, and how does it affect property owners in Nigeria?

Compulsory land acquisition refers to the legal process through which the government acquires private land for public use or development projects. In Nigeria, this can include infrastructure projects like road construction, urban renewal, or public utilities. Property owners affected by compulsory acquisition are entitled to compensation for their land, but the process can be complex and challenging to navigate without proper guidance.

What rights do property owners have during compulsory land acquisition in Nigeria?

Property owners affected by compulsory land acquisition in Nigeria have rights protected by law. These rights include the right to fair compensation for their land based on its market value, the right to challenge the validity of the acquisition notice or the compensation offered, and the right to be adequately informed about the acquisition process and their legal options. 

How can property owners ensure fair compensation during compulsory land acquisition in Nigeria?

Property owners can take several steps to ensure they receive fair compensation during compulsory land acquisition in Nigeria. Firstly, they should obtain independent valuations of their property to assess its true market value. Secondly, they should engage legal representation to review the acquisition notice, negotiate with government authorities on their behalf, and advocate for fair compensation. 

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