My right to property (Introduction)

The scope of right to property includes movable and immovable property. Movable property includes any material objects that can be owned while the immovable property the constitution envisages here is land. It also must be noted that immovable property will also include ground beneath any object under the surface in its natural states like minerals and vegetation immediate space above the land surface. It is important to also include objects place on and under the land by humans.

Sections 43 and 44 of the 1999 constitution make provisions for the right to property in Nigeria.

Section 43 provides 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.


If a person satisfies all requirements to own or sell property in Nigeria, s/he cannot be refused and in such circumstance, he can enforce his/her right.

Someone wants to sell community/family land to me. What do I need to know?

Traditionally in Nigeria, land could belong to a community or family where such land devolved to individual members of such family.

If a member of such family is selling a land to you, upon due diligence, you can proceed to deal with him/or her under the supervision of your lawyer.

Where the land belongs to a family, a member of the family lacks the power to sell to you such land else you will acquire a wrong title. With the support of your lawyer, you must demand to see the head of the family and any other principal member of the family. They are the people who can validly transfer such title in land to you. If a member purportedly sells a family land to you without the consent of the head and a principal member of the family, you have not acquired a good title.

This same principle applies to the community land. The head and a principal of the community must transfer the title and must sign for and on behalf of the community.

Can my right of occupancy be LAWFULLY revoked?

It must be lawfully

Section 44(1) provides that:


No movable property or any interest in an immovable property shall be taken possession of compulsorily and no right 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

  • Requires the prompt payment of compensation therefore; and
  • 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.


The implication of the provision above is that right or interest in property is acknowledged but it subject to the power of government to compulsorily take possession or acquire in conditions specified by law while compensation must be paid.

Because the Land Use Act has vested the control and management of land on the governor of a state, such right of occupancy you have over the land can be revoked by the governor on behalf of the state where it is required for overriding public interest.

The right to property can be lost in the following ways:

  • Where possession or acquired interest in the land is compulsorily acquired as a result of the occupier or possessor occupying or possessing it in a manner contrary to the provisions of Land Use Act or without the required consent or approval provided under the Act ;
  • Where property is compulsorily acquired for overriding public purposes.


The public purposes include the following as provided under section 51 of the Land Use Act that such acquisition of land must be:

  • For exclusive Government use for general public use
  • For use by anybody corporate directly established by law or by anybody corporate registered under the Companies and Allied Matters Act as respects which the Government owns shares, stocks or debentures;
  • For or in connection with sanitary improvements of any kind;
  • For obtaining control over land contiguous to any part or over land the value of which we be enhanced by the construction of any railway, road or other public work or convenience about to be undertaken or provided by the government;
  • For obtaining control over land required for or in connection with development of telecommunications or provision of electricity;
  • For obtaining control over land required for or in connection with mining purposes;
  • For obtaining control over land required for or in connection with planned urban or rural development or settlement;
  • For obtaining control over land required for or in connection with economic, industrial or agricultural development;
  • For educational and other social services.

For example where government compulsory acquired a person’s property for the purpose of expanding the cattle market was held legal and within the position of the provision of the constitution.[1]


[1] Sokoto Local Government and Others v. Alhaji Tsoho Amale & Another (2001) 12 WRN 103.

Can I get my property back if my right of occupancy is revoked by a Governor for his own benefit or that of his/her family members/ associates and on what other grounds can I challenge illegality?

Yes. You can only do this by enforcing your right in court where the compulsory acquisition of your property is for the interest of the governor, his/her families, and political associates or against public purposes. For example the court once held in the case of Ibafon Company Ltd. And Another V. Nigerian Ports Authority PLC and Others[1] that the alienation of land compulsorily for public purposes to person who used it for private business was illegal.

Before your right of occupancy can be compulsorily acquired by the state, it must follow the conditions stated below:

  1. Notice of acquisition must be given to the holder of the land[2]. It can only be effectively served if[3]
  2. The acquisition notice is delivered to the person on whom it is to be served;
  3. Leaving the notice at or sending via registered letter/courier to his usual or last know place of residence/address;
  4. If the party to be served is an incorporated company or body, the notice must be served on inform of registered letter to the secretary or clerk of the company or body;
  5. Where name or address of occupier or holder of the land cannot be ascertained after reasonable inquiry, and by delivering it to someone on the premises or affixing it or placing a copy of in in a eye-catching/noticeable part of the premises.
  6. Manner and purpose of acquisition must also make provisions for prompt payment of adequate compensation and must also give a person claiming compensation right to appeal to a court in respect of the amount of compensation.

Kindly note, that the Governor can offer resettlement in another place in lieu of compensation. Where the value of new place is higher than the acquired property, a person can pay the excess to government in form of a loan.[4]

[1] (2000) 17 WRN 56 at 68 CA

[2] Section 28(6) of the Land Use Act

[3] Section 44 of the Land Use Act

[4] Section 29(4) of the Land Use Act

My land is containing minerals, oils, natural gas and the government wants to take over my land. Help!

