1.1 Background of the Study
This study will assess the issues and challenges encounter or suffer in alienation of family land by purchasers in Nigeria, particularly in Yoruba and Ibo custom since 1960 to date. The major challenge a purchaser of family land encounter is the issue of ‘consent’. It has become a general practice in Nigeria that absolute title to family land can only be transferred by the head of the family with the consent of the principal members of such family. Anything short of this will render such sale to the purchaser void or voidable notwithstanding the provisions of the Land Use Act, 1978 which has abolished all forms of ownership in the Federation and convert it to a mere Right of Occupancy. This is the focus of the research.
Family land holding in Nigeria is governed by the customary law of each ethnic group in the country. Rules governing Conveyance of family land in Nigeria is widely dispersed and uncertain. It is therefore a subject of heated debates amongst legal authors, textbooks, writers, journals, articles and case laws. The fundamental rule for alienation of family land in Nigeria is that the family head and principal members must consent to the conveyance of family property for its validity otherwise such sale will be void or voidable as the case may be. Deviation from the rule in the sale of family property renders the conveyance obviously suspect and defeasible. A purchaser of family property on the other hand, is entitled to assume that the vendors will in fact pass a valid and indefeasible title which they purport to have conveyed and that he (the purchaser) will be immune or free from encumbrances by adverse claims either from any member of the family or a third party relating to the property conveyed to him.
Socio-culturally, Nigeria is a polygamous society from time immemorial and due to its polygamous nature it is difficult to ascertain who is the head and principal members of the family to convey a valid customary title to a purchaser. Conveyancers do have obvious problems in assembling all the relevant members of the family for alienation purposes, as they are required in a valid execution of the conveyance. The authority to sell family property is widely dispersed and uncertain particularly where no power of attorney is executed in favour of a member of the family authorizing him or her to convey the family property.
CONTEMPORARY ISSUES IN ALIENATION OF FAMILY LAND HOLDING IN NIGERIA