National Conference resolves Land Use Act controversy

The delegates agreed to retain the Act in the Constitution with minor amendments.

After more than six weeks stand-off over the Land Use Tenure Act, delegates to the National Conference on Wednesday finally resolved the issue.

They supported the retention of the Act in the constitution with minor adjustments. The Conference Committee on Land Tenure Matters and National Boundaries had in its report recommended that the 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 origin.

The Committee, chaired by Abdullahi Mamman, a retired army general,nominated as an elder statesmen, with the Owaoye of Okemesi-Ekiti, Michael Adedeji, as deputy, said the Act attempted to codify all laws in Nigeria pertaining to land administration.

The report was the first to be considered by the Conference in plenary in May but the leadership was forced to defer decision on the issue based on disagreements.

Debate on the issue was heated as most northern delegates opposed the abrogation of the Act.

They said land was one of their resources and therefore if the Act was abolished rich Nigerians would strip them of the resource.

A Yobe State delegate, Buba Mohammed, noted that removing the Act from the Constitution would create problem as those who have money would buy over land from the poor owners.

Second Republic member of the House of Representatives, Junaid Mohammed, said, if the Committee’s recommendation was upheld, it would create problem as land still remains a viable resource.

“This is the most capitalistic report this Conference has had the misfortune to receive,” he said. “What is behind the recommendations is nothing but class interest. It is in the interest of this country that land is left in trust with government.”

On his part, Auwalu Yadudu, former legal adviser to the late Head of State, Sani Abacha, opposed the removal of the Act, but backed the payment of compensation for lands acquired by the government.

However, in a five-page report, adopted during its plenary session on Thursday, the Conference agreed that:

-The Land use Act should remain in the constitution, but be amended to take care of those concerns particularly on compensation in section 29 (4) of the Act to read “owners of land to determine price and value of their land i.e Government should negotiate with land owners and compensate land owners.

-Customary right of occupancy in section 21 of the Act be amended to read Customary right of occupancy (and) should have the same status as statutory right of occupancy. It should also be extended to urban
land;

-Section 7 of the Act restriction on right of persons under the age of 21 to be granted statutory right of occupancy should be amended to read “restriction of persons under the age of 18” because an adult according to the Childs’ Rights Act is a person who has attained the age of 18; and

-Other issue observed (include) titling of land and further taxation after payment of certificate of occupancy fees, these are not legal issue but procedural, hence we recommend the need to call on governors to hasten titling of land (like it has been done in Edo State where almost 90% of land is titled) and fees paid by land owners for certificates of occupancy should indemnify them from further taxation, when leveraging their land.


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