Yes. Any land or property including the territorial waters and exclusive economic zone of Nigeria containing any minerals, mineral oils and natural gas automatically belongs to the federal government of Nigeria. If initially bought by someone it must revert back to the federal government upon discovery of such mineral or gas after the expected payment of compensation for the land any improvements made on it[1]

[1] Kehinde M. Mowoe, Constitutional Law in Nigeria 2008, Malthouse Law book at p. 520

Guide: I want to buy a property; five documents the property must have

Ownership of real property is to be supported by documentary evidence.  There are five documents every property in Nigeria must have. If your property does not have any of them, there is the need to discuss with a real estate consultant at your earliest convenience. They are:

  1. Purchase receipt: A purchase receipt is a written acknowledgement of the recipient of payment for a property. It may be required as an evidence of ownership or acquisition of property in certain circumstances.
  2. A registered Survey Plan: A Survey Plan is a diagram that describes the margin and precise dimension of a parcel of land. A surveyor is an expert who is concerned with the official assessment for evaluation and measurement of land. The survey is expected to be lodged (registered) at the Surveyor General’s office of the state in which the land is situated.
  3. Deed of Assignment: A Deed of Assignment is a document that shows the new legal owner of the property; i.e. the property has been transferred from the buyer to the seller. It is a contract from the seller to assign the property to the buyer.
  4. Certificate of Occupancy (C of O): The C of O is a justifiable consent from the government that the property is in your possession. It is usually issued by the land bureau of the state in which the property is situated.
  5. Approved Building Plan: This is an endorsement to proceed with the construction or reconfiguration of a particular structure in a specific place, in accordance with the approved requirement. It is very essential that you ensure that the structure of the property corresponds with what is shown on the plans.[1]


[1] Written by Ayobayo Babade and Olakunbi of Tope Babade & Co (Real Estate Consultants) as a contribution to #KnowYourRightsNigeria project


What are my rights as a tenant in Nigeria?

A  tenancy  is  a  relationship  in  which  a  party  (the  tenant)  is  given  exclusive  possession  of  a property  (the  demised  premises)  by  another  party  (the  owner  or  landlord)  for  a  specific period of time in exchange for a fee (rent) or for free.

The rights of a tenant include:

  1. Right to a  payment  receipt  and  written  agreement:  The  landlord  is  required  by  law to  give  the  tenant  a  written  evidence  acknowledging  the  collection  of  rent  from  the  tenant. Also,  the  landlord  and  tenant  are  to  state  in  clear  terms  the  conditions  upon  which  the tenancy  relationship  shall  exist  as  well  as  when  and  how  the  relationship  will  be  terminated. A  tenant  is  expected  to  request  and  obtain  a  tenancy  agreement  as  well  as  read  same carefully before the commencement of the tenancy.
  2. Right to  peaceful  enjoyment  and  exclusive  possession:  This  is  the  hallmark  of  a tenancy  and  distinguishes  it  from  other  types  of  possession  of  property.  The  landlord  must give  the  tenant  the  right  to  use  the  demised  premises  to  the  exclusion  of  all  others  including the  landlord  except  for  the  landlord’s  right  of  entry  for  periodic  checks  on  the  property. There  must  however  be  adequate  notice  before  the  landlord’s  right  of  entry  is  exercised. The modalities of same shall be stipulated in the tenancy agreement.
  3. Right to  a  habitable  premises:  The  demised  premises  must  be  one  that  is  befitting  for humans  to  live  in.  The  landlord  is  to  ensure  that  the  building  is  structurally  sound. Structural defects or external damages are to be promptly repaired.  It  is  unlawful  for  the landlord  to  do  things  that  will  make  the  building  inhabitable  for  the  tenant  like  removing the roofing sheets or blocking the septic tank.
  4. Freedom from  unlawful  eviction  from  the  property:  A  tenant  is  protected  by  law from  being  arbitrarily  evicted  by  the  landlord.  If  the  tenancy  is  to  be  brought  to  an  end,  the landlord  is  required  by  law  to  give  the  tenant  a  valid  “Notice  to Quit”.  If  the  tenant  fails  to leave  the  demised  premises  after  the  stipulated  time  in  the  Notice  to  Quit,  the  tenant  will be given a “7-days notice of owners intention to recover possession”.  After  the  expiration  of  this  notice  and  the  tenant  still  fails  to  deliver  up  possession,  the landlord  has  the  right  to  take  the  tenant  to  court  and  the  court  will  evict  the  tenant.  The tenant  will  however  be  liable  to  pay  for  the  period  of  time  he  stays  over  in  the  premises after being told to leave.
  5. Freedom from  unreasonable  increase  in  rent:  The  law  protects  the  tenant  from unreasonable  increase  of  rent  by  the  landlord.  The  rent  of  the  demised  premises  must  be at  par  with  that  of  similar  premises  in  the  same  locality.  However,  the  law  recognises  special circumstances  where  such  increases  are justified  but  there must  be evidence  showing  such special circumstances.

