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Land grabbers as threat to Nigeria’s real estate sector

Land grabbing in Nigeria will remain an albatross to the citizens of the country until decisive measures are taken to reverse the ongoing trend. Land in the country has continued to appreciate coupled with the fact that in the southern part of Nigeria land ranks like gold because of its sparse nature.

Take, for instance, states like Anambra and Lagos where the land does not meet the industrial demands of the inhabitants, communal clashes have become a recurring decimal. A lot of lives have been lost owing to disputes arising from land grabbing, speculation, and sales.

These land disputes could be between the same family members, it could be between two families, two villages, two towns or even two states.

The disputes usually arise as a result of individual from one quarter cutting some pieces of land meant to belong to the other quarter or selling land that does not belong to them. This initially may not be noticed, but with time when the cuttings become noticeable, the quarter hitherto lying low will rise and if nothing is done to quail or nip the crisis from the bud, it will snowball into a war between the quarters or as mentioned above.

Instances of these small crises that were not nipped from the bud at the toddler stage include but not limited to; Aguleri/Umueri, Ife/Modakeke, Zango/Kataf, Igbakwu/ Omor, Ebonyi/Akwa Ibom just to mention this few. Efforts by local authorities to settle these problems mostly hit the rock because traditional rulers of each community seize the opportunity to get back to an old enemy (Ruler) who defeated him in the past. They also make huge fortunes from such crisis.

All these have been going on yet the government has not deemed it necessary to tackle it head-on. This is because there are laws made to checkmate the activities of land grabbers, but they are not enforced. The inability of government or its agencies to stop the activities of land grabbing has invariably made the laws on this effect null and void. 

Nonetheless, land grabbing law is important in so many significant ways. Actually, there is a law that addresses the issue of land grabbing, but it did not put it directly the way it should make great impact. 

Also, there are various states’ Criminal Procedure Laws, though it is too general. Bearing in mind that Lagos is developing into a megacity, with a high rate of demand for land and property and the rate at which land appreciates, it is discovered that some cartel has decided to form a block in grabbing other people’s lands and that was what prompted the Lagos State House of Assembly to pass a law that directly addresses the issue of land grabbing in the state.

 The law was well accepted by the people because it addresses the fundamental issues that concern land matters.

There have been series of fracas between either landowners or buyers or people invading other people’s lands, but this law makes it a point of responsibility that if you get land adequately receipted for with all the necessary documentation, it will be difficult for anybody to intrude or invade your land because the issue of land grabbing has always been there from creation. The essence of the law is to regulate the activities of human beings and as was said earlier, there is a law that addresses land matters, but that law is too general because it addresses all other criminal matters in totality. So, there should be law specifically on land grabbing, which is why it is an offence to invade other people’s lands. The Lagos State has enacted laws on land grabbing but the law seems to be nepotically enforced. The way and manner the enforcers go about this shows that it lacks the energy to enforce it. But the implementation should be a collective responsibility of all government officials since the lawmakers are not the ones doing the execution. The lawmakers are to make laws, it is the duty of the police and other law enforcement agents to enforce the law. 

It then becomes, the collective responsibility of the fourth estate of the realm, third estate of the realm and the second estate of the realm to make sure that the law works. The problems have been identified. It is just like what Karl Marx would say in the 11 thesis of feedback: we have interpreted the world in various ways, what is left is to change it. So the workability of the law lies between all the citizens of this country and the law enforcement agents.

The Anambra State government recently trying to see how the lingering Igbakwu/ Omor, that of Mkpunando and others will be resolved, inaugurated committees. Governor Willie Obiano also constituted a panel of Inquiry to look into the problem facing the Mkpunando-Omor-Igbakwu Communities and other hot areas. 

The Panel which will be headed by Justice Vero Umeh as Chairman was set up during the State Executive Council Meeting at the Government House, Awka. Other Members of the Panel include the Traditional Ruler of Mbaukwu, Igwe Peter Anugwu, his counterparts from Nteje, Igwe Rowland Odegbo, Igwe Sunday Okafor of Okpuno and Igwe C.E Nnabuife.

Inaugurating the Panel, Obiano charged them to examine the remote and immediate causes of the state of affairs in those communities which include allegations of sale of communal land by the Traditional Rulers and also misappropriation of funds. Governor Obiano disclosed that the committee will submit it’s report within ten sittings from the date of inauguration to the state government. 

The Governor also charged the Panel to come up with recommendations that will reconcile the various factions and restore lasting peace to the community. In her remark, the Chairman of the panel, Justice Vero Umeh said that she was optimistic that the Panel would help in finding lasting peace in various Communities. The action was as a result of, among others, stakeholders from Igbakwu in Ayamelum Local Government Area of Anambra State who called the Governor to do quick and resolve the various communal clashes over land in the state. Speaking in the wake of brewing tension arising between Igbakwu and Omor, nearby communities over land issues settled long time by Supreme Court, Chief Simon Okafor, former Sole Administrator, Ayamelum Local Government Area, said the peace which the state enjoys above other states will not make meaning if the squabbles are not nipped from the bud. But the problems are government’s inability to see reports getting to it at the earliest part of the crisis as something that could snowball into a full-blown war.

It is on record that since 2008, the term land-grabbing gained notoriety around the globe. It refers to large-scale land acquisitions not only by private investors but also by public investors and agribusiness that buy farmland or lease it on a long-term basis to produce agricultural commodities. These international investors, as well as the public, semi-public or private sellers, often operate in legal grey areas and in a no man’s land between traditional land rights and modern forms of property. In many cases of land grabbing, one could speak of a land reform from above, or of the establishment of new colonial relationships imposed by the private sector. 

Land grabbing has resulted not only in mass forced evictions but has also led to a deterioration in the landscape as public spaces such as parks, playgrounds, and even public toilets are sold or allocated to people. Worse still, land that had been sold and occupied some 30 years ago is still disputed in some areas especially in Lagos state because the Omoniles are being given more than enough room to operate. However, Omoniles or Ajagungbaale are not the only land grabbers we have in Nigeria.

Credit: The Sun

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