Posted April 1998
Emea O. Arua
Centre for Rural Development and Cooperatives
University of Nigeria, Nsukka
Eugene C. Okorji
Department of Agricultural Economics
University of Nigeria, Nsukka
Land in eastern Nigeria is communal, individual and public. While the communal land tenure systems continue to move towards individual landownership owing to strong population pressure, the Land Use Decree (LUD) represents an attempt on the part of the Government of Nigeria to modify land tenure and access for purposes of development. While customary land tenure continues to regulate access in most rural areas, the LUD has produced a number of unforeseen results. This article compares the performances of the communal, individual and public land tenure systems. Large-scale capital-intensive agricultural production is usually restricted to communal tenure because of the difficulties of acquiring a sufficiently large area under private ownership. However, the proportion of land under public tenure remains relatively low in eastern Nigeria, despite the LUD. It is argued that the trend towards private ownership of communal land should be recognized and that the process of administrative allocation of public land should be abandoned.
A lest du Nigéria, la terre est de tenure communale, individuelle et publique. Tandis que, sous la forte pression de la population, les systèmes de tenure communale continuent dévoluer vers les droits individuels sur la terre, le Land Use Decree (LUD) représente la tentative du Gouvernement nigérian de modifier la tenure foncière et laccès à la terre à des fins de développement. Bien que la nature coutumière règle encore laccès à la terre dans la plupart des zones rurales, le LUD a provoqué de nombreuses conséquences imprévues. Les performances des systèmes de tenure communale, individuelle et publique sont comparées. La production agricole à grande échelle et à forte intensité de capitaux se limite le plus souvent à la tenure communale à cause de la difficulté pour les individus dacquérir une surface de terre suffisante. Malgré le LUD, la surface de terre tombant sous le régime de la tenure foncière publique demeure relativement faible dans lest du Nigéria. Il est recommandé de reconnaître lindividualisation de la tenure communale et dabandonner les procédures dattribution administrative des terres publiques.
En Nigeria oriental, la tenencia de la tierra es comunal, individual y pública. Mientras que los sistemas de tenencia comunales siguen evolucionando hacia los derechos individuales sobre la tierra, debido a la fuerte presión de la población, el Decreto sobre la Utilización de la Tierra representa el intento del Gobierno de modificar la tenencia y el acceso a ella con fines de desarrollo. Si bien la tenencia consuetudinaria rige todavía el acceso en la mayor parte de las zonas rurales, el decreto ha provocado numerosas consecuencias imprevistas. Se comparan los resultados de los sistemas de tenencia comunales, individuales y públicos. La producción agrícola en gran escala y comercial se limita casi siempre a la tenencia comunal, debido a la dificultad para la adquisición individual de una superficie de tierra suficiente. La superficie de tierra comprendida en el régimen de tenencia pública sigue siendo relativamente escasa en Nigeria oriental. Se recomienda el reconocimiento de la individualización de la tenencia comunal y el abandono de los procedimientos de asignación administrativa de las tierras públicas.
LAND IS A FUNDAMENTAL FACTOR of production in the agricultural sector. It has an essential role to play in increasing as well as sustaining agricultural production. The extent to which this role is performed is determined in part by methods of land acquisition and arrangements for the ownership and use of land. The land tenure situation in eastern Nigeria comprising Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Cross River, Enugu, Imo and Rivers States, is examined in this article. Two rural communities were selected at random from each agricultural zone in the states. Brief visits were made during which discussions were held with the community leaders. Secondary data were obtained from journals, reports and other published and unpublished materials.
Many factors were identified as affecting the performance of land tenure systems in eastern Nigeria. These were broadly classified into socio-economic, sociological and cultural factors including traditional and religious as well as institutional factors. Land has a spiritual value as the home of those ancestors who, more often than is realized, play an active and important part in the daily life of those still living. Instances abound in Nigeria, especially in the study area, in which vast areas of land are used as sacred lands where sacrifices are occasionally made to the ancestors.
