Driven by the oil and gas sector, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has grown its GDP by an average of 7.3 percent a year (2003-2012). Despite well-documented challenges in managing its oil revenues, the sector accounts for about 95 percent of export earnings and helped to lift Nigeria’s overall economic status to that of a lower-middle income country.
Yet, nearly two-thirds of the population live on less than $1.25 (US) a day. The oil sector, while profitable, creates few jobs and its growth does not appear to have reduced poverty in any significant way.
Meanwhile, agriculture remains critical to the economy. It contributes 30 percent of GDP and employs more than half of the rural population. While historically government investments in agriculture have been extremely low, the government is placing a renewed emphasis on agriculture as a potential engine for inclusive economic growth.
Indeed, Nigeria appears poised to overhaul aspects of its land governance system. In July, 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan directed the Presidential Committee on Land Reform to work out modalities for the repeal of the Land Use Act of 1978.
That Act had nationalized all land in Nigeria, and attempted to do away with customary land tenure. It had also established a ceiling on individual landholdings, and gave State officials the authority to issue and revoke customary certificates of occupancy. Although intended to make land accessible to all Nigerians and improve tenure security, overall, the evidence suggests that the Land Use Act did not meet its objectives. Under the Act, land allocation procedures became highly discretionary, creating opportunities for corruption on the part of State and local officials. Obtaining and registering occupancy certificates is time-consuming and costly, and appears to have contributed to the growth of the country’s large informal land market – which may encompass 70 percent of land transactions.
In response to this situation, the Nigerian Government is moving to improve land tenure security and support the agricultural sector. The Presidential Technical Committee on Land Reform is exploring options to create more transparent and systematic land titling and registration, and to establish a National Land Depository to record all land in Nigeria.