Land Management During the Colonia Period

Posted by on 2/27/2004 2:30:14 PM
Post Comment Land Management During the Colonia Period Nigeria

The colonial administration in southern Nigeria recognised the existing indenous system of land management and administration.The colonial way regime, however, made laws and super-imposed land them on such existing systems (Adalemo 1993). For example, the Treaty of Cession of 1861 was ) the signed by Oba Dosunmu of Lagos; but what Oba .'rson Dosunmu transferred were sovereign rights only, olute since property rights of individuals or inhabitants eans were not affected by the treaties. Thus, it was only i and the management of land that was transferred and (lien- not property rights. The Native Lands Acquisition fthe Proclamation of 1st January 1900, provided that with effect from 1st January, 1900:

No person other than a Native shall either. directly or indirectly acquire right in or over land within southern Nigeria from Natives without the written consent of the High Commissioner... Any such interest or right som- over land acquired without such consent from shall be void. By 1906, the Crown Lands Management land. Proclamation was introduced. It was designed to , the provide for the management, control and disposition of Crown. Lands in the Protectorate of was Southern Nigeria. It provided that the High land Commissioner shall have the management of all that Crown Lands in the Protectorate; and that he may for a 'from time to time sell, lease, exchange or other wise dispose of such lands as he may think fit.'

Another important land legislation was the Native Lands Acquisition Ordinance of 1908. This ordinance sought to regulate the acquisition of land by 'at or aliens from the Natives. However, the 1908 Ordinance was repealed in 1917 by the Native Lands Acquisition Ordinance No 32 of 1917. This Ordinance provided amongst others that no alien should acquire any interest or rights in or over any land within the Protectorate from a native except under an instrument which has received the approval of the Governor. Any instrument which land did not received the approval of the Governor as required by the section did null and void. From the foregoing analysis, it is clear that the colonial lever administration in southern Nigeria was mainly concerned with, and confined its administrative control that to the alienation of land by natives to aliens or nonnatives.

In northern Nigeria, however, the system of over land management took a different turn following wither the imposition of British colonial rule. It would be land- recalled that extension of British colonial adminisment tration over Hausaland occurred when the European powers were 'scrambling' for the possession of African territories. As an initial step, the British Government granted the Royal Niger Company a Royal Charter in 1886. This Company signed a number of treaties with local Chiefs and Emirs in northern Nigeria. However, upon the revocation of the Company's charter, the colonial goveminent assumed direct control of the company's territory on January 1, 1900.

The company was duly compensated and in turn assigned to the British Government the benefits of all its treaties and land other than its trading stations, and all mining rights it had acquired. As Lugard stated: ... these lands are by presumption the absolute property of the Government, ... But in fairness to the company, it must be borne in mind that the treaties into which they claimed to have acquired these lands ... were often ... the same by which they had acquired such political control as formed the basis of our claim to what is northern Nigeria. (Lugard 1906:130). In addition to these lands, there were also Crown lands.' These were land made up of the sites of the cantonments at Zungeru and Lokoja as well as the various provincial headquarters.

There were also 'public lands' which became the property of the Government by virtue of the fact that when the Fulani conquered an area, they assumed the ultimate title to all land in the area; consequently when a Fulani chief was conquered or deposed by the British government, the title earlier vested in the conquered Emir passed on to the British Government. Public lands included those land that were occupied and those lands which were the property of the conquered or deposed ruler(s). The same rights of succession applied in respect of nonmoslem territories or territories of Emirs not conquered or deposed. It is important to note the distinction between 'Crown' and 'Public' lands. While Crown lands were the private property of the Government and it assumed the management of such lands, 'Public lands' were left entirely at the free disposal of the natives to use and enjoy according to native custom.

The only restriction was that no native (like in southern Nigeria), could alienate land to a non- native without the consent of the High Commissioner. A major development during the colonial era was the Lands and Native Rights Proclamation of 1910. The origin of this proclamation was that Sir Percy Girouard, Lord Lugard's successor was opposed to the above Lugard's ideas on land and drew the attention of the Home Authority to the necessity of independent expert advise on such an important subject as land. This call led to the setting up of the Northern Nigeria Lands Committee of 1910. Its main terms of reference were: to consider the evidence collected by Sir Percy Girouard, and any other evidence available, as to the existing system of land tenure in northern Nigeria, and to report (1) on the system which is advisable to adopt (it) as to the legislative and administrative measures necessitated by its adop- tion (Northern Nigeria Lands Committee 1907: III).

The Committee issued its report on 29th July 1908. It was discussed and approved at both Houses of Parliament and embodied as the Land and Native Rights Proclamation No 9 of 1910. One of the most important proclamations, amongst others, was that 'all native lands and all rights over same are hereby declared to be under the control and subject to the disposition of the Governor and shall be held and administered for the use and com- mon benefit of the natives.' This Proclamation had important ramifications. First, it led to the emergence of the state as a major accumulator of land either through expropriation or compulsory acquisition with or without compensa- tion as is known today. Second, the Proclamation became a model for the then British West Africa and indeed was used as one in the setting up of the West African Lands Committee of 1912. Third, there was an attempt to apply aspects of the Proclamation to the 'Qreat Nigerian Land question' at the Privy Council in London in 1921; and finally it served as a model for the Northern Nigeria Lands Tenure Law of 1962.

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