National Restructuring on Land Tenure: Abrogation of Land Use Act (1)

By: Oludele Sunday Kolawole Olumide

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Highlights:

    “… Besides, Nigerians don’t need the rights of occupancy in form of Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) for their respective land documentation. Nigerians are entitled to CERTIFICATE OF OWNERSHIP (C of O or for the sake of differentiation, C of OWN) instead, for documentation only. Nigerians are stakeholders in the Nigerian project. Any provision contrary to this could only be described as disfranchisement, an infringement on human rights and exploitation”.

    “Talking about the fundamentals of a strong nation, freedom, equity, justice, access to basic social amenities and free enterprise are the bedrock of patriotism. Ironically, Nigerians are disfranchised of all, yet citizens are expected to be patriotic, show solidarity and accept the unpalatable and unpleasant atmosphere of greed and grief as a suitable option of life. I am yet to see a patriotic people that are defrauded of all basic amenities to the tune of loosing their rights of ownership to property in their motherland”.

    “Except for few addendum and provisions, this law is almost verbatim on the 1962 Land Tenure Law of the defunct Northern Region of Nigeria. What this implies is that, Nigerians are under an imposition of the northern ideology on land administration. No wonder for the unprecedented groan under the law because exploitation of the poor masses is not originally part of the eastern, western and southern ideologies until recently when most of our overzealous politicians who want national relevance suddenly turn out to become proxies to the northern ideology and politics”.

    “Nigerians will like to see the end of the implementation of this act being the explicit ideology of one region coupled with the military spirit behind its enactment. Being an undesirable instrument of anarchy, the continuous implementation of it could spell trouble for the actualisation of the development of Nigeria as a nation. Our leaders should not forget that great oaks grow from small acorns”.

 

The Land Use Act officially foisted the stern situation that had beclouded the innocent Nigerian people since its promulgation on March 29, 1978 and entrenched in the Nigerian constitution by virtue of section 315 thereof. The act also technically bewitched the housing schemes, the property market and the ownership status of the Nigerian people since its enactment as a silent instrument of exploitation.

Under this property law, Nigerians are regrettably denied simple access to basic social necessity on ownership of property. However, majority of Nigerians though dissatisfied, slept on their rights on infringement with only few people decrying the inequality and human rights infringement arising from the act.

Land is commonly known as a natural resource with enormous benefits being the nucleus of human livelihood and existence. To outlaw this blessing from God and to deny Nigerians from enjoying its full potential can only be described as a crime to humanity. Any deprivation on land to any human race is a war against survival because land provides the structural and physical base for every human activity. This explains the obvious necessity for land to any industrious people and nation.

In our clime, free access to land through inheritance, lease, transfer, gift, purchase, et cetera, is a customary practice with some rights. The rights to inheritance is not dependent on laws, the best any law could offer this type of right is to articulate it in official documents for legal reasons only. There are natural rights which form the concept of natural or parts of customary laws which are inalienable. Any attempt to suspend, limit, restrict or remove such natural or customary rights by law shall always cause serious conflicts and counter reactions such as the case of the Land Use Act of the Nigerian government against the rights of the masses on land ownership.

The inalienable right of the citizens of Nigeria to partake of land being a valuable factor of production is presently in conflict with the challenges and hardships that were brought to the fore through this act. The fact remains that the inalienable rights are peculiar, incontestable and cannot be outlawed. Land laws are not supposed to worsen the conditions of the indigents by any technical or political measures or standard as we find in the Land Use Act of Nigeria. In deploying administrative control on land, consideration must be extended to the poor masses and persons, including but not restricted to mechanics, plumbers, vulcanizers, welders, carpenters, cobblers, petty traders, bus conductors, etc. A reasonably friendly law that finds global solutions to the menace imposed on Nigerians arbitrarily through the Land Use Act is what Nigerians are expecting from the restructuring committee on land tenure.

Quite a number of benefiting political class members and their representatives are rejoicing over the repressive power derivable through the act against the commonwealth of the citizens. They would wedge their weight to always have the act all the same in spite of its unprecedented hardship, exploitation and infringement against the rights of the bereft masses. These sets of people that are leveraging the act to deny the Nigerian masses of their customary and natural rights on land are in all sphere of human endeavours: politics, governance, real estate, judiciary, survey, architecture, building construction, media, banking, insurance, marketing, trade, oil and gas, manufacturing, illiteracy, academics, local, foreign, the diaspora, etc. Apart from having political clout, some are merely ignorant to the exploitative tendencies of the act over the rights of the masses.

