Can Foreigners Buy Land in Nigeria? Insider’s Guide to Land Ownership

Can Foreigners Buy Land in Nigeria?
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Land ownership is a big deal everywhere, and Nigeria is no different. It’s a way to have a piece of the country, build a home, or invest in a business. But what if you’re not a Nigerian citizen? Can you still buy land?

The answer is maybe, but with some limitations. In Nigeria, all land belongs to the state government, and they take care of it for the benefit of Nigerian citizens. This means foreigners can’t directly buy land like they might in other countries.

Foreign Ownership Restrictions

Can Foreigners Buy Land in Nigeria?

Nigerian law limits foreigners from directly owning land. The Land Use Act of 1978 vests all land within a state in the Governor, emphasizing that land is held for the benefit of Nigerian citizens. Additionally, the Acquisition of Lands by Aliens Laws, enacted by individual states, requires the Governor’s written approval before a foreigner can acquire any interest in land.


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Legal Framework for Foreign Land Ownership in Nigeria

Nigeria’s legal framework for land ownership presents a unique situation for foreigners seeking to acquire land. Two key pieces of legislation govern this area:

1. Land Use Act of 1978

This act established a radical shift in land ownership in Nigeria. It vested all land within a state in the Governor of that state. This essentially means that all land is held in trust by the government for the benefit of Nigerian citizens. The Land Use Act offers two main points to consider for foreigners:

  • Vesting of Land in Governors: This act eliminated the concept of private land ownership in Nigeria. Instead, individuals and entities hold a “Certificate of Occupancy” issued by the state government.
  • Land Held in Trust for Nigerians: The Land Use Act emphasizes that land is a national resource administered for the common good of Nigerians. This sets the stage for a controlled system of foreign land ownership.

See>>> Renting vs. Buying a House or Home in Nigeria: What You Need to Know


2. Acquisition of Lands by Aliens Laws (State-Specific)

These are individual laws enacted by each state government that further regulate foreign ownership of land. These laws typically build upon the Land Use Act by:

  • Governor’s Approval Requirement: Foreigners cannot acquire any interest or right in land directly from a Nigerian citizen without written approval from the Governor of the relevant state. This approval process can be complex and time-consuming.

It’s important to note that a Supreme Court decision in the case of Huebner v. A.I.E. & P.M. Co. Ltd [2010] further restricted foreign ownership. The court ruled that the Land Use Act did not repeal pre-existing laws that limited foreign ownership. This means that even with a Governor’s approval, foreigners may still face limitations depending on the specific state law.

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Options for Foreigners in Owning Nigerian Land

Can Foreigners Buy Land in Nigeria?


1. Leasehold Interests

  • This is the primary option for foreigners acquiring land rights in Nigeria.
  • Lease agreements grant exclusive possession of the land for a specified period.
  • Lease terms can vary, but commonly extend for long durations, like 99 years.
  • During the lease, foreigners have rights similar to landowners, including developing, selling, or renting the property on the land.

2. Indirect Ownership through a Nigerian Company

  • This approach involves establishing a business entity registered in Nigeria.
  • The company, with majority Nigerian ownership, can then acquire land ownership rights.
  • The foreigner can hold a controlling interest in the company, but the land itself is legally owned by the Nigerian entity.

Important Considerations

  • Both options require going through legal procedures and regulations.
  • Consulting a Nigerian lawyer specializing in real estate is important.
  • Leasehold agreements should be carefully reviewed to ensure clarity on terms and conditions.
  • Setting up a Nigerian company involves additional costs and complexities.

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Choosing the Right Option

  • The ideal approach depends on individual circumstances and the intended use of the land.
  • Short-term leases might be suitable for temporary projects.
  • Long-term leases offer more stability for development projects.
  • Indirect ownership provides a path to a more permanent presence but requires ongoing business operations.


In conclusion, while foreign ownership of land in Nigeria is strictly limited, foreigners do have options for acquiring interests in land. However, these options come with limitations. Foreigners cannot directly own land and are restricted to short-term leases or indirect ownership through a Nigerian company.

Given the complexities of the legal framework and potential variations depending on the state, it is crucial for any foreigner interested in acquiring land in Nigeria to seek professional legal advice. A qualified lawyer can guide you through the process, ensure compliance with regulations, and help you choose the most suitable option for your specific situation.

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