By Perpetua Onuegbu
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has urged Directors of Lands at both Federal, State levels to proffer solutions to issues hindering land administration and management nationwide.
Fashola made this call on Wednesday at the opening ceremony of the 27th Conference of Directors of Lands in the Federal, States, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) holding in Abuja.
The theme of the 27th conference is `The Land Use Act and Land Management Responsibilities of the Federating Units’ and is scheduled to hold from Oct. 12 to Oct. 13.
The minister said in view of the erroneous interpretation of the land use act and conflicting roles in administering land by various tiers of government the conference was expected to achieve a mutual intergovernmental relationship.
“It presents a valuable opportunity to critically examine the powers of each tier of government in land administration in respect of land acquisition, allocation and landed property management in Nigeria.
“All human endeavor and development efforts are hinged on land and land resources. This makes land a very sensitive and emotive issue.
“The Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, representing the Federal Government, being one of the Federating units has the responsibility of providing housing for Nigerians.
“It is pertinent to note that there have been conflicts in the administration and management of these lands between the Federal and state governments.
“Hence the need for collaboration in land administration in a multi-level administrative system that we have in Nigeria,’’ he said.
Fashola, represented by Mr Godwin Ityoachimin, Director of Lands and Housing Development, FMWH, therefore tasked the participants to critically examine issues such as land acquisition for government projects, prompt payment of compensation to dispossessed owners.
Other issues he enumerated are additional cost to government for delayed compensation payments, trespass and encroachment of Federal Government land, unplanned development of land and maximisation of land resources.
The minister expressed optimism that the conference would come out with a meaningful and workable solution to the problems confronting land administration and management at the various tiers of government.
In his remarks, the Permanent Secretary, FMWH, Mr Bashir Alkali, represented by Mr Uzo Chukwuwike, enjoined the participants to put the interest and needs of Nigerians in focus while performing their duties.
“Knowing that land is central to overall existence of our nation, critically examine the land administration/management issues under the Land Use Act and come up with solutions to eliminating areas of conflict among the operators.
“The outcome of your deliberations will have tremendous effect on the policy direction and reforms in the land and housing sector. Focus should be on the implication on national economy and prosperity of our people,’’ Alkai said.
Mr Godwin Ityoachimin, Director, Lands and Housing Development, FMWH, said the conference was to address the challenges in the land use act.
According to him, the Land Use Act is the grundnorm for the administration and control of land in Nigeria and the law, which has been in existence since 1978 has not been reviewed.
“A law is as good as the people that implement it. So it has been very challenging relating with the tiers of government in the past, the state governors have been ascribed so many powers.
“It is true the law gives them so much power, but in the exercising of these powers there are abuses here and there and then at the federal level it imparts negatively on our services, we are unable to reach Nigerians.
“The way the federal government would have reached in terms of infrastructure and housing provision because some of our projects have been stalled because of constraints inherent in the land acquisition process.
“Sometimes even lands vested in the Federal Government, the states know over time, maybe because of the value of those properties, state government operatives willfully move into those properties. This has created a lot of friction’’.
Speaking from the legal perspective, Mr Benjamin Okolo, Director, Legal Services, FMWH, said in view of the challenges in the Act which included not clearly demarcating the powers and responsibilities of the federal, state and local governments.
“The language of the act with respect to management powers of the governor is unclear from provisions of Sections 1, 2 and 5 of the Act.
“Whether the governor’s power is exclusive to the management of land covered by a grant of statutory right of occupancy or to all rights of occupancy among other challenges.
Okolo therefore recommended that the Land Use Act should be comprehensively amended and moved to the concurrent legislative list of the constitution.
He also recommended that Federal and State ministries in charge of lands and urban development should collaborate to have a memoranda presented to the National Council of States for the issuance of regulations.
Okolo said this should attend to some of the highlighted challenges especially on the responsibility for payment of compensation at least in the interim pending when the Land Use Act may be amended.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the conference is an annual gathering that affords the directors an opportunity to deliberate and share experiences on critical matters relating to land management.
With a view to improving individual professional skills and knowledge, and to make recommendations for optimal management /administration of land in the country.(NAN)