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Experts canvass Nigeria’s ‘Land Use Act’ rejig to curb abuses

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By Joseph Kingston, Calabar

Environmental experts and other stakeholders have called for the immediate amendment to the Land Use Act of 1978, saying the Act has been abused by privileged persons in government, with unilateral acquisition of people’s and communal lands without considering the welfare of those who depend on it for livelihood and without any form of compensation.

In a one-day validation workshop organised by Environmental Rights Action/Friends of Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) and the Community Forest Watch, with the theme ‘Legislative Backing and Land Use Act Reform,’ participants also decried exclusion of women in land governance in Cross River and therefore called for proper reform in line with current realities and international best practices.

In a presentation, titled, “Review of Land Use Act 1978, and Propose Model Laws to Promote Community and Women Right,” a Lagos-based legal practitioner, Barr Nurudeen Ogbara, said “there should be parameters on why lands should be acquired by the government and due compensation spelt out.

“Under the existing law, you cannot use the acquired land for anything other than public interest; but some governors acquire people’s lands and convert the same to personal use or give to political cronies.”

He disclosed that the Model Land Use Bill (MLUB) already before the Cross River state House of Assembly seeks to protect, sustain and secure livelihood as well as gender consciousness, noting that “the Bill says land associated with livelihood can no longer be acquired by government for public purpose.

“Lands upon which the people depend on for their livelihood should not be acquired by the government except it is absolutely impossible to get an alternative land. Also, livelihood has been made a human right issue and so provisions should be made for all authorities to take into cognisance this critical need.”

The executive director, ERA/FoEN, Dr. Godwin Ojo, who was represented by a lecturer in the University of Calabar, (UniCal) Dr. Ralph Offiong, said the Land Use Act as implemented has robbed communities, mostly women, of their means of livelihood and that the practice of gender inequality in land governance has increased poverty and breed deprivations, and therefore seeks immediate steps to amend it.

On his part, the chairman, House Committee on Agriculture, Rt. Hon. Charles Ekpe, who is also the bill sponsor, said the draft of the Model Land Use Bill (MLUB) at the national assembly had passed through the first reading and that it would soon pass through the second after which the House would call for public hearing. He argued that the bill would address some lingering issues in land governance in the state, and that the House would take all issues raised into consideration.

According to Ekpe, steps were being taken to address the cry of women marginalisation, exclusion and other ills associated with land governance in Cross River state. “The law is for everybody and communities and stakeholders should give accurate information to help in passing the bill which is for our overall benefit. The bill will help address some lingering issues in land governance in the state. This is very important at this stage and we are not rushing the bill so as to come up with what will be of utmost benefit to the State,” he stated.

In her presentation, titled ‘Strategies for Women Involvement in Land Reform’ Dr Rebecca Enuoh of the University of Calabar, said gender inequality was correlated with intense poverty and exclusion of women and insecure land rights for women threaten progress. She charged women to come together to speak in one voice over the matter.

Also speaking, member representing Yala1 state constituency, Mrs. Regina Ayongo, disclosed that she had proposed a bill on gender inequality, which was yet to be passed by the House and that she believed the issue of women marginalisation in land governance would soon become the thing of the past.

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