Estate Ownership – Definition, Motives & Concept of Land / Property Ownership



Ownership of property is a multidimensional concept. An owner is any person or group of persons who has the right to exercise power over property, be it in the form of chattels (i.e. personal goods such as clothing, furniture etc) or real property (i.e. land, buildings and other improvements on lands). “Ownership is the right to the exclusive enjoyment of a thing. It donates the relation between a person and any right and any rights that is vested in him. These rights are of two kinds, namely: the indeterminate and the determinate forms of rights exercisable on a property. an indeterminate (absolute) ownership would ensure the exclusive enjoyment the right of using, altering abandoning, and disposing or even destroying the thing, while a determinate (restricted) owner is limited some extent: for example, where there are joint owners of a property (each with some restricted claims) or where the property is charged with the payment with the payment of some rents or charges as found in leasehold interest in land. The concept of the ownership of land implies the exclusive management, control, and enjoyment of certain benefits from land, namely: the right to use the land, to receive income from it, to exclude others from it and to transfer it to another person by way of sale, lease, will pledge or gift. However, the term “ownership” in his context is somehow ‘vague’ and create confusion, firstly, its meaning varies among world legal systems; for example one who regard s himself as a landowner in Nigeria (where since the promulgation of the land use decree in 1978 the leasehold interest in land prevails) possesses a right that is very different in concept to that of an individual in France where the only form of land tenure is freehold with a wide range of available agricultural, commercial and residential tenancies. Secondly, the right conferred on an owner is often wrongly assumed to be vested in a single person or a group of people. Nonetheless, it often the happen that the various rights in land distributed among people. In such cases, whom should we regard as the owner? Due to the confusion in the concept of land ownership, it is more constructive to speak of owner, we should not refer to a person or group of persons (the proprietary land structure) with exclusive possession and control of piece of land but rather to a person who possesses an interest (a bundle of rights) in an area of land (the proprietary land unit) which confers on him a measure of management control. in view of the above analysis, it is apt to define estate management as “the arts and science of managing, controlling, and determining the values of property rights or interests in land and its resources in order to achieve a set of socio-economic or political objectives” the subsisting interest in a property can derivative, non-derivative, superior or inferior, as they imply in their nomenclatures, a derivative interest is ‘carved’ out from a large bundle of rights while a non-derivative interest is dependent of the existence of another bundle of rights.

for example, since the enactment and promulgation of the land use act of 1978, the absolute interest in land is held by the state governments while the landlord of a house and his tenants possess derivative interests – the landlord holds a 99-years lease (or less) carved out of the state government’s interest; the tenants is inferior to the landlord’s while the interest of the landlord is superior to that of the tenant’s and inferior to that of the state government. In order to establish ownership, there must be;

An owner: a person or group of persons who will exercise the right of ownership
Object to be owned: Objects that are in free supply confer no special privileges upon the possessor. The object of ownership must be exclusive and must have economic value.
Intention to own: the possessor of an object to be owned must intend to maintain control over the object as ownership confers responsibilities as well as privileges on the owner.
Persons with competitive rights: there must be persons against whom the rights of ownership can be enforced. E.g. Robinson Crusoe could not have claim of ownership on the island until Friday appeared.
Law: the essence of ownership is in rights, which law or custom will uphold. This presupposes a legal code, courts in which rights may be tested and an enforcing agency to impose legal decisions. However rudimentary these institutions may be, they are necessary for ownership to be established.

NB: For the purpose of this book the object of ownership is real property i.e. land and all improvement on land.


As expostulated above, for ownership to be established there must be intent to own, as well as an object to be owned, which must be exclusive, the question than arises as to why a person would intend or desire to own landed property, exclusive of all others claimants. Various reasons or motivates can be advanced for property ownership. these motives /reasons can be grouped into two categories,




These are motives that revolve around the creation or enhancement of financial returns these motives include:

Income Returns

People desire to own landed property purely because of its income generating capacity. This comes in two forms

Rent received by leasing out the property
Savings of money, which would hitherto have been paid as rent in a situation where property is owned-occupied.

Capital Growth/Return

Landed property acts as a good hedge against inflation because it appreciates in value over time.

Tax Shelter

In some countries, ownership of property attracts tax reduction or exemptions thus providing the owner with a reduced tax load and intimately increased returns.

Spreading Investment Risk

This can be in two ways Viz;

In accordance with the popular adage that one should not put all his eggs in one basket, landed property provides an alternative form of investment.
In the event that one requires financial leverage to spread one’s realm of economic control, landed property provides an adequate leverage.


These are non – financial returns based reasons otherwise known as social reasons. These include:


For most prospective property owners, the primary consideration for ownership of property is for shelter. This accounts for the greater tendency towards residential property ownership. A private owner will desire property to provide accommodation for his family: an institutional owner to provide housing for their staff.

Social Motives

One of the three basic needs of mankind is shelter (housing.) Therefore, in order to fulfill this basic need, governments could acquire property to fulfill this need.


As a result of shortage in the supply of public housing, property owners are held in high esteem in the society. Property ownership has eventually becomes a status symbol, which bestows some prestige on the owner, anyone in the society who claims to be rich must be able to boast of property ownership.


