National Conference in rowdy session over Land Use Act

The conference resolved the disagreement on nomadic livelihood.

The plenary session of the National Conference on Thursday turned rowdy as some delegates opposed a recommendation of one of its committees that the Land Use Tenure Act be expunged from the Constitution.

The delegates, mostly from the northern part of Nigeria, disagreed with the recommendation. They said it could rob them of their land. They demanded that the status quo should remain by allowing the federal government to control land matters.
However, the conference deferred decision on the matter till Monday when it would resume sitting.

The 24-member Committee on Land Tenure Matters and National Boundaries chaired by Abdullahi Mamman, a retired army general from the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, had proposed the removal of the Act from the Constitution.

It however said “the Constitution should contain new provisions guaranteeing – the right of all Nigerians to have access to and own land irrespective of ethnic, class or gender; the right of communities to have land protected from human activities that would hinder ore degrade the productivity of such land through the causing of pollution, flooding etc; and protection of ecologically sensitive areas and biodiversity generally, and maintenance of adequate tree cover for mitigating impacts of climate change.”

Although the debate on the report was taken during the morning session of the conference, delegates considered and voted on the seven recommendations on Land Tenure Matters during the afternoon session.

The pattern of debate showed the northern delegates opposing the removal of the Act from the Constitution while their southern colleagues supported the recommendation.

When the Deputy Chairman of the Conference, Bolaji Akinyemi, who moderated the voting process put the issue to vote, the delegates voted overwhelmingly in support of the recommendation that the Act should be expunged from the Constitution.

However, the voting had hardly ended when some northern delegates, including Buba Galadima from Yobe State and Junaid Mohammed from Kano State sprang from their seat demanding that they should be recognised to speak apparently in rejection of the result of the process.

However, their request to speak was greeted with shouts of no! no! no! from the delegates. Another delegate from Zamfara State, Saidu Dansadau, also stood up requesting to speak, but he received the same treatment from the delegates.

However, before Mr. Dansadau, a former senator, was forced to sit down, he said, “I need to be listened to, it is very important. This is a sentimental matter. We need to know what we are doing.”

The Conference chairman, Idris Kutigi, explained that the delegates were already in middle of debate and would not re-open a matter that had been voted on. Despite his explanation, Mr. Galadima still stood up and demanded that he be heard even as he called for division. At this point, the shout of no! no! no rented the air.

During the confusion, some delegates, including a representative of the Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, Jaye Gaskiya, kept shouting “We have voted! We have voted.”

Suspecting that the rowdiness would derail further discussion on the committee’s report, Mr. Kutigi ruled that discussion on the matter be deferred to enable the conference discuss the remaining recommendations. He also said suspending the matter would allow contending members discuss and negotiate on it.

“We shall put the issue in bracket and proceed to deal with other matters,” the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, said. “We are governed by rule here. If we don’t agree, we have to go by balloting. We will discuss it and later go to balloting. You can’t force one to go by your own order. We are all Nigerians. We should be able to talk to one another. We will go and negotiate and talk to each other.”

It was at this juncture that the conference proceeded with the consideration of the remaining recommendations of the committee and the amendments proposed during debate on the report.
While some of them were adopted, others were rejected outright.

Among the amendments accepted were the rights of landowners to adequate compensation in the event of acquisition of such land by the government for public purposes; as well as the establishment of a National Boundary Tribunal, NBT, to adjudicate on boundary disputes.

Another amendment proposed by Orok Duke that the Bakassi area and any other part of the Nigerian territory that was lost to other countries should be paid compensation in perpetuity was defeated.

Similarly, the amendment calling for the payment of compensation to Kaduna, Kogi, Niger and Nasarawa States from which the FCT was created was defeated as well as the one calling for the establishment of FCT-Niger Commission.

Meanwhile, the conference, in a motion sponsored by Mr. Gaskiya and 13 others, unanimously resolved the contentious issue of the establishment of grazing reserves and ranches for nomadic herdsmen as well as the responsibility for the funding of such reserves, which was deferred on Wednesday during the debate on the report of the Committee on Citizenship, Immigration and Other Related Matters.

The motion was read by a CSO delegate, Festus Okoye, and seconded by Bilikisu Aliyu from Zamfara State.

The conference resolved that an integrated development and livelihood modernisation programme should be designed and implemented to address the issue of settling nomadic herdsmen into settled communities based on established cattle ranches with fodder development technologies and including abattoirs, processors and other businesses along the livestock value chain.

It also agreed that the integrated development and modernisation programme should be funded by both the federal and state governments in states where such settlement are established.

The conference further resolved that the programme should be undertaken and wrapped up within a period of five to 10 years after which such settlements should have become self-sustaining with the full integration of the nomadic herdsmen community into modern Nigeria political economy.

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