Experts demand workable policy on land use in Nigeria

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Environmental experts have submitted that the current Land Use Act that came into effect in 1978 has outlived its usefulness as it serves the interest of few privileged person in government at the detriment of communities and the masses.

Rising from a two day public lecture on ‘Policy Intersection: Strengthening Bottom up Accountability amidst Land Grabs in Nigeria; The Cross River Experience: the need for a model land use Act’, the experts described the act as oppressive, saying the Act gives much power to government officials to take people’s land in the name of overriding public interest and divert same for their personal interest.

The public lecture was organized by Environmental Rights Action/Friends of Earth Nigeria (ERA/FEN) and facilitated by Dr. Maurice Olory of the Community Forest Watch at the Centre for Educational Services, University of Calabar.

Presenting a paper on “Policy Interactions: Strengthening bottom up accountability and land grabs”, the Head of department, Urban and Regional Planning, University of Calabar, Dr. Raphael Offiong said over the years, with the land use act, individuals and communities like the case of Ekong Anaku, Mbarakom, Njaghasang and others have lost their land government and multinationals without due consultation or a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed to benefit

He said the impact of the land use act has led to “indiscriminate  entry into contiguous community land without due consultation, lack of restriction on land intake and lack of farm expansion leading to unemployment as government take land for overriding public interest but transfer same without consulting the people. The communities do not partake on the MOU and multinationals continue to encroach and grab land at the detriment of the people”.

As a result of this, he said, there is water pollution, reduction in water quality and the water bodies are affected leading to various diseases and that: “the land use act has not done any good for the locals, there is great extent of land grab leading to displacement of the rural inhabitants government has taken land for overriding public interest and that continuous land grabbing may lead to conflicts between multinationals and the rural communities in Cross River unless urgent action is taken to arrest the situation”.

On his part, Mr Nurudeen Ogbara who presented a paper on The Cross River Experience: the Need for Model Land Use Act,” equally condemned current land use act as it favours only the government and its cronies noting that despite several effort to jettison or repeal it, the Act has continually been in existence since 1978.

He lauded ERA/FEN and others for creating an alternative for the land use act through the model land use act without necessarily throwing away the original act saying such efforts would ensure “private and ownership of land, guarantee continuous community participation on land matters, provide regular national framework and policy on land use in the country”.

The current bill, he said “is a proposal to fundamentally reform the land sector, liberalize state control over customary land, increase accessibility to land and create security”

In an opening remark on interconnectivity agrarian, environmental, climate change labour and health issues: towards agrarian climate justice”, Professor Satumino  Borras Jr said “land is very economical factor to agricultural production to produce food, it holds water, minerals and host of others” but over the years a lot of villagers have lost their property to flood and other hazard which is a common phenomenon worldwide which in turn leads to energy crises, insecurity, climate change crises.

He further said “this issue can be controlled through empty unused marginal lands which are converted to intensive industrial production to solve the crises .And other measure could be rejection of petty reformism, restoring big scale politics in democratizing resources, minimum access to land and natural resources to all who need it to survive and they should be law regulating how much land an individual can acquire”.

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