The ultimate goal of many in the society is to leave a legacy for posterity. This is easily achieved in property ownership.


Many people think of property in terms of objects that can be owned or possessed. Property is often referred to as land and all improvement on it, such as buildings. The terms land means many people. To the layman, land is the physical structure on which he stands moves and carries out his activities.

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To the lawyer, land is not just the physical but also the quantum of rights, which can be exercised over the physical structure, which constitutes the foundation and material of ownership.

To the farmer, land is the soil on which crops draw and absorb minerals and food nutrients for effective growth and yield. To the estate surveyor, land is the totality of all artificial and nutrient resources above and below the surface of the earth in which bundle of rights and privileges are exercised.

However, the “statutory” or legally accepted definition of land is that contained in the property and conveyance law. The statute defines land as “the earth surface and everything attached to the earth otherwise known ‘as fixtures and all chattels’’. Thus if a building or road or drainages are constructed upon land, it becomes part of the portion of land, however, in real estate terms; they are referred to as land and buildings.



Estate is how used to refer to landed property. Land is the physical upon which life exists. It includes the surface of the earth on which all human activities takes place, as well as the resources beneath the soil and the space beyond it into the sky. In other words, it includes the mineral resources, the sea and the fish within as well as the cubic space beyond the site, the atmosphere to the sky and also the birds within it.


This derives from the traditional belief that there are deities acting as guardians of every aspect of society such as deities of the river, sea, sky and land. In traditional societies, the greatest oaths of allegiance are taken with the land, sometimes by merely touching or kissing ‘mother earth’ as it is popularly referred to.


Here land is viewed as a main production base for all human activities. It is where those productive activities, which ensure human continuity, take place. It produces raw materials for industries. Crops and food produce are grown on it. Livestock are reared on it and provides the base for shelter for all animals. The water bodies are also economically important. It is the base for food and nourishments, ornaments like pearls and corals. Also embedded within the earth crust are minerals and oil.


This concept views land as people, a nation, political division, a town or community constitution a socio-political entity. We therefore hear people talks about the land of the Tivs, the Yorubas or the land of the Jews, etc. which all refer to the people rather than the physical land, it can be used socially to refer to the particular niche that a man belongs to. There is also communal ownership of land, which enables so much land space to be identified as a particular village or town. Ownership of land also confers on its holders a kind of social status, while land and its effective distribution can be used to create a peaceful society.


Here we are looking at the rights which ownership of an interest in land confers on the holder. In other words, land is not being viewed as the physical structure or the surface of the earth but the rights inherent in its holding, various rights could exist simultaneously in a parcel of land. Taking for instance the two major types of interest in land i.e. leasehold and freehold, where there is lease, there will be a freeholder who will transfer part of his interest to a leaseholder and both will exist jointly in the land. This refers to bundle of rights; the law will uphold and preserve various rights and interests conferred on the owner of land.


This is a wider spread concept and derived from the physical immobility of land which gives to all traditional societies full cognizance of the principle that ownerships of land simply means the rights to use alone or in common with others, a given portion of the earth’s surface for a given time. This may be specified in terms of a single planting season, a period corresponding to the life of any building standing on the land or any longer period. It’s in this abstract concept that dealings in land are conducted. Rights and obligations thus created are usually in honor kept for the life of the parties creating such rights and obligations, the influence of the British standards and codes have now transformed this abstract concept into written interests and estates in land, particularly in the urban areas in consonance with the practices in Britain, with the addition that the rights and obligations thus created can be vested in the beneficiaries of the parties beyond their lives. from the various concepts of land examined so far, it can be seen that the term land, even though would tend superficially to mean land in its physical state or soil also suggests different things and different people depending on the outlook and their interest at the material time.


Land is a resource of primary consequence in the economy of any country whether we regard it in its pure from as one of the given things of nature or as manipulated by the hand of man by development of various kinds. Land has about is a static quality that by its uniqueness has a significant bearing upon the manner in which decisions can be made about its use are made within the calculus of decision making units. Its static quality however, gives a particular character to the decision making within which all positive decisions are taken for the use of land


Land is a resource of primary importance in the economy of any region, whether in its natural form or as manipulated by the hands of man through improvements/developments of any kind. The deferring characteristics of land have a significant bearing on the manner in which decisions can be summarized as follows:

Relative fixity of supply: land can generally be describe as fixed in supply in that the total area of land on the earth’s surface is limited. However, it is possible to increase the economic supply of land through reclamation from oceans and swamps.
Heterogeneity: two units of space may look alike but they are bound to be different in terms of orientation and physical characteristics. This heterogeneous character of land accounts for variation in the relationship of one unit to another unit.
Appreciation in value: this is a result of the relative fixity in supply and thus the simple laws of demand and supply come into play. Demand for land is in increasingly outstripping supply, which is limited to the landmass of the earth and as such, value of land increases.
No Cost Creation: land is a free gift of nature. Nothing is spent to bring into existence the surface of the earth, the minerals below, the soil and air space above.
Land Market: Unlike every other commodity, which can be purchased in a particular selling place, land has no centralized market. Transactions in land deal not in land itself but in the rights and interest inherent on such land.
Others: Other characteristics of land include-
Immobility i.e. fixed location and
Durability i.e. indestructibility