April 10, 2024

Demarcate, gazette all boundaries

Demarcate, gazette all boundaries

THE territorial dispute between Okuama and Okoloba communities in Delta State is just one of the thousands of such crises in Nigeria. Okuama only became hot news reference point because of the massacre of 17 officers and men of the Nigerian Army, which took place on its soil.

Nigeria is a place where government officials see their post not as a position to work for the country’s development but that of self-gratification. Numerous agencies have been created at state and federal levels, and annual budgets allocated to them. But the problems they were created to solve continue to fester and no one raises a finger.

We have the National Boundary Commission, NBC, which has existed in various forms right from colonial times. Their job is to administer our external and inter-state and local government boundaries. We also have State Boundary Committees which are supposed to do the same among communities, chiefdoms and emirates. The civil servants in these bodies just sit on their bums and collect salaries while the various communities are left to fight it out for territorial control.

Land or territory is important to both man and beast. The difference between man and beast, however, is that people in civilised countries have devised means of territorial governance that make disputes almost unnecessary. Russia, for instance, with a landmass about 20 times that of Nigeria and a population of less than 150 million, has secure boundaries. You hardly ever hear of communal disputes over land in Europe and America. It is only in Africa and parts of the Middle East and Asia that people still fight over land.

In Nigeria, killings over communal land disputes are second only fatalities that arise from armed herdsmen’s attacks to conquer indigenous people and occupy their lands. Apart from unresolved ancestral disputes, some communities, in attempts to take over their neighbours’ lands and exploit resources there, make unfounded claims and back them up with armed attacks.

This is happening because governmental agencies mandated to delineate and administer our boundaries for the peaceful coexistence and development of Nigeria and its constituent parts are not working.

We urge the Federal and state governments to expeditiously ensure that all boundaries down to community and ward levels are demarcated and gazetted. Wherever there are disputes, such lands or territories should be under the control of the State Governor until the issues around them are properly resolved.

It is unfortunate that, apart from subsistence farming, fishing and artisanal mining, our empty land resources are hardly put to any credible use for the benefit of the people as in other places. We fight for territories which we hardly convert for our economic well-being. A country of about 225 million people cannot effectively govern its 923,768sqkm territory.

That is unacceptable.