By JUDE NJOKU
As the National Conference votes this week on whether the contentious 1978 Land Use Act which was allegedly ‘smuggled’ into the 1999 Nigerian Constitution by the military junta led by General Olusegun Obasanjo rtd, should be expunged from the statute books or retained, built environment experts have called on delegates to the conference to vote in favour of its expurgation.
The experts explained that removing the Act from the Constitution, would make its amendment less cumbersome. According to them, the law which was made about 36 years ago, should be reviewed in line with prevailing economic realities. They maintained that its retention in the Constitution would make the amendment almost impossible.
The experts spoke against the backdrop of a statement credited to a group in the Conference which vowed to resist the removal of the Act from the Constitution.
Vanguard Homes & Property recalls that the Committee on Land Tenure Matters and National Boundaries, had earlier recommended the removal of the Act which has been abused by many State Governors, from the Constitution.
But some delegates have vowed to resist this with all vehemence. These delegates also declared their readiness to ensure that the “draconian recommendation” by the Conference Committee on Land Tenure Matters and National Boundaries, does not sail through at the plenary.
Speaking on behalf of the ‘pro-poor’ delegates at the National Conference, a delegate representing Ondo State, Mr. Remi Olatubora alleged that the poor masses of Nigeria would further be pauperised if the Land Use Act is eventually removed from the Constitution.
Olatubora, who is also the leader of Ondo State delegates to conference, said: “This particular draconian recommendation of the committee is against the poor masses of this country; it is a coup against the poor masses of this country and we must all stand against it”.
According to him, the recommendation was a decoy for the few rich persons in Nigeria to take over the entire land space and make the poor owners of land their laborers.
He alleged that hundreds of land speculators have besieged Abuja, lobbying delegates with cash and other inducements for them to support the removal of the Land Use Act from the nation’s constitution.
But the representative of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, NIESV at the Confab, Mr Emeka Eleh debunked the claims of the pro-poor group, saying they are ill-informed. Eleh who is the immediate past President of NIESV, told Vanguard Homes & Property that all the built environment experts at the Confab have spoken with one voice to demand the removal of the Act from the Constitution. He wondered how somebody in his right mind would say that retaining the Act in the Constitution is a pro-poor decision.
He posited that all efforts to amend some contentious sections of the Act, as recommended by estate surveyors and valuers and relevant stakeholders failed because it was entrenched into the 1978 Constitution and has remained there till date. Previous constitutional reviews carried out by National Assembly in the past, did nothing to either expunge the Act from the Constitution or amend its contentious sections because the politicians were only interested in amending the electoral act and other sections they had interest in.
The former NIESV President further posited that the clamour to remove the Act from the constitution is not a ploy to whittle down its efficacy but an attempt to make its amendment, as the need arises, less cumbersome. “Amending the Land Use Act is a very tedious process because it is part of the Constitution. The Act should be removed from the Constitution so that those sections that we consider the major problems like the consent provision can be amended,” he said.
Lagos State Chairman of NIESV, Mr. Stephen Jagun argued that there would be no meaningful growth in the real sector if land continues to be under the firm grips of State.