Land tenure in the eastern part of Nigeria can be classified into three main types, namely: communal, individual (private) and public (state). Examples of communal land tenure, as well as some examples of private land tenure, are found in customary or indigenous land tenure systems, while other examples of private land tenure and all examples of state land tenure are found in the statutory nomenclature, which is analogous to the "Western" or Euro-American land rights systems. Communal land tenure systems are more common in areas with relatively low population density; individual landownership predominates in densely populated communities. Public land tenure is not common in the rural communities of eastern Nigeria despite the Land Use Decree (Act) of 1978.
Customary land tenure systems in Nigeria are related to family and inheritance systems, and are based on the concept of group ownership of absolute rights in land, with individuals acquiring usufructuary rights. Customary land rights establish the basis for access to land resources and the opportunity to use land for productive purposes (Famoriyo, 1980). Famoriyo (1973) notes that under the customary rules of tenure, three principles were observed: first, each individual member of a landholding family was entitled to a portion of land enough to feed himself and the members of his family; second, no member of the community could dispossess another of his or her stake in family land; and third, no one could alienate family members interests in family land without the knowledge and consent of those members.
Tenure systems under customary law vary but, in principle, are restricted to usufruct rights. These may or may not be alienable, generally, or saleable, in particular. They may be perpetual or for certain periods only, or they may be solely for the lifetime of the holder (Poguchi, 1962). Although title to land is generally unrecorded, family and individual rights are usually well known and accepted within the community (Fabiyi and Adegboye, 1977). Under the Nigerian customary land tenure system, there are different kinds of rights to land, including the rights of the individual, the rights of the group and the rights of a sovereign nature (Famoriyo, 1979; 1983).
Three types of land tenure have been identified, namely, communal, individual or private and public. Communal tenure accounted for between 8 and 65 percent of the landholdings in the study area. In some communities, all the land is communally owned except residential quarters which have been allocated to individual families by the community leaders. In many of the communities, only distant farmlands are communally owned; in others, it is the forest lands; while, in a few, it is just the market square and other festive grounds. Individual land tenure represents the situation where an individual has full ownership and right of use of land. Generally it is used synonymously with private landownership. Originally, all land belonged to the community. However, individuals who need land for personal or private uses (residential, etc.) obtained such land from the community leaders on payment of stipulated fees and/or performance of the requisite rites. Land so acquired belonged to the individual and would be inherited by his or her descendants as their private property with absolute rights to use it as they wished.
Individual landownership accounts for 43 to 89 percent of the total number of landholdings in the study area. Public land tenure is of relatively low significance in the rural communities visited. Landholdings under this system are limited to such structures as schools and hospitals and to areas occupied by public agencies, parastatals and enterprises which are often not found in the rural areas. The Land Use Decree (1978) vests the state governor or chairman of the local government area (LGA) with the power of granting customary right of occupancy to any person or organization for the use of land in the local government area for agricultural, residential and other purposes (Igbozurike, 1980). This has yet to be implemented in the rural areas.
Communal land tenure can be subdivided according to the extent to which individual rights in communal property are recognized. The chieftaincy stool or council of elders has ensured that the customs of the community pertaining to land have been preserved, that individuals get their rights, that the interests of the group as a whole have not been diminished and that "strangers" have been allowed their rights (FAO, 1953a). The basis of landholding in Nigeria was that the family head in charge of the smallest social unit (the family) exercised authority in consultation with the elders. The chiefs held the land in trust for the benefit of all families. Chubb (1961) observed that communal land tenure no longer exists and that other forms of tenure have begun to emerge. Migot-Adholla et al. (1991) support this line of thought. In eastern Nigeria, however, communal land tenure still exists, and it is even the dominant system in many communities in the rain forest zone where it accounts for as much as 65 percent of the total number of landholdings in the community.
