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Certain Exceptions To The Right To Acquire And Own Immovable Property Anywhere In Nigeria

Certain Exceptions To The Right To Acquire And Own Immovable Property Anywhere In Nigeria 

By Fejiro Ogheneare

In the last two (2) subparts, we treated in detail the categories of persons who are entitled to the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria, provided for in Section 44 of the 1999 Constitution. In this subpart, we will be discussing the converse i.e, what categories of persons are precluded from the enjoyment of this right. The exceptions to be treated subsequently are not exhaustive, however, they are the most common.

Firstly, persons adjudged to be of unsound mind by a court in Nigeria or elsewhere are incapable of validly making or being a party to the acquisition or transfer of an interest in land. This is because such agreements are largely contractual, and it has already gained notoriety that mentally ill persons are unable to make a valid contract, with certain just exceptions. Thus, for instance, if a mentally insane person sought to purchase a house or buy land for his/herself, any agreement made to that effect will be rendered null and void in so far as it was made during the pendency of the mental illness.

Another exception is the status of infancy. The Land Use Act 1978 in section 7 prescribes that ‘it shall be unlawful for the Governor of a State to grant statutory rights of occupancy or consent to the assignment or subletting of a statutory right of occupancy to a person under the age of 21 years. This provision means that persons below the age of 21 years are unable to exercise their right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria until the attainment of the age of 21. During that period, the law permits the transfer of an interest in land in their favor, solely under a trust arrangement.

Incarceration or imprisonment is yet another exception to the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria. Ordinarily, this ought not to be so, but upon careful examination of Section 44 (2)(b) and (e), it is a likely consequence of incarceration. These sections provide that the loss/ seizure of property is justified by judgment awards or court sentences to that effect, and we have seen quite a few cases in that regard. Recall the case of the former Governor of  Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who was convicted of money laundering. His landed properties cumulatively worth £381 million were forfeited to the Federal Government, and during the subsistence of his 12-year imprisonment term, he lost all rights to own and acquire immovable property anywhere in Nigeria. Funnily, upon his pardon by ex-president, Goodluck Jonathan, no small controversy was raised amidst legal circles on his entitlement to a restoration of all the forfeited properties after having been granted a legal reprieve. In sum, it is abundantly clear that in some cases the right to own and acquire immovable property may be lost as a result of incarceration.

Lastly, the deprivation or renunciation of citizenship invariably results in a loss of the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria. Section 30 of the Constitution outlines the reasons and procedures to be adopted for the deprivation of citizenship. Whereas, section 29 stipulates the procedure to be adopted for renunciation of citizenship. In both cases, the individual(s) concerned are effectively exempted from enjoying the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria. This is because this right is the preserve of citizens of Nigeria, and a loss of that citizenship consequently results in a loss of all rights attached.

That’s a wrap for this subpart. I hope you got something useful out of it. Next, we shall be examining the ‘compulsory acquisition of property’ in Nigeria. Till next time, KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!


To be Continued…

Click to download a copy of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.


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