British Colonial Rule and Land Tenure in Esan
This article examines the impact of British colonial rule on land tenure in Esan (Anglicized Ishan), the second major ethnic group in Edo State of Nigeria. Land was very important to the social, political and economic wellbeing of Esan, just like other societies the world over. It was regarded as collective property which everyone could utilize for agriculture and building of houses. Although land was regarded as collective property, individuals owned the plots which they either inherited or acquired. The laid down methods of acquisition and utilization eliminated land disputes throughout the pre-colonial period of Esan history.
By the first decade of the twentieth century, Esan and elsewhere in what is today Nigeria, found themselves under British colonial domination. The British colonial authorities introduced the production rubber and other cash crops into Esan agricultural system in line with their policies of encouraging the production of raw materials for the industries in Europe. The introduction of rubber production especially in plantations thus necessitated the utilization of more land beyond what was hitherto required for the production of food crops. The introduction of plantation system thus altered the land tenure system in Esan as individuals began to lay permanent claims to their rubber plantations to the extent that they began to alienate such land in the guise of selling their rubber trees.
This article therefore examines the role played by British Colonial authorities in the gradual transformation of land from communal to individual ownership in Esan.
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