A distinctive feature of communal land tenure systems is that joint decisions are taken on which land to cultivate, which crops are to be grown, the number of seasons during which the land is to be cultivated and the length of the fallow period (Arua, 1981b). Traditional leaders decide who has the right to use land, and this brings them social status and political control hence they resist efforts to change the system (Johnson, 1982).
Famoriyo (1979) states that the basis of landholding in Nigeria is the family. This unit comprises a man, his wife or wives and children and possibly grandchildren. Family heads grant land-use rights for food production to members of the family, as well as to "strangers" who are found acceptable to the community at large. Grants of land made to the individual entitle him and his children after him to use the land. Neither the grantee nor his children may alienate rights in land, however, without the knowledge and agreement of the family head. When the occupier of the family land dies, his portion reverts to the family pool. A new member of the family automatically has a stake in family land from the time of birth.
In eastern Nigeria, private individuals as well as institutions exercise ownership rights according to customary and statutory land tenure. Individuals become entitled to parts of family land by virtue of birth into a family or clan. They can also enjoy absolute rights of ownership on the basis of being the first to clear and occupy a plot of land. Under statutory law, any individual or registered group can own land. Bishop and Toussaint (1958) identify the following categories of land users: owner-occupiers, share tenants, cash tenants, mortgage owners and part owners. Timmons (1943) highlighted the following social relations in the study area: customary landlords/customary tenants, pledgers/pledgees and landowners/farm labourers.
The most common mode of land acquisition in eastern Nigeria is through inheritance, followed by leasing or purchase in some areas and pledging in others. Acquisition through gift is less common, and even less common is acquisition through marriage or borrowing. In a typical community, the right to inherit land is the major form of social security. Land acquisition by inheritance is usually patrilineal, but in rare cases a matrilineal system is practised. The amount of land inherited depends on position in the family and the number of wives and brothers. In monogamous families, the eldest son (okpara) has a preferential allocation of residential plot, and inherits his fathers homes as the new family head. As the population increases, fragmentation of plots occurs. In rare cases, a system of primogeniture is adopted whereby only the eldest son inherits. If there is no son, the deceased mans wife holds the land in trust until she dies, when it is inherited by the mans younger brother. A mans personal land, family land and common land are all inheritable.
Women normally cannot own or inherit land under customary law, although they retain use rights during their lifetime as long as they remain in the husbands household (Arua, 1978). When a man dies, his farmland is shared out according to the laws and customs of the community. Clans are permitted to administer, supervise, protect and finally partition the landed property among the heirs of the deceased (Nzimiro, 1973).
Other means of acquiring land include pledging, sharecropping and borrowing. Pledging is a sort of indigenous mortgage through which an owner-occupier gives possession and use of his land to a pledge creditor (pledgee) in return for a cash need (Famoriyo, 1979). The standard terms are that either the pledgee uses the land until the pledger pays back what he owes, or that the pledgee takes the benefit from the land as interest for a stipulated number of years in order to recover the money lent to the pledger. In the latter case, the pledgee cultivates only annual crops and does not make any major investment or put up any structures (Famoriyo, 1975). Making major improvements would be tantamount to claiming ownership. If, however, the fixed number of years has passed and the pledger is unable to pay back, the pledgee becomes the de facto owner of the land, and the pledger and his heirs are permanently dispossessed of the land. In the areas studied, pledgees were found to be richer, more educated and more influential than pledgers and, in some cases, maliciously deprive pledgers of their land (Arua, 1978).
The main purpose of borrowing land is to help the borrower raise annual crops for subsistence, especially during the phase of adjusting to a new area. Financial obligations may or may not be attached to the borrowing. If there are no such obligations, gifts and harvest produce are normally offered. In "showing" tenancy, an owner-occupier with excess land gives some to friends and relatives. "Showing" is a system whereby a community freely donates a piece of land to one of its citizens for the establishment in the community of some social welfare or income-generating projects. Sometimes a community uses this mode to thank an illustrious member. The land so shown becomes the perpetual property of the recipient and is inheritable by his heirs.
