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By Daniel Atayi

Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo and his deputy, Brigadier Shehu Yaradua enacted the land use act shortly after The UN World Habitat Forum held in Vancouver, Canada in 1976.

One of the principal outcome of that conference in Canada, was a resolve that Governments should provide land for citizens to build homes. Obasanjo capitalized on that, by seizing land from its traditional owners and vesting the ceased land in the state.

In order to effect his dubious plans, Obj and his duputy, Yaradua, approached the Nigerian Institute for Social and Economic Research, NISER, to give them a formula for seizing private properties.

NISER in its report advised against it, but OBJ was undaunted.

Obasanjo constituted A 7-man panel, set up to formulate a land policy in the desired direction. Six (6) of the members advised against grabbing traditional land for States. Obasanjo invited the remaining member to write a minority report which later became the Land Use Decree and was later entrenched in subsequent constitutions as the Land Use Act!

Based on this new legal instrument, Obasanjo and Yar’adua became the largest land owners in NIGERIA!


The Land Use Act, vested powers of ownership on the state Governors. The citizens ownership became a mere occupant with an issued lease, signed by the Governors allowing occupancy of the Land for a tenure of years.

The report of the minority panel that criminally constituted the Land Use Act was written by an opinion Writer, Mr. Augustine Nnamani, who later became Attorney-General and subsequently a judge of the Supreme Court.

It is an irony that the same Nnamani became a prince among the judicial activists who salvaged the rump of private power that still exists in our land tenure system today. NISER and the majority of the Land Use panel canvassed very similar reasons.


The Fulani are traditionally nomadic herdsmen who rear cows all year round across West Africa. They have no permanent attachment to land.

We could recall history that when Usman Dan Fodio led his Jihad in 1804 and established Fulani reign in several Hausa and non-Hausa across the Niger, it was easy to impose a land Tenure system similar to what we have in the Land Use Act.
Land was vested in the community in Northern Nigeria.

In the South, the difference is that you have to buy portion of Land.

In the West, land was vested in private ownership through purchase, war, settlement etc.

In South West land use could be through family descendants as private property. The major traditional occupations on these lands were farming, hunting. Some of the land were acquired via War.

In the Eastern part of Nigeria, Land is a prized possession and a major mark of progeny.

In the South-South, it is a scarce commodity of inesteemable value because the Atlantic shelf is in constant competition for the little land available. A region that have 12,000 square kilometres of mangrove, hence, only for fishing.

So, the attitude to land is justifiably different from one region of the country to another.

Obasanjo imposed the Land Use Act in FIAT! In the most fraudulent manner.

Though, the judiciary have risen stoutly to the challenge preserving some traditional hold on land and creating what is at best a bifurcal land ownership system.

In 1976 before Obasanjo and his deputy started the peripatetic coup detat against private land ownership, the state needed to buy land or pay compensation for development.

The Judiciary had verdicts that “alienation of private property without compensation is a fraud”. It I in that vein that one courageous judge, Justice Olajide Olatawur A, JSC, called Obasanjo and Yaradua by their true names: Land Thieves.

It was their theft that created the framework for anybody to hallucinate about appropriating land owned by others for strange, hostile people to live. So, OBASANJO have created more problems for Nigeria than he posit to solve!

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