LAND USE REFORMS AS A PANACEA TO CONFLICTS AND INSECURITY IN NIGERIA BY DENIS MERNYI

Land as a resource is very critical to human existence as they live and perform other economic activities on it. It is a non renewable natural resource and limited in supply. Land represents all other factors of production. It is therefore important to manage and administer its usage in an environmentally sustainable manner by making necessary laws, policies and guidelines for its administration. Thus, understanding how human modifies, exploits and consequently regulates land is vital in charting a new direction for its sustainable management.
In Nigeria, Land Use Act nationalised land without compensation and made it easy for government to acquire land for public purposes with minimum burden of compensation. It vested the control, management and allocation of all land in the territory of a state excluding federal government lands in the hands of governors or chief executives of such territories and unified the land tenure sytems in the country among others.
The arrangement was made as an integral part of the 1979 federal law and later again, in the 1999 constitution. But the major flaw of this Act has remained the nationalisation of all lands by government, which is inconsistent with democratic practices and operations of a free market economic system.
It is indeed in this regard that the need for a more viable Land Use Reform, a more environmentally sustainable one where both human, animals as well as plants are inhabitants is been canvassed.
Because land supports other natural resources that are vital for human survival so, human survival therefore depends largely on sustainable use of existing and remaining renewable land resources. A sustainable land use implies activities that are ecologically sound, socio culturally acceptable, economically viable as well as equitable in terms of access to land resources, benefits and decision making process.
Yet, since the land mass cannot be increased and it is neither a renewable resource except in cases of reclamation, it then means the development of land use systems which meets the needs of present and future generations without causing environmental degradation, has remained one of the major challenges Nigeria is confronted with today.
So, it is obvious that a good number of security challenges the nation is grappling with today are all firmly rooted in land. They relate to either tenure rights and land security, especially in relation to ineffective land reform processes, boundary disputes, or conflict over the use of community lands, conflicts due to transfer of ownership or inheritance related conflicts.
It then means, these and several other emerging conflicts have come to disrupt long standing pattern of land use and contributed to the displacement of persons, communities and even land scarcity itself.
These fundamental issues and many others were the focus by delegates at the just concluded 26th National Conference of Directors of Lands in the federal and states ministries, departments and agencies in Abuja.
With the theme, “Land Use Reform as Conflict Resolution Mechanism”, minister of State in the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Engineer Abubakar D. Aliyu disclosed that government would soon commence full automation of Certificate of Occupant issuance in the land department to address and ease the incuberrances that hitherto exist.
He however, lamented the prevalence of specific problems that have confronted land use management in the country over time and assured that efforts are in place to address all those challenges.
In an address, ESV. Godwin Ityoachimin, Director of Lands in the Ministry and Chairman of the Central Planning Committee for the conferrence who is also member of the Land Use Allocation Committee acknowledged that, land related conflicts exist at individuals, communal, inter state and inter group level and noted that as public sector land managers and advisors at the federal and state level, it is their responsibility to cross fetilize ideas with the aim to achieve global best practice for a developed prosperous nation.
“ As professionals, we must be reminded that we are gathered here not to find political solutions to the lingering problem but to chart a sustainable course in the discharge of our professionalism.
“ Our ultimate aim should be to contribute to the body of knowledge on land and related conflicts question as professionals to help provide practical solutions to the problem”, he stated.
He earlier explained that, “this year’s theme was carefully chosen considering the wide range spectrum of land related conflicts in the country and at various levels of land governance”.
In her presentation, Mrs. A.D. Great-Edereka, Director and Head of Department of Lands and Housing Development in the ministry stated that Land Reforms involves the reviewing of subsisting laws, regulations or customs regarding land ownership that may also involve government initiated or land redisditribution mechanism through regulatory framework or actions aimed at improving land administration .
According to her, any revision of reform of a country’s land laws can be an intensely political process, as reforming land policies serves to change relationship within and between communities and states thus, even small scale land reforms and legal modifications may be subject to intense debate or conflict.
She also disclosed that the recommendations of this year’s conference would form part of the proposals of the subsector to the National Council on Lands, Housing and Urban Development which is the highest policy making organ in the Lands and Housing sector holding later in the year.
At this year’s conference, presentations and discussions were hinged primarily on management and resolution of Land Use Dispute through effective National Land Policy, Land Use Reform and Contemporay Legal imperatives, Land Use and Property Right for poverty Alleviation and National Development.
Other major aspects that were addressed includes, the Land Reform in Nigeria: A practitioner perspective, challenges and prospects, The Imperatives from Land Governance in Nigeria: Current Initiative of the Institute of Lands and Community Resilience, Federal University of Minna,  Land Use Reform and Future of Land Administration.
Experts in the Land Use Administration and governance drawn from both the public and private sector as well as the academia very resourceful well researched paper presentation at the two-day event.
The conference at the end, among several other resolution suggested the need to re examine existing Land Use Laws that supports the proposed Land Use Reform, rules and regulations prepared by the Presidential Technical Committee on Lands Reforms to be presented to the National Council of States forthwith for approval.
The document has already been approved by the National Executive Council and awaiting transmission to the National Council of States empowered by the Land Use Act.
It was also resolved that the draft National Land Policy Document already prepared by the ministry should be presented to stakeholders for validation and to ensure that all the states of the federation that do not have functional Land Use Allocation Committee should be commissioned and made functional.
It was also resolved that Systematic Land Tittling and Registration introduced by the Presidential Technical Committee on Lands Reforms should no longer be a pilot scheme in few states but should be extended to all states of the federation with adequate funding from the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing annually.
Dennis Mernyi is a Media/Publicity Consultant in Abuja  dennismernyi@gmail.com

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