Selling land was not permitted under customary tenure in most communities, except as a last resort. However, socio-economic changes have altered the situation, and the buying and selling of land under customary tenure is common today, although still a relatively minor category in terms of access. In the long term, the buying and pledging of land tend to concentrate ownership of land in the hands of speculators. This was found to be especially the case in communities near urban centres where land is increasingly scarce and land values are rapidly inflating (Arua, 1978).
When the rate of change in the socio-economic structure of society is faster than the rate of change in customary law, the state often intervenes with statutes or policies to facilitate changes. Under customary tenure systems in eastern Nigeria, rudimentary powers of compulsory acquisition existed. Public rights were exercised whenever land was to be used for the ultimate benefit of the public in general (Famoriyo, 1983). Important statutory interventions into land tenure in eastern Nigeria include the Acquisitions by Aliens Law, the Registration of Titles and Acquisition of Public Lands Act and the Land Use Decree.
"State land" means all public lands in eastern Nigeria which were subject to the control of the British Crown on 30 September 1960 and held for public purposes. It also includes all land thereafter acquired by or on behalf of the Government of Nigeria held for such purposes. The Acquisition by Aliens Law is used by the government to protect illiterate lessors against undue exploitation by foreigners; however, the law has many loopholes.
The Land Use Decree of 1978 has the following purposes: to stimulate investment in agriculture by enhancing land use security; to curb speculation in urban land; and to make opportunities to occupy land generally available to all Nigerians and thereby bring about increased mobility of human and material resources as well as remove a major source of socio-economic inequality. It was also intended to rationalize usufructuary rights all over the country and remove the constraints of customary land tenure systems; to optimize land use; to ensure sustained land use; to ensure sustained improvements to land quality; and to enlighten the people on the right to use land (Arua, 1981a; Famoriyo, 1979; Igbozurike, 1980).
The decree adopted three strategies to resolve land tenure problems in Nigeria. These included vesting in the state all proprietary rights in land, granting user rights to individuals and relying on an administrative system rather than a market system in the allocation of user rights (Uchendu, 1979). Other major components of the Decree include the statutory right of occupancy allocated by the governor on the advice of the Land Use and Allocation Committee in urban areas and the Local Government Area Chairman in rural areas. Urban land use allocations are limited to 6.5 ha each, and rural allocations are limited to 500 ha for arable land and 5 000 ha for grazing land.
The Decree is inaccurately titled and is at best an ad hoc means of land reform (Arua, 1980). It might have been more accurately named the Land Allocation Decree (Famoriyo, 1979). Igbozurike (1980) noted that it is the most profound, controversial and explosive land policy in the country. Fabiyi (1983) suggested that the importance of the Decree is that it embodies procedures for the transition from customary to state-sanctioned land tenure, and because it has been designed to deal with a whole range of land use problems. Nevertheless, the rural farmer or dweller still has a high degree of commitment to the rules, regulations and principles of the customary land tenure system which he understands and through which he has always gained access to income. Many are completely unaware of the Decree, much less familiar with its provisions.
Problems associated with the Land Use Decree include the lack of adequate compensation and the inability of smallholders to increase the size of their holdings, the perception of the decree by southerners as an overt political extension to the south of the Land Tenure Law of 1962 and the State Land Law of 1915 which applied to the north, and the absolute power given to the governor of each state, even to the detriment of the Federal Government. Furthermore, adequate administrative and enforcement agencies were not provided (Arua, 1980) and a national cadastral survey and effective registration instruments were omitted. The absence of an effective policy on optimum land use that takes into account ecological variation is a visible defect of the Decree.
