Experts insist Land Use Act misused, seek amendment

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Lawmakers, environmental experts, and other stakeholders have said that the current Land Use Act that came into effect in 1978 was being exploited by privileged person in government to oppress the poor.

They insist that since acquisition of land unilaterally without considering the welfare of those who depended on it for livelihood and without any form of compensation was no more fashionable internationally, the Act should be amended.

They made the assertion in Calabar during a one-day validation workshop, organized 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.’

In a presentation, titled, “Review of Land Use Act 19978 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 land and convert the same to personal use or give it to political cronies.”

According to him, there is a Model Land Use Bill (MLUB) already in the Cross River state House of Assembly, saying the Bill 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 cognizance 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 deprivation 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 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 believed 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.

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.

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