What are my rights as a landlord in Nigeria?

A  landlord  is  the  owner  of  a  premises  or  the  holder  of  the  reversionary  interest  in  the property.  This  means  that  at  the  expiration  of  every  tenancy,  the  right  to  possession  and ownership  of  the  said  premises  goes  back  to  the  landlord.  Individuals  own  property  for  a number  of  reasons  one  of  which  is  for  passive  income  or  as  an  investment  as  such,  they let such properties out to tenants in exchange of rent. The rights a landlord has include:

  1. Right to  receive  rent:  A  landlord  has  the  right  to  receive  regular  and  periodic  rent  form the  tenant  for  the  use  and  occupation  of  his  premises.  Rents  can  be  collected  weekly, monthly,  quarterly,  half-yearly  and  annually  as  agreed  by  the  landlord  and  tenant.  However, the  manner  by  which  the  rent  is  collected  determines  the  period  of  notice  to  which  the tenant is entitled to.
  2. Right to  reasonable  periodic  inspection  of  the  demised  premises:  The  landlord  is permitted  by  law  to  enter  into  the  demised  premises  to  carry  out  routine  checks  on  the manner  in  which  the  demised  premises  is  being  used.  However,  before  such  checks, sufficient  notice  has  to  be  given  to  the  tenant  in  the  manner  stipulated  in  the  tenancy agreement.
  3. Right to  lawfully  eject  a  tenant:  A  landlord  has  the  right  to  lawfully  eject  a  tenant whose  tenancy  has  been  determined  in  accordance  to  the  Tenancy  Agreement  or  by operation  of  law.  To  lawfully  eject  a  tenant,  the  appropriate  notices  has  to  be  given  in accordance  to  the  law  before  proceeding  to  the  law  court.  It  is  illegal  to  use  self-help  by inviting  thugs  or  “Area-boys”  to  assist  in  ejecting  a tenant. One can be liable for the crime disruption of public peace and criminal assault among others.
  4. Right to  review  rent:  A  landlord  has  the  right  to  review  his  rent  upward  (and sometimes,  in  the  face  of  economic  realities  like  economic  meltdown,  downwards).  Such rent  reviews  have  to  take  cognizance  of  the  prevailing  rate  in  the  area  and  the  special circumstances of the property so that they are not viewed as arbitrary or unreasonable.
  5. Right to  compensation  from  compulsory  acquisition:  The  governor  of  the  state  by virtue  of  the  Land  Use  Act  has  the  right  to  compulsorily  acquire  properties  within  the  state for  “overriding  public  purposes”.  However,  whenever  such  occurs,  the  landlord  has  the right  to  be  given  compensation  by  the  state  government  for  the  unexhausted improvements he has made on the land.


My right to freedom from discrimination (Introduction)

  • Introduction

In order to achieve national co-operation in solving problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedom for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion, right to freedom from discrimination must be guaranteed.

The universal declaration of human rights[1] recognizes in its preamble the “inherent dignity” and the “equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” as the “foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.[2] In the article 1 it further provides:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.


“Discrimination is the most comprehensive systematic and severe deprivation of human rights”[3] and has led notorious destructions of lives and properties.

Section 42 of the 1999 constitution provides as follows:


A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person-

  • Be subject either expressly by, or in practical application of any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinions are not made subject; or
  • Be accorded expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinion.


The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria also buttress the importance of right to freedom from discrimination in a heterogeneous country like Nigeria reinforcing it by the provision of section 15(2) which provides that “National integration shall be actively encouraged whilst discrimination on grounds of place of origin, sex, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited.”

We at Constitutional Rights Awareness and Liberty Initiative often say that “we didn’t choose where we were born”. We grew to know that our town, villages, states are called the names we call them. That mine is different from yours should not call for hatred as it is impossible for us all to come from one (the same) parents, villages, states. Discrimination of all sorts is prohibited by the action of the government and its functionaries.


[1] 10 December 1948, A.G Re. 217 A(iii), Doc. N.U. A/8/10 (1948)

[2] Kehinde M. Mowoe Constitutional law in Nigeria 2008 Malthouse Law Books . p 499

[3] Gasiokwu M.O.U. ,Human Rights. History Ideology and law, (CA FAB Education books, Jos Nigeria 2003) p. 224

Can I be discriminated upon by virtue of my sex, community, ethnic group, or place of origin?

Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on sex, colour (albinism) race, town, villages, tribe, ethnic region, geo-political zones with intention of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economical, social, cultural or any other field of public life is prohibited.