Oluwasanmi (1966) remarked that the communal land tenure system, through the provision of land to members of the community, brings them together. Malinowski (1935) maintained that the customary land tenure systems supports both moral and social justice by giving everyone access to the means of subsistence. Although most communities abhor the outright sale of land, the leasehold system commonly adopted is usually for a very long time (in many cases over 50 years) and does not in any way restrict the development of such land. Under such cases, the community leases land to the recipient provided that he develop it. As long as the project lasts, the recipient can use the land his heirs can even inherit it but he cannot sell it. Once the project is no longer functioning, the land reverts to the community. Hence the existence of such farm enterprises has tended to create permanent employment for the inhabitants of the community. The banning of the outright sale of land in some communities also prevents the rise of a landed aristocracy and removes much of the source of unrest inherent in landlord-tenant relations. Such arrangements have encouraged the establishment of agro-industries which have increased the productivity of individual farmers, in addition to creating rural employment opportunities.
The community may be selective in its acceptance of requests for land for the establishment of projects and expansion in the scale of operations may be constrained by the availability of resources. Communal land tenure, nevertheless, has made possible the establishment of the highest number of agricultural enterprises and agro-industries in eastern Nigeria. Non-agricultural projects such as schools and health care centres have also been established, mostly on communal lands. Their establishment has also been beneficial to the communities in which they are located.
Communal tenure, according to Oluwasanmi (1966) and Arua (1980), acts as a strong cohesive force in an agrarian society and affords a cultivator a stake in the major assets of the community and assures him a secure place in society. This is the situation in most communities studied, especially where agricultural and agro-industrial projects are located.
In a few cases, individual landowners with enough capital have been able to establish agriculturally based industries in rural areas, but most owners have not been able to do so because of lack of capital. Even where private investors succeed in acquiring land from individual owners, there have been cases reported of disputes over such lands. This acts as a disincentive to willing investors in agriculture and related enterprises. Johnson (1982) states that such landowners have the advantage of almost complete security of tenure, no rent exploitation, the freedom to farm as they want, the ability to mortgage their land for capital, and the knowledge that improvements are for their own benefit. When established, such industries and farming enterprises generate employment opportunities and enhance the economic and social well-being of people in the community. Owing to the limited extent of such investment in individual land, the effect on the community at large is negligible when compared with similar enterprises in areas of communal tenure. Moreover, very few large-scale farm enterprises can be established in areas of individual land tenure as this necessitates simultaneous land purchases from a number of small landowners.
It has been observed that owner-occupiers plan ahead and maintain the land more than tenants. They make necessary improvements on their land for better agricultural production. According to Igbozurike (1980), well-designed individual freehold or long-term leasehold is essential for efficient agricultural production and land resource conservation. Many landowners, however, have so much capital invested in land that there is insufficient working capital left to finance farming operations that maximize long-term returns (Johnson, 1982).
The increased market value of land associated with individual ownership is responsible for some of the cases of land disputes observed in the rural areas of eastern Nigeria. Roldner (1966) and Arua (1978; 1982) viewed the individualization of tenure as the cause of the creation of a class of landowners and a mass of dispossessed and landless people, as well as the introduction and perpetuation of a lack of territorial security which was formerly provided by the traditional system.
In rural communities in eastern Nigeria, state-held lands have resulted more from land disputes than from the implementation of the Land Use Decree. Disputed communal lands in many cases have been forcibly acquired by the government as public lands and utilized for various developmental and welfare schemes.
Demographic changes influence land tenure. Land possesses economic value by virtue of competition for its use between different individuals and groups. As the area of land per caput declines, the relative value of land rises and land becomes increasingly a source of conflict among individuals and communities. The population of eastern Nigeria has increased rapidly over recent years; arable land per caput varies among states from as little as 0.078 ha to nearly 0.5 ha (Federal Office of Statistics, 1976).
