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Gender and Land Rights Database

Nigeria

Rights entrenched in the Constitution

  • The National Policy on Women of 2000 launched specific guidelines for promoting gender equality in all sectors of the economy. The policy is being revised into a National Gender Policy in order to reflect the new shift towards gender and development (5).
  • The following measures have been put in place as a consequence of joint efforts among national institutions and women’s non-governmental organizations:

    - microcredit provided by Community Banks and a National Poverty Eradication Programme which is accessible to about 27 percent of women;

    - establishment of the Female Functional Literacy for Health and Poverty Alleviation Project (FFLH) to provide literacy and health education to rural women and income-generation activities in 14 communities in 10 states of the federation. The model has been replicated in 10 additional states. Women are also encouraged to form cooperatives for this project. Education and communication materials have been produced in local languages to create awareness;

    - health education, functional literacy and income-generating activities for women in the rural areas. This project by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Youth Development (FMWAYD), the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) has been replicated in 22 states.

    - provision of loans at low interest rates and waivers of collateral for women seeking credit facilities. Twenty-seven percent of women have benefited;

    - establishment of skills acquisition centres throughout the states of the federation;

    - pilot projects on modern bee farming in 10 states by FMWAYD in collaboration with the International First Aid Society (IFAS);

    - establishment of Women Development Centres in all the local government areas for training in skills acquisition, mass literacy and adult education programmes targeted at rural women;

    - provision of extension services in rural communities by federal and state ministries to improve agricultural yields and increase their technical proficiency (11).
  • The government has set aside US$3 846 154 specifically for women involved in agricultural production and processing. Also, the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) and the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) programme at the federal, state and local levels have special provisions for women in terms of employment and poverty reduction (5).
  • The Lagos state government has a committee on women’s affairs in the State House of Assembly and the Ekiti and Rivers States have established an Office of the Public Defender (OPD) and a Directorate for Citizens Rights respectively, under the states’ Ministries of Justice. The OPD offers free legal services to underprivileged women whose rights are threatened or have been infringed (5).
  • The National Centre for Women Development, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, commenced a project in 2003 aimed at compiling discriminatory and customary laws. The project was completed in 2005. The outcome document highlights the effects of the contradictions between the three legal systems − statutory, religious and customary − on the status of women in various areas, such as: property rights, including land tenure; access to credit; education; participation in politics; marriage; succession; and maintenance and custody of children, among others.
  • Based on the outcome document, the Attorney General of the Federation inaugurated a Committee on Reform of Discriminatory Laws against Women. The committee has drafted the Abolition of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in Nigeria and Other Related Matters Bill of 2006, which was rejected a first time in 2008 and is again before the National Assembly for enactment into law (5).

Rights entrenched in the Constitution

  • Constitution of 1999 (14):

    - Article 15[2] and Article 42[1][a] and [b], [2] and [3] prohibit  discrimination on the basis of sex and ensure that men and women have equal access to the courts in matters of contracts, torts and all civil matters. 

    - Explicit recognition of women’s equal rights is contained in Articles 17[1] and [2][a] which recognize equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law. 

    - Recognition of the right to land, housing and property is endorsed in Article 16[2][d] which declares that “the State shall direct its policy towards ensuring that suitable and adequate shelter […] are provided for all citizens”.

    - Article 43 recognizes the right to acquire property and guarantees every citizen the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in the country. 

    - Article 44 deals with grounds and conditions for compulsory possession or acquisition of property (15).

    - Article 11 states that women shall have equal rights as men with respect to employment opportunities, choice of professions, promotion and remuneration (14).

    - Section 26[2][a] stipulates that Nigerian men can have their non-Nigerian wives acquire citizenship through registration, but the same is not the case for non-Nigerian husbands married to Nigerian women. 

    - Section 29 deals with modes of renunciation of Nigerian citizenship. Subsection 29[4][b] recognizes a married woman, but not a married man, who avails herself of this Subsection as being of full age. This implies that a girl married at age 12 shall be treated as an adult (11).

Women's property and use rights in personal laws

  • The system of marriage laws, which includes customary, Islamic and statutory marriage, has resulted in a plurality of legal provisions and precedents regarding property rights and inheritance (11).
  • Married Women’s Property Act of 1882:
    - Under statutory marriage, the Act gives women the right to acquire, hold or dispose of property acquired before or after marriage. Upon divorce, women’s rights may be enforced through the court processes (11).
  • Marriage Act of 1990, Chapter 218 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria:
    - The married woman under the Act enjoys equal rights to the family assets acquired during the marriage and to be involved in their disposal during or after the marriage or upon the death of her husband (11).
  • Matrimonial Causes Act of 1970, Chapter 220 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria:
    - Courts can rule anywhere in the country that women have a share of family property in the event of divorce on equity grounds (11).
    - The Act is applicable to custody suits arising out of dissolution of civil, customary and Islamic marriages; in all custody matters, the Act directs that the interests of the child shall be paramount (16).
  • The civil law, as enshrined in the Matrimonial Causes Act and Marriage Act, permit monogamous marriages and women married under these Acts shall enjoy the following legal rights:
    - In the event of the death of her husband intestate, a certain percentage − at least one-third of the deceased’s estate − is left to the woman;
    - The Acts recognize the equal right of each party to the custody of children;
    - The wife and husband of a monogamous marriage cannot be found guilty of conspiracy except if a third party becomes a co-conspirator;
    - A wife cannot be compelled to testify in a law court against her husband under the sections of the Evidence Act dealing with competence and compellability and vice versa;
    - The immunity of non-disclosure of facts remains binding on the spouses even after divorce;
    - The wife can sue the husband for her personal property, either before or after marriage (11).
  • The Sharia legal system, in place in certain states, gives women the right to own and dispose of property, including land, and allows equal access to the courts of law for justice and legal remedies. Koranic precepts protect women’s rights to equality before the law, as in the case of Khaulat bin Thaalaba, where a woman complainant was granted full hearing and remedy by the Koran (17).
  • Sharia law also says that women can inherit property, but that women only have the right to inherit a small share (13).
  • In most of the country, marriages under Muslim religious laws or other customary laws are not recognized or protected by the statutory law, even though these are the most common marriages (13).