Except for few addendum and provisions, this law is almost verbatim on the 1962 Land Tenure Law of the defunct Northern Region of Nigeria. What this implies is that, Nigerians are under an imposition ofthe northern ideology on land administration. No wonder for the unprecedented groan under the law. Exploitation of the poor masses is not originally part of the eastern, western and southern ideologies until recently when most of our overzealous politicians who want national relevance suddenly turn out to become proxies to the northern ideology and politics.

Section 5 of the act that confers the power to grant statutory right of occupancy by the Governors to property owners is responsible for the logistic constraints, bottlenecks, hindrances, cumbersomeness, hardships and delays in registration and processing of land documents. Under normal conditions, this section is not necessary so as to ensure smooth procurement of land official papers. Besides, Nigerians don’t need the rights of occupancy in form of Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) for their respective land documentation. Nigerians are entitled to CERTIFICATE OF OWNERSHIP (C of O or for the sake of differentiation, C of OWN) instead, for documentation only. Nigerians are stakeholders in the Nigerian project. Any provision contrary to this could only be described as disfranchisement, an infringement on human rights and exploitation.

Chief among the reasons for land documentation is for proper administration, revenue generation for the government in form of tax on land, mortgage, convertibility, transferability, sublease and security for venture capital, etc. Nigeria will like to see the end of the implementation of this act being the explicit ideology of one region coupled with the military spirit behind its enactment. Being an undesirable instrument of anarchy, the continuous implementation of it could spell trouble for the actualisation of the development of Nigeria as a nation. Our leaders should not forget that great oaks grow from small acorns.

The economic development of any nation is predicated upon the development of land and its people. Africa is what it is because her people are largely disfranchised. A people that is denied and treated as a second class citizen cannot be instrumental to development. Development also is not achievable without healthy human capital. Development therefore stands to represent the effective management of the laws, with an agreement between the people and the utilisation of local resources, done in the most resourceful, profitable and equitable manner whatsoever.

Owing to the anti people provisions of the act, the abrogation of the current act is therefore vital to our national development. To expedite this development at a realistic speed, Government consent and approval shall not be necessary on land sale, mortgage, sublease, assignment of ownership right, etc. Government should equally stop living in cloud cuckoo land. Nigeria has the potentials to achieve a landslide developmental victory if the welfare of her citizens is planned all along in the blueprints and is implemented equitably faultlessly.

The description of property owners as mere occupiers negates the full rights of Nigerians on land. The description is not in line with the true Nigerian spirit and culture, hence, the protests and agitation against this act as an instrument that must not stay within our collective polity.

Talking about the fundamentals of a strong nation, freedom, equity, justice, access to basic social amenities and free enterprise are the bedrock of patriotism. Ironically, Nigerians are disfranchised of all, yet citizens are expected to be patriotic, show solidarity and accept the unpalatable and unpleasant atmosphere of greed and grief as a suitable option of life. I am yet to see a patriotic people that are defrauded of all basic amenities to the tune of losing their rights of ownership to property in their motherland. People cannot be treated like slaves and yet be expected to display the character of a heir on a project. If Nigeria is therefore our collective project, then the common people deserve fairness and equity to develop the desired sense of belonging. Only then will holistic development be achievable at a speed we never imagined.

A new people oriented and friendly law on land is required to factor in equity, fairness and to make facilitation less cumbersome, to boost economic growth and community development; To boost output and improve capacity for wealth creation; To optimise economic growth; To foster unhindered access to land for commercial agriculture, private sector participation and large scale business establishments.

The new law which must also foster wealth creation for the Nigerian citizens should not adopt the words such as occupancy and occupier in the context it was used in the Land Use Act under the heat of extinction. The law should primarily protect the interests of the Nigerian people by encouraging ownership instead of occupancy. Those who cannot maintain their properties will always find the reasons to transfer same to new buyers who will also pass it to newer buyers for some reasons, the chain is endless. Land transfers shall pass from present owners to new ones ad-infinitum. That is how wealth creation could reshape Nigeria and attract foreign investment on land. All of these shall translate to regular revenue generation for the government while the nation enjoys the patronage of foreign investors. A nation’s development is measured on the standard of living of her citizenry. This is what the new law on land must address and promote.

I shall x-ray the alternative solutions to the perennial social menace that gave birth to the Land Use Act in our next edition. Watch out.

 

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