MAY 21, 2014
Debates, applause and condemnation trailed
the report of the Committee on Land Tenure Matters and
National Boundaries on Thursday as the National Conference
sitting in Abuja opened discussions on the committee’s
While most of the delegates declared the various
recommendations submitted by the committee as remarkable and
daring, others said they were not implementable as they were
drafted to favour certain classes of people or ethnic groups
against the others.
High points of the committee’s recommendation was that the
Land Use Act should be expunged from the constitution and
replaced with new provisions that would guarantee the right
of Nigerians to have access to land irrespective of ethnic
Such removal, according to the committee would also ensure
the right of communities to have their land protected from
human activities that would hinder or degrade the
productivity of such land through such activities as
pollution, flooding, among others.
The committee, headed by General A. B. Mamman with Oba
Michael Adedeji as deputy, viewed the controversial Land Use
Act as an attempt at codification of all laws in Nigeria
pertaining to land administration.
It said before the Act came into effect, land belonged to
specific owners or group of owners, families, or communities
that could alienate, sell and dispose same without the
requirement of obtaining any authorization or ratification
by the state government.
The committee noted that the original land tenure systems,
in which the community exercised management and control
powers, guaranteed that community members have access to
land for farming and habitation and other economic
Land ownership, it said, provided the foundation for
agricultural and economic development of Nigeria and was
supported by traditional land tenure systems.
With the introduction of the Land Use Act, stated the
committee, land ownership became vested in the governor of a
state and the local government within the area of the
jurisdiction on which the land is situated.
The Act, it said, was made to override all other laws
relating to land, made from time immemorial before the
commencement of the Act; and that to further worsen the
situation, the Act was entrenched in the constitution; thus
making it emphatically impossible for a change through the
normal process of legislation.
After an exhaustive review of the disadvantages of the Act
since inception, the committee said the Act should be
abrogated to allow for successor legislations on land tenure
and administration by states of the federation “which should
and must vest ownership of land in the hands of those with
customary right of ownership, subject to the right of state
to register titles and provide guidelines for land
transactions within their jurisdictions.”
Its argument was that apart from protecting the natural
rights of communities to survival, such new legislations
would enable land owners to use land as collateral for
financing land development and economic activities.
It also recommended establishment of a National Land
Commission through an Act of the National Assembly to be
responsible for land administration in the states with the
objective of promoting harmony in land administration.
The commission is also envisaged to create and maintain a
national land databank in collaboration with states; and
make recommendations on issues pertaining to land already
acquired by the Federal Government or any land that the
Federal Government may wish to acquire.
On compensation, the committee said the right of land owners
to adequate compensation commensurate with current value and
social attributes of land in the event of acquisition of
such land by the government for public use must be
It noted further, “whenever the government intends to
compulsorily acquire land for public purpose, adequate
compensation and necessary resettlement must be made prior
to entry of the said land by the government.
“Provided always that if after 10 years of government entry,
the land is not utilized for the said public purpose, then
the acquired land reverts to the original owners and the
compensation earlier paid shall be forfeited by the
“It is our recommendation that the provisions of the
Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007 should serve as the
minimum standard for dealing with communities, land owners
and land users in legislations relating to the extraction of
all minerals and the setting aside of forest to serve as
Shortly after the presentation by the committee chairman,
speaker after speaker took time to analyse the report and
make further recommendations either in support or in
rejection of the previous ones.
Some of the delegates said the proposal for the
establishment of a National Land Commission would further
push the issue of land tenure back to the Federal
Government; and that it would serve as a replacement to the
Land Use Act.
During consideration by the Committee of the Whole,
delegates out-rightly rejected the recommendation on the
establishment of the National Land Commission describing it
as unnecessary and an attempt to duplicate the Land Use Act.
Professor, Auwalu Yadudu argued against the abrogation of
the Act or its removal from the constitution but supported
compensation for lands acquired by the government.
Abubakar Buba Galadima from Yobe State said removing the
Land Use Act from the constitution was bound to create
problems as those who have money would buy over land from
the poor owners.
He was supported by Dr Junaid Mohammed who, while dangling
the report, said, “This is the most capitalistic report this
conference has had the misfortune to receive.”
Mohammed said he was completely convinced that expunging the
Land Use Act from the constitution would create problems as
land still remains a very valuable resource.
“What is behind the recommendation is nothing but class
interest,” he said explaining that those who have money
would corner everything; adding, “It is in the interest of
this country that land is left in trust with government.”
However, during clause-by-clause consideration of the
recommendations, the proviso for reversion of land to
original owners 10 years after acquisition without being put
to use was reversed by the Conference to the effect once
compensation is paid, the original owner cannot take the
On mining of mineral resources, the Conference in session
agreed that a certain percentage of royalty on mineral
resources should be paid to the communities and land owners
where such resources are found.
On internal boundaries, the Conference decided that a
National Boundary Tribunal be established by the Federal
Government to adjudicate on boundary matters in a bid to
avoid disputes necessitated by the absence of such a body.
After tracing the history of Bakassi takeover by Cameroon,
the committee said the Nigerian government must revisit the
issue to ensure that the national interest, national
security and the rights and livelihood of Nigerians are not
undermined in the final delineation of boundaries between
The debates that followed were garnished with deep passions
as some delegates asked for compensation in perpetuity to
Cross River State and other areas of the country where such
dislocation has been experienced.
Some of the delegates demanded outright retrieval of Bakassi
Peninsular from the Cameroons in spite of the existing
ruling of the International Court of Justice in favour of
However, the Conference in a Committee of the Whole said
since Nigeria had appeared before the ICJ and defended its
position before ruling was given, the country remains
legally bound to accept and abide by the judgment of the
ASSISTANT SECRETARY, MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS
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