SUCCESSION TO RIGHTS IN LAND UNDER IGALA CUSTOMARY LAW OF KOGI STATE

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SUCCESSION TO RIGHTS IN LAND UNDER IGALA CUSTOMARY LAW OF KOGI STATE

Abstract:

Igala land in Kogi State is richly blessed with fertile soil. This makes the people predominantly farmers. Crops grown in this area comprise yams, rice cassava, millet, maize, guinea corn and beans. There are few cash crops such as palm oil, palm kernels, rubber and timbers. The area covered by this dissertation includes the six Local Government Areas, Ankpa, Bassa, Dekina, Idah, Ofu and Olamaboro with the population of about one million people. This puts Igala people as the majority tribe in kogi State. In the past the Igalas did not place much importance to their land despite the fact that it is the sustenance of life. But now the economic value of land has been recognized so much so that the Igalas engage themselves in fighting for the ownership. Some villages in Igala land fight each other for ownership of land. Under customary land law, land is owned by communities or villages and the title to the communal land is vested in the community or village as a whole. In some cases, the management of the communal land is vested on the village head or chief as the case may be. He is referred to in loose terms as the owner of the land. He allocates and collects tributes and all proceeds arising from the management of the communal land. Secondly, land is said to be owned by a family jointly and not by individual members. It is the responsibility of the family head to see to the management of the family land. He acts in consultation with the principal members of the family just like the village head or the chief, the family head also allocates land and collects tributes that might arise from the management of the family land. Thirdly, individual ownership of land is said to be foreign under native law and custom. Therefore, land is never owned by an individual. From the aforementioned, succession to right in land by an individual under customary law is not possible because a person cannot give out what he does not own. However, a child may inherit his father’s farm land if he is of age otherwise his uncle can serve as a trustee for his benefit. It is customary law among the Igalas that on the death of a founder of a family, the eldest surviving child (if any) succeeds to the headship of the family. If there is going to be any important dealing with family land, other principal members of the family must be consulted. It is worthy of note here that land acquired by an individual as absolute private property under customary law will devolve upon his children as family property. This system whereby an individual has an absolute title to land vests in him with proprietary rights and not possessory or occupational rights as in the case of communal or family ownership. The need for individual ownership is to provide incentives which members under communal or family ownership do not have and which posses a stumbling block against economic development and use of land. There are lots of advantages of an individual ownership such as alienation, mortgage lease, sale, etc, which will no longer require consent of both the principal members and the family head. An individual can obtain capital to develop his own land. This is an economic advantage which every person in a community should seek. The management of land will be much more effective and the decision concerning the land will be quicker and definite. Finally, individual ownership of land promotes freedom of action, which is in keeping with the goals of a democratic society. Under this system, an individual can only have what he can cultivate, unlike in community or family ownership where some communities or some families owned more land than others. However, succession rights which give an individual power to deal with his land should be controlled

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