Individual tenure has not been able to meet the rising demand for land, owing mainly to the small size of individual holdings. Except for the provision of land for residential purposes, land requirements for agriculture and related industries cannot be adequately provided for by individually held land. Hence neither productivity gains nor increases in employment opportunities have been achieved through individually held land. Although population pressure reduces land holdings per caput, the communal land tenure system still remains the main source of land for such enterprises. Acquisition of land by more efficient agricultural producers has been easiest under communal tenure. State-held lands serve as a second major source of land acquisition for large-scale farming enterprises.
The ability of the agricultural sector to provide employment competitively with other sectors depends on various factors including land tenure. If the land tenure system leads to the overvaluation of land, rural wages and working conditions may be less attractive than urban alternatives and serve as a major determinant of outmigration. Social cohesion and social justice do not always prevail under such conditions.
Cultural factors include traditional norms, beliefs and values. The flexibility of the land tenure system is also affected by the religious beliefs of the local people. For example, when communal tenure is associated with religious rites and traditions, it displays a considerable lack of adaptability to rapid change (FAO, 1953b). This tendency is less pronounced in connection with individual and public land tenure systems. In eastern Nigeria, the advent of colonialism, Christian missionaries and, later, the Nigerian civil war hastened the productive use of hitherto sacred lands and unpermitted foods, and also relaxed gender restrictions on agricultural activities. Community sanctions weakened and in many places collapsed and were forgotten.
Excessive subdivision of the land as a consequence of inheritance systems results in the fragmentation of holdings and a high number of small plots. Boundaries may be poorly defined after each subdivision. In many instances, coconut trees and other large trees or rocks are used as landmarks.
Migot-Adholla et al. (1991) report that for sub-Saharan Africa the distinguishing features of different tenure regimes concern restrictions on the individual holders ability to transfer land and the categories of persons to whom land may be transferred. The same authors assert that because land is an integral part of the social system, and legitimate use is traditionally determined by birth, affinity, common residence and social status (or some combination of these), transactions may be limited to the members of the lineage. This hinders the emergence of market transactions in land whereby access is ideally determined by supply and demand factors as well as entrepreneurial ability. It also hinders the emergence of "modern" (implicitly "Western") property rights systems founded on principles of contractual law and economic efficiency.
Patterns of land endowment in some parts of eastern Nigeria have caused the inhabitants to live in scattered hamlets, which often means that basic amenities cannot be economically extended to them. Menkiti (1972) and Arua (1974) suggest the integration of such hamlets into villages to enable the affected locality to gain access to greater services as well as release more farmland for reallocation both to local people and to "strangers". Customary tenure practices permit only short-term use rights to be granted to "strangers" and under such circumstances, government intervention would be justified to regulate longer-term alienation of land to "strangers" for the sake of agricultural development. Since title to land is often undefined and cadastral surveys are not available, boundary disputes are frequent (Fabiyi and Adegboye, 1977). Menkiti (1972) notes that, owing to such disputes, vast tracts of prime agricultural land may be underutilized while farmers complain of insufficient land.
A good tenancy system should give adequate security of tenure to the occupant (the person actually cultivating the land). This contributes to both agricultural development and land resource conservation. Under insecure tenure, a farmer is tempted to exhaust the soil in order to reduce production costs, while the landlord and the community bear the final costs.
For all these reasons, many analysts believe that African customary land tenure systems pose insurmountable obstacles to agricultural development and land resource conservation (Meek, 1957; Chubb, 1948; Smock, 1965; Bohannan, 1966; Johnson, 1982). Among the various factors contributing to the obstacles, this discussion has included the lack of individual responsibility for land use, fragmentation of plots, lack of security of tenure, restricted economies of scale and limited access to credit.
A tenure system influences the volume of agricultural credit and the actual distribution of credit, especially where the existing credit systems place undue emphasis on land as a form of collateral. Land has traditionally been an ideal form of collateral because of its immobility and immunity to damage (Binswanger and Rosenzweig, 1986). Use of land as collateral is more acceptable under individual tenure than communal or public tenure systems. This is because land rights are much more secure under individual tenure. The emergence of profit-motivated credit activities is frequently an important element in inducing institutional change with regard to land rights. This is easier to establish for individual tenure than for communal or public tenure. In eastern Nigeria, the use of land as collateral is not common in the case of large-scale production; it is usually found in connection with the smaller plots characteristic of individual tenure systems.
