SOME state governors and lawyers have opposed the review of the Land Use Act by the Nigerian government.
Secretary of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha had said the Nigerian government was ‘reviewing’ the Land Use Act of 1978 to address challenges posed to the building and construction sector.
Mustapha said this last Thursday during the opening ceremony of the 51st annual conference of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) in Abuja.
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“The Federal Government is aware of the challenges posed by the Land Use Act of 1978 to your sector, the building and construction sector and this is why we have embarked on the review of those areas constituting obstacles to economic development,’’ Mustapha said.
However, governors and lawyers have disputed the procedure and questioned the legality in the review process.
A former Chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) FCT Chapter Folarin Aluko, who spoke with The ICIR in an interview on Thursday said the Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari had no right to arbitrarily amend the Land Use Act.
Aluko said land in the states is vested in the trust of state governors and except for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and designated Federal Government territories, all lands belonged to the state governors.
“I am not sure the extent to which the president can go into a state to say he wants to exercise power to declare a certain portion of land to be used in the public interest.
“Under the Land Use Act, to the best of my knowledge, the president does not have the power,” Aluko said.
Although he said other Acts dealt with land, Aluko noted that as far as the provisions of the Land Use Act were concerned, the president did not have that power.
Another lawyer Vitalis Ihedigbo, who also spoke with The ICIR in a telephone interview, also affirmed that the president did not have powers to review the Act.
He noted that the Land Use Act became part of the 1999 Constitution and could only be altered through the stipulated process of constitutional amendment.
“You cannot just amend it (Land Use Act) without going through the process of constitutional amendment. It is not an ordinary Act that you can just put a bill before the National Assembly and then it goes through the casual law making procedure and then the president assents to it,” Ihedigbo said.
Noting that by virtue of section 215 of the 1999 Constitution, the Act became a part of the constitution, the lawyer stressed that the process of constitutional amendment extended beyond the National Assembly.
Governors disagree with FG
Some governors also vowed to reject the Nigerian government’s review of the Land Use Act.
Governor of Benue State Samuel Ortom accused the Nigerian government of having a hidden agenda in the review of the Act.
Ortom said this on Monday when he received the Assistant Commandant General Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in charge of Zone H Harilu Usman at the Government House in Makurdi.
The governor said the Nigerian government was planning to secure land for open grazing, cattle routes and grazing reserves across the country through the review.
“All they are trying to do now is cheap blackmail. It is ridiculous for the presidency to continue to look for a solution to farmers and herders’ crisis when ranching is there and had proven to be a global best solution,” Ortom said.
Governor of Oyo State Seyi Makinde has also said he would not concede to a process that lacks constitutional backing.
Makinde, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary Taiwo Adisa, told The PUNCH that any process for such a review must involve the state governments.
“As much as we know, the Land Use Act is a constitutional matter and the states must be involved in anything that has to do with its review.
“The Act has vested the lands in the governor of the state and we don’t envisage anyone taking contrary steps,” Makinde said.
The open grazing method of cattle rearing in Nigeria has generated controversy across the country. While governors from the Southern part of the country have banned open grazing, the Attorney General of the Federation Abubakar Malami said they had no right to do so.
The president also expressed his support for open grazing which had continued to result in loss of lives and properties due to clashes between farmers and herders.
A few weeks ago, Buhari disclosed that he had directed Malami to revive cattle routes and grazing areas gazetted during the First Republic in 1963.