Inheritance legal mechanisms

- Under the Marriage Act of 1990, in the event of the death of her husband intestate, a woman is entitled to a certain percentage, at least one-third, of the deceased’s estate.
- The Administration and Succession [Estate of Deceased Persons] Law of 1990 Cap. 4, Revised Laws of Anambra State Volume 1 provides that in no case shall a wife or the daughters of a deceased not get what they are entitled to receive merely because they are women (18).



- The federal law says that women must be able to inherit in the same way as men, but this law is only for women who are married under statutory law and only if there is a will. It does not apply to women who are married under customary or Muslim law and so some customary laws and statutory laws in some parts of the country say that wives and daughters do not have the right to inherit anything (13).

Land Legislation

  • Land Use Act [Decree] of 1978, Chapter 202 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria:
    - Addresses four important issues arising from the former land tenure systems in the country: the problem of lack of uniformity in the laws governing land use and ownership; the issue of uncontrolled speculation in urban land; the question of access to land rights by Nigerians on an equal legal basis; and the issue of fragmentation of rural lands arising from the application of traditional principles of inheritance and/or population growth and the consequent pressure on land.

    - It approaches these issues via three related strategies: the vesting of proprietary rights in land in the State; the granting of usufructuary rights in land to individuals; and the use of an administrative system rather than market forces in the allocation of rights inland (19).

    - Vests all land compromised in the territory of each state, except land vested in the federal government or its agencies, in the Governor of the state, who will hold such land in trust for the people and will be responsible for allocating land in all urban areas for residential, agriculture, commercial and other purposes; similar powers, with respect to non-urban areas, are conferred on local governments which may grant rights of customary occupancy for land to be used for agricultural purposes.

    - In each state, a Land Use and Allocation Committee shall be established. This committee shall be responsible for advising the Governor on land management and resettlement issues. The Governor may declare that urban areas and land controlled by the military shall be administered separately.

    - The Governor may, in respect of land, whether or not in urban areas, grant statutory rights of occupancy to any person for all purposes and grant easements appurtenant to statutory rights occupancy.

    - The Governor may waive all or any of the covenant or conditions applying to a right of occupancy.

    - The local government may grant rights of customary occupancy for land to be used for agricultural purposes.

    - The Act further defines rights and duties of occupants and regulates the determination and payment of rents, the alienation and surrender of rights of occupancy, revocation of rights of occupancy and compensation therefore and some other matters of miscellaneous character. It shall be lawful for the Governor to revoke a right of [customary] occupancy for an overriding public interest (20).
  • Land Use [Validation of Certain Laws, etc.] Act of 1979 :
    -  Regularizes the issuance of regulations by state governments pursuant to the Land Use Act.

    - All laws and subsidiary legislation made at any time between the commencement of the Land Use Act and 30 September 1979 by any public officer of a state shall be deemed to have been validly made and shall have effect as if they had been made under or pursuant to the Land Use Act and accordingly, shall hereafter continue to have effect according to their tenor and intendment as if they were regulations made under or pursuant to Section 46 of that Act. 

    - All contracts and all executive, judicial and any instrument or other evidence relating to the allocation of any land, whether or not expressed to have been made under the Land Use Act, shall be deemed to have been validly issued or given under or pursuant to that Act and shall continue to have effect (20).
  • Federal Capital Territory Act of 1976, reprinted in 1999, Chapter 128 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria:
    - Provides for the creation of the Federal Capital Territory for the country and for the Federal Capital Development Authority which shall be responsible, among other things, for preparing a master plan for the capital city and other matters regarding land use with respect to town and country planning within the rest of the Capital Territory; providing municipal services; and establishing infrastructural services in accordance with the master plan. The Authority may make development orders for land and compulsorily acquire land to achieve its purposes (20).
  • National Agricultural Land Development Authority Decree of 1992:
    - Established in the Presidency the National Agricultural Land Development Authority. The management of the Authority shall be vested in a Governing Board. The objectives of the Authority shall be to: provide strategic public support for land development; promote and support optimum utilization of the country’s rural land resources for accelerated production of food and fibre; encourage and support economic-size farm holdings and promote consolidation of scattered fragment holdings; encourage the evolution of economic-size rural settlements; provide gainful employment opportunities for rural people, raise rural incomes and improve on the general living standards in rural areas; expand productive capacity in agriculture and regain export capability in traditional and non-traditional crops. 
  • For each Local Government Area of a state and the Area Councils of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, a Local Government Project Implementation Advisory Panel is established under the control of the Authority (20).

Sources: numbers in brackets (*) refer to sources displayed in the Bibliography