Land in land law does not means the ground only, it includes all other things attached to the earth surface which includes trees, rocks, buildings and structures naturally affixed to the land.

To a layman, land means the solid part of the hard surface of the ground. However, land may have both natural and artificial content or structure, the natural content is the ground and its subsoil and the things below and above the earth.

An artificial content or structure includes buildings and other structures such as trees, rocks etc.

In this article, land will be defined according to statutes, jurists and relevant reference books, the extent of the application of Quic quid plantatur solo solo cedit to the definitions of land as well as its limitations under the Nigerian Land law.


Black’s law dictionary defines land as “an immovable and indestructible three dimensional areas consisting of a portion of the surface and everything growing on or permanently affixed to the land”.

The Interpretation Act defined land as “including any building and any other things attached to the earth or permanently fastened to anything co attached but does not include minerals”.

Otuama defined land as “hard surface, subsoil, the air space above it as well as the things permanently attached to it.”

E.H Born defined land to include “the surface of the earth together with all the subjacent and superjacent things of a physical nature such as buildings, trees and minerals.” Umezulike also defined land to include “the ground, hard surface, the top soil and everything attached to the land including economic trees attached to the land”.


Going by the aforementioned definitions, it is seen that the principle of Quic quid plantatur solo solo cedit reflected in the definitions and it shows the extent of its applicability under the Nigerian land law.

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Coker agrees that the maxim applies in Yoruba native law and custom where he said “land is by far the simplest object of property in any system of jurisprudence, in this connection also, land in any application of the term includes buildings thereon. The maxim Quic quid plantatur solo solo cedit which is a maxim of most legal systems, is also a part of Yoruba native law and custom”.

Olawoye clearly agrees with the authorities that, for the sake of commence of law, does not distinguish between the ownership of the fixtures thereon. The principle, Quic quid plantatur solo solo cedit applies”.

Nwabueze explained the application of the principle thus; “It must not be supposed, however that the maxim Quic quid plantatur solo solo cedit applies inflexible in all situations. Its application in any particular case depends first upon the circumstances of that case, such as the nature of the subject which it is claimed has become part of the soil by attachment thereto, and secondly, upon any statutory enactments in modifying the operation of the maxim”.

In a nutshell, things affixed to the land is also land and not only the solid part of the hard surface, the application of the maxim however depends on the circumstances of the particular case.

This brings us to the limitations of Quic quid plantatur solo solo cedit under the Nigerian Land law which are the exceptions to the maxim.


1.The exception under the Interpretation Act; The Interpretation Act defines land to include only buildings or any other things attached to the earth or permanently fastened to anything co attached but does not include minerals.

2. The transaction of land under native custom; Under the native law and custom, an agreement relating to the soil or surface of the land may be different from an agreement relating to the economic trees on that same land. It means that, the owner of the soil or surface may not be the owner of the trees on the same land.

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In MOORE V. JONES, the plaintiff was given a declaration of a title to a house standing on another person’s land. With the decision of the court, it shows that, if a tenant affixes a permanent structure on another person’s land, he has a title to that structure under the native law and customs i.e declaration of title.

In ERIMWINGBOVO V. AMAYO , it was held that, under Benin law and custom, on a land tenure, title to all land in Benin Kingdom was vested in the OBA of Benin as a trustee for the people. Others held mere possessory rights based on the approval granted by the Oba.

The Yoruba customary law makes a distinction between the physical land and improvements thereon. Obi agrees that land under African customary law does not include developments thereon.

Niki Tobi summarized the position of the two divergent positions thus; “Although, judicial opinion on the issues is not uniform, there is more support of the opinion that, the maxim applies in Nigerian customary law. It will be inequitable to contend otherwise. It would appear however that the maxim will not apply under customary law if improvements made thereon”.

The rule applies under customary law but it depends on the circumstances of the case. Where a person builds a house on another person’s land without the consent of the owner and after the owner has protested severally, will ultimately loose the property to the owner of the land as the maxim applies. See OSHO V. OLAYIOYE , EZONI V. EJODIKE .

However, under customary law, where the structure or building was erected with the permission of the owner of the land, the improvement remains the property of the person that constructed the building or structure.

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Customary law also allows the maker to continue using the building or structure as long as they remain on the land. See the decision of the court in ADEBIYI V. OGUNBIYI .

3. Another statutory limitation is the CONSTITUTION OF FEDERAL REPUBLIC IF NIGERIA which provides that “the entire property and control of all minerals, mineral oils and natural gas in, under or upon the territorial waters and the exclusive economic zones of Nigeria shall vest in the Government of the Federation…”


The maxim “Quic quid plantatur solo solo cedit” is applicable to land under the Nigerian Land law to some extent which however ,depends on the circumstances of the case.

The exceptions to the application under customary law and the statutes has also been discussed.

Land conclusively, does not just mean the ground and its subsoil, it also includes all other objects attached to the earth surface. Land in law extends to further abstract, rights and interest like incorporeal hereditaments, rights of way, easements and profits enjoyed by persons over the property or ground belonging to other persons.


A.A Otuama, Nigerian Law Of Real Property, Shaneson concise university series,1989, P.4

Black’s Law Dictionary,7th Edition

B.O Nwabueze, Nigerian Land Law, Nwamife Publishers Limited Enugu,1972

C.O Olawoye, Title to Land, Evans Brother Limited, 1974E.

H Born, Cheshire’s Modern Law Of Real Property 12th Edition, Lexis

Nexis,1976, P.136G.B.A. Coker, Family Property among the Yorubas, African University Press,1966, P.45I.

A Umezulike, ABC of Contemporary Land Law in Nigeria,2013, ISBN9789102275, 9789789102273

Interpretation Act(CAP 123) LFN 2004, Section 18

Section 44(3) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended

S.N.C Obi, The Ibo Law of Property, Butterworths,1963

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