Conversely, land tenure systems which prevent or limit the mortgaging of land impede the delivery of credit. Thus the insistence on land as security reinforces inequalities between farmers: the owner-occupier can mortgage his land, the leaseholder can mortgage his lease, whereas the sharecropper and cultivator under communal tenure have no mortgageable rights in land.
Government policies and statutes also affect land tenure and agrarian structure. The Land Use Decree (Act) of 1978 which aimed at alleviating landownership problems led to the conversion of undeveloped pieces of land into profitable ventures. Unused communal lands were shared out among family members for agricultural purposes in some communities. Even fallow land was prematurely put into cultivation, thereby curtailing its resting phase. In areas of dense population, this meant an expansion of the cultivated area (Igbozurike, 1980). Land speculators, however, took the opportunity to buy state or public lands, which they later sold at exorbitant prices. Even individuals who had appropriated large tracts of family lands sold them to wealthy dealers, who spread the erroneous belief that, through the Land Use Decree (Act), the government was out to seize their lands without any compensation (Arua, 1978; 1980). Thus through misinformation about the intentions and provision of the Decree, many villagers were dispossessed of their land and only means of livelihood.
An adequate system of land tenure should allow for the free movement of farmers up and down the "agricultural ladder" and should keep secure occupancy and eventual ownership of agricultural land within the reach of the efficient farmer. If the tenure system can give the efficient farmer security of occupancy, and ensure that he will benefit from profits derived from his improvements to the land and from any improved methods of farming, then strong incentives will have been provided to create a competitive agrarian system (Famoriyo, 1973; 1979; Ijere, 1972).
In response to population pressure, agricultural commercialization and technological change, indigenous tenure systems have changed in the direction of Western property rights systems, particularly in the individualization of land rights. The indigenous tenure systems in eastern Nigeria appear to be adapting efficiently to change. This is reflected in the emergence of markets for the sale and rental of land, and in the trend towards increased privatization of rights. Rather than restrict markets, governments should create a legal and institutional environment that would encourage efficient transactions (Arua, 1980; Migot-Adholla et al., 1991). The Land Use Decree of 1978 could well be described as an attempt in the right direction. Unfortunately, its implementation has lacked political will and political leadership has been unwilling or unable either to revoke or reform the Decree.
This pattern is observable in eastern Nigeria in spite of cultural homogenization by the mass media. The major feature of modern pluralistic societies is the very freedom granted to individuals and the difficulty so many people have in coping with this freedom. In many quarters, opinions are being expressed about the need to re-establish the close-knit community relationships that had characterized traditional society in eastern Nigeria. Communal land tenure has a greater tendency to contribute meaningfully to agricultural and agro-industrial development in those areas where the patrimonial authority still holds influence. Communal land tenure systems are predominant in many areas, but the transition in rights-holding from the extended to the conjugal family is well under way, thereby increasing the possibilities of geographical mobility and the eventual emergence of completely individualized property rights in some areas.
The relationship between family structure, the declining authority of the elders over land matters and the patterns of acculturation with "Western" or Euro-American property and inheritance rights is difficult to estimate. Indigenous property rights systems have certainly moved in the direction of Euro-American systems, invariably towards individualization. They appear to be adapting efficiently to changes in factor scarcity. This is manifested by the emergence of markets for the sale and rental of land (even if these are still in the early stages of development) and in the trend towards privatization of land rights. Rather than restricting emergent land markets in an attempt to preserve the rudiments of traditional society, the Federal Government should create a favourable legal, administrative and institutional environment for more efficient transactions.
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