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Senate rejects Land Use Act removal

“In a major blow to economic reforms and wealth creation in the country, the Senate on Wednesday rejected the proposal for the deletion of Land Use Act from the 1999 Constitution.”- Business Day

The Land Use Act is seen as one of the biggest impediments to converting land resources into individual wealth in the country as it hinders the transferability of ownership rights in landed property without government interference.

The Act vest all Land in the territory of each State, except its owned by the federal government and its agencies, solely in the Governor of the state “who would hold such Land in trust for the people and is therefore responsible for allocation of land in all urban areas to individuals resident in the State and to organisations for residential, agriculture, commercial and other purposes while similar powers are conferred on local governments in respect of Land in non urban areas.

Removal of the Land Use Act could have changed the way Land is administered and owned across the country with analysts saying it could revolutionise the mortgage industry and commercial agriculture.

“The Land Use Act creates uncertainty around property ownership and rights. We have seen situations where governors just wake up and revoke land allocations just because they do not like the person or because they have other interest. That creates significant uncertainty on Land as a store of long term value in Nigeria. Also the fact that any time you transfer land, you need the consent of the governor makes the process cumbersome and reduces the bankability of Land” said a legal analyst.

For real estate developers, Land Use Act is a clog in the wheel of their progress and Adetokunbo Ajayi, CEO, Propertygate Development and Investment Company explained that it could kill business opportunity.

“As a developer, when you acquire land for development, you need to register it in order to obtain the title. But you cannot get title for the land without first getting Governor’s Consent, which takes a long time to get. You also need land title in order to have access to capital and you cannot get this access if you don’t have the title”, he said in a telephone interview.

MKO Balogun, CEO, Global Property and Facilities International, agrees, saying it really slows development activities and rate of turnover.

“But this is government policy instrument aimed to regulate land use and checkmate land grabbers. So, despite its drawback in slowing business, it is a worthwhile government instrument”, he said.

Ajayi pointed out that the inability of the National Assembly to review the Act is affecting a major factor of production, which is land, thereby slowing major economic development in the country.

However, most governors are known to be highly opposed to the removal of the Land Use Act because allocations of land is now one of the biggest revenue earners for many states and also provide a platform governors and public officers to corner choice Land for themselves and their cronies.

Deleting the Land Use Act from the constitution would have enabled the National Assembly to amend it more easily. You need a minimum of two third of the members of the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly to amend the constitution, whereas you need just a simple majority of the members of National Assembly to pass or amend a bill.

In a clause by clause consideration of the amendments of the Nigeria constitution, the Senate also rejected 35 percent Affirmative Action for Women for public office positions at both federal and state levels and devolution of powers to state houses of assemblies.

This implies that the country has, officially rejected the clamour by gender activists to get 35 percent appointive positions in line with the Beijing Conference of 1995.

Rejection of devolution of powers to state assemblies comes at a time there are agitations for restructuring of the country to reduce powers at the centre and give more powers to the federating units.

The legislative body also approved financial autonomy for local governments and state legislatures, independent candidates in all elections as well as removal of State Independent Electoral Commissions from the Constitution and transferring the powers to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Also approved was a proposal mandating the President and state governors to appoint Ministers and Commissioners within 30 days of assumption of office and inclusion of portfolios while nominating cabinet members.

Federal lawmakers also lowered age requirement for elective offices.

The development comes 24 hours after hundreds of youths stormed the National Assembly, demanding that lawmakers pass the “Not Too Young to Run Bill.”

Consequently, senators reduced the age for the qualification to run for the office of the President from 40 to 35 years, retention of Senate at 35 years, governors from 35 to 30 years, House of Representatives from 30 to 25 years, House of Assembly from 30 to 25 years as well as that of chairmanship of local governments at 25 years.

Using electronic voting, 86 of 97 senators present voted in favour of the proposal, 10 rejected and one abstained.

Senators also accepted a proposal mandating the President to attend a joint session of the National Assembly once a year to deliver a state-of-the-nation address.

In all, 29 of out of 33 proposals were accepted, while three were rejected.

Other alterations accepted include the amendment of Sections 82 and 122 of the Constitution to reduce the period within which the President or the State Governor may authorise expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) from six months to three months, amendment of the Third Schedule of the Constitution to include former Senate Presidents, Speakers of House of Representatives in the composition of Council of States, abolition of State Joint Local Government Accounts, appointment of a Minister from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), changing the name of the ‘Nigeria Police Force’ to ‘Nigeria Police’, separation of the office of the Accountant General of the Federal Government from the office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

Others are: separation of the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and that of the State from that of the Minister or Commissioner for Justice, placing the office of the Auditor General for the Federation and for State on first-line charges in the Consolidated Revenue Fund by making them financially independent, establishment of the Investments and Securities Tribunal under the Constitution, provision of 30 days timeframe for the President or Governor to assent to a bill passed by the National Assembly or State Assemblies to indicate his refusal of assent, deletion of the Public Complaints Commission Act and National Securities Act from the Constitution.

In his remarks after the amendments, Senate President Bukola Saraki, described the exercise as ‘promise kept’.

He said the alterations will lay the foundation for reform of the country’s political, economic and social development.

His words: “We have through the amendments we have done, redefined our budget processes. We have addressed issues that have held our country down for many years.

Source: Business Day 

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