Some times ago there was the news item about a former Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja allocating several plots of land to his wives, the President and other cronies some of which were done on the day he was leaving office.
Similarly, a lot of furors has been generated by several abuse of land allocation in Ogun State of recent. If other states are examined, the story is not likely to be different.
We also woke up one morning only to be told that two first ladies were fighting over allocation of the same plot in Abuja. A former first lady claimed that the land in question was allocated to her while a present one was equally allocated the same piece of land! There had also been several cases of political vindictiveness in some states where allocations of land were revoked not for public overriding purposes but because the allottees belong to different political parties from those of the incumbent governors.
Those who drafted the land use decree (now Act) must have thought of these kind of things would happen by not arrogating the power to allocate land absolutely to one person, the state governor.
In their wisdom, they made provision for the establishment of a “LAND USE AND ALLOCATION COMMITTEE (LUAC) whose purpose is to make sure that the process of land allocation to the citizens of each state is subjected to some processes of scrutiny and rational reasoning before allocations of land are made.
Hence, section 2.2 of the Land Use Act (LUA) provides. “There shall be established in each state a body to be known as “the Land Use and Allocation Committee” which shall have responsibility for:-
- Advising the Military Governor on any matter connected with the management of land to which paragraph (a) of subsection (1) above relates;
- Advising the Military Governor on any matter connected with the resettlement of persons affected by the revocation of rights of occupancy on the ground of overriding public interest under this Decree; and
- Determining disputes as to the amount of compensation payable under this Decree for improvements on land.
Now paragraph (a) of subsection (1) states- “As from the commencement of this Decree, all land in urban areas shall be under the control and management of the Military Governor of each state”.
It is clear from this two sections that the control and management of land in each state is to be done by the Governor subject to or with the advice of the Land Use and Allocation Committee (LUAC)!
Section 5 of the decree also made similar provision in respect of land in the rural areas, i.e. “there shall be established a Land Allocation Advisory Committee in each local government to advise the local government on any matter connected with the management of land to which paragraph (b) of subsection (1) above refers”.
The subsection referred to states- “all other land shall subject to this Decree, be under the control and management of the local government within the area of jurisdiction of which the land is situated” .
It follows therefore that the management and control of land in the rural areas should also be subject to the advise of the “Land Allocation Advisory Committee” to be set up in each local government areas.
The question that should come to mind now is how many state governments have constituted Land Use and Allocation Committee? In the absence of such a committee, state governors have continued to singularly excise