“As the Land Use Act bill which sought to alter the 1999 Constitution for it to be expunged from the Constitution so that it could be subject to regular process of review and amendment suffered defeat in the upper legislative chamber last week, built environment professionals have condemned the action of the senators to reject the bill.”- Vanguard
Describing the Land Use Act as a clog in the wheel of development in the country over the years, the professionals pointed out that the deletion of the Act which is 39 years old from the country’s constitution, would be easy to review and amend from time to time.
However, Nigerians and stakeholders in the housing sector have faulted the Act, citing among other reasons the delay it creates in making land accessible to average Nigerians. Subsequently, Nigerians have been clamouring for its removal from the constitution to lessen these bottlenecks, which called for the bill at the National Assembly. But to ensure that the Land Use Act is retained in the constitution, it was gathered that there was intense lobbying among senators from the Northern region, who were of the view that the bill amounted to resource control, adding that “It is resource control sneaking through the back door”, Northern senators allegedly said.
Reports further noted that Northern senators mobilised heavily against it, as they were calling themselves and were able to convince many, probably from the less endowed states that it would be disadvantageous to them to allow it to be expunged from the constitution.
According to reports, the Northern senators argued that “if you delete the Land Use Act and remove the powers of the federal government over land, it would be easy for the South-South states that have been at the forefront for the control of their oil resources to achieve it. “The states would just legislate on the land in their territories and whatever natural resources lie below the ground belongs to them, instead of the federal government. They could even use individuals who would just claim that certain acres of land are their ancestral land and they can decide they will not allow exploration of the resources therein.
So it would be a huge issue not just for the northerners, but also to less endowed states”, reports allegedly said. Reacting to the rejection of the bill at the senate, Mr. Moses Ogunleye of Moses Ogunleye & Associates, a firm of consulting town planners and past chairman and president, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners NITP, Lagos state branch and Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria ATOPCON, respectively, said the Act which has not been reviewed since it was enacted 39 years ago, can easily be reviewed from time to time if it is expunged from the constitution. According to the town planner, “The Act should be removed from the constitution for its easy process of review.
If it remains in the constitution, it will be difficult to review and amend from time to time because such reviews must go through the National Assembly. Those who are not in support of the review will always kick against it as it is happening now. If the Act is outside the constitution, its review will be easy because it will only require public hearing which makes the review easier and faster. “The Northern senators have no reason to be afraid of the Act being expunged from the constitution because its review will benefit every section of the country”, Ogunleye stated. In his reaction, the 2nd vice president of the Nigerian Institute of Building, NIOB and former chairman, NIOB Lagos state branch, Mr. Kunle Awobodu, said the deep interest in land as it relates to natural resources, some people will not want it expunged from the constitution.
According to Awobodu, “Some people are looking at the issue from the point of view of resource control. They think that the control of resources will no longer be under the control of the federal government, and they are looking at the implication of removing this control from the federal government. That is why they will never support the idea of the Act being expunged from the constitution.
“Most people at the senate do not know the implication of allowing the Act to remain in the constitution and its benefits outside the constitution. But if built environment professionals are invited to enlighten them about the implication of allowing it to remain in the constitution and the benefits Nigerians stand to gain from expunging the Act from the constitution, perhaps, this will change their position on the issue”, he said.
Also reacting on the issue, Mr. Sunday Olorunsheyi, Director, Pertinence Ltd, a real estate development firm, and owners of ABC Gardens and ABC VIP Gardens across the country, said the constraints in processing land documentation is an aspect of the Act that should be looked into by making the process easy and less cumbersome.
He pointed out however, that the Act being in the constitution has been able to control and check the activities of land grabbers across the nation, adding that without this control by the government, the situation land grabbing in the country would have been worst than it is presently.