Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has berated state governors for impeding the effectiveness of the Land Use Act saying that land commission and registration are needed to make ownership of a valuable asset effective.
Obasanjo who was speaking at the weekend added that the Land Use Act worked very well initially, through the land allocation committees at the state and local government levels, which were part and parcel of the law, but the governors abandoned the committees because of the powers vested in them. Speaking at the annual World Bank’s Land and Poverty Conference 2017 with theme: ‘Responsible Land Governance—Towards an Evidence-Based Approach’, at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington D.C, United States, on the necessity of the Africa Land Advisory Group, Obasanjo said that the African culture supersedes the government and the law in most scenario.
The former President affirmed that one of the things that he learnt from President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania was the attachment of Africans to their ancestral land. He said that Julius Nyerere told him that it was the reason why his (Nyerere) Ujamaa programme failed because he wanted to move people from their small settlement to a better place so that they could have water and electricity and good life, but the attachment of the people to their ancestral land negates the plan. “In Nigeria, we had formulated a policy called Land Use Act. We tried to harmonise land tenure system and I think that from what my sister from Uganda said, they are trying to do something like that.
We had committees for land allocation at the state level and at the local government level. What the Land Use Act did mainly is to make the state governments hold land in trust for the citizens and those who needed to use the land had to harmonise the land tenure system, he said “Initially it worked very well because of the land allocation committees at the state level and the local government levels, but later the governor because of the power given to them, they abandoned the various allocation committees, which was part and parcel of the law. That was embedded in the Land Act.
On land reclamation by the Lagos state government, Obasanjo noted that it is important to create land for agricultural purposes not just for residential and official building.
“In one part of our own country Nigeria, Lagos, they keep filling the lagoon to create land but I found that the land that they are ‘creating’ is only for housing. They haven’t created land for agriculture yet and agriculture is very important.
“So because of the finiteness of land, that is why the equitable distribution and access to land is very important. I cannot say that I want to create land for some people, I have to take out of the land that has already been there.