The National Assembly Constitution Review Committee has been asked to pass legislation that would abolish the Land Use Act from the Nigerian Constitution. This call was made by a pro-Niger Delta group, the Indigenous People Of Niger Delta, IPND.
The IPND carpeted the land Use Act decree, which according to them was an instrument of exploitation that was inserted into the Constitution to legitimize the stealing of the lands and resources of the Niger Delta people.
In a press release by the group’s President General, Tiemo Pumokumo, the group stated that: ” we, reject the subjecting of Niger Deltans rights to self determination to a vote of majority in the National Assembly, when we are called a Minority.
“A Constitution is meant to guarantee and protect our rights and not to take away our rights, land, resources, culture and heritage. Our Constitution should promote togetherness, unity, stronger cohesion and not promote disunity which is the present situation in Nigeria today”.
“A Constitution is the primary contract or law by which the government of a nation or state is set out and organized, the Indigenous People Of Niger Delta never signed this Contract taking away their rights,lands and resources”.
“A nation is a stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, history, ethnicity, or psychological make-up manifested in a common culture. It is a cultural-political community that has become conscious of its autonomy, unity, and particular interests. This is not the case in Nigeria.”
“We must all condemn the wrong impression that the North has more numbers in the National Assembly than the South, hence calling it a game of numbers. We must device means by which we can continue to live in peace and sustain our unity as a nation”.
The President General took further swipe at the subsisting constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as not being representative or reflective of the all the constituent groups in the federation, adding that the political class and elected Representatives had disappointed the country and Nigerians.
He challenged the politicians of the Niger Delta region to rise up to challenge the marginalization of the region, which, despite its role as the goose that lays the golden egg that nourishes and sustains the nation’s economy, is treated like a pariah in the country’s committee of federating regions.
The Land Use Act, enacted in 1978, was meant to standardise land administration systems across the country. It vested all urban land within a state in the state governor, and all non-urban land in the local governments in which they are found. (There are currently 36 states in Nigeria, and 774 local government areas.) The state governor and local government authorities are empowered by the Act to grant “statutory rights of occupancy”.
The Act also provided for the establishment of land use and allocation committees to advise state governors, and land allocation advisory committees to advise local governments. Excluded from the control of state and local governments are all lands designated to be federal – for example land occupied by federal agencies and departments.
However, the Land Use Act has become one of the most contentious legislations in Nigeria. Experts have opined that the Act is overdue for a comprehensive review. They have also repeatedly called for the Act to be removed from the Constitution to make its amendment more realistic and less cumbersome.