FOR many years the Lands Department of the Western Region of Nigeria has been concerned largely with the management of Crown Land and the control of alienation of lands to non-Nigerians. With the increasing commercial value of land it became desirable that more should be known about customary land law. It was, I believe, due largely to the initiative of Mr. F. M. Woodhouse, the Commissioner of Lands, that a decision was taken early in 1956 to carry out research into customary law; Mr. Woodhouse had himself been most active in earlier years in endeavouring to assemble such material and the late Mr. C. W. R. Rowling of the Federal Lands Department had written reports on Benin, Ondo and Ijebu Provinces.
In October 1956 1 was appointed Land Research Officer in the Lands Department of the Ministry of Lands and Labour of the Western Region of Nigeria with the task of preparing a report on the customary land law of the Region. My report was presented to the Minister in November 1959 and he has graciously agreed that it should be published by the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research. I have made but minor corrections to the original report. The Government of the Western Region has generously contributed towards the cost of its publication.
During the course of my fieldwork I made full use of material in government files, but from the very nature of this book it will be clear that it represents my own opinions and conclusions and can in no way be taken as necessarily representing the views of the present government. The report contained no recommendations for government policy. I believe that the tenure of farm land in the Region is quite satisfactory, given the present agricultural techniques and crops grown; it is for the agricultural specialists to say what type of farming system they wish to establish before one can describe the legal problems which the change would involve.
A committee of which I sat as chairman with other members being the Solicitor-General, the Deputy Director of Surveys and the Senior Assistant Registrar in charge of the Regional Registry of Deeds, presented to the Minister of Lands and Labour in December 1959 a report on the Registration of Title to Land in the Western Region. We here examined the possibility of registering not only titles known to English law but also those recognized under customary law and the problems arising from the dual legal system. This report is to be published as a White Paper.
At this juncture I should like to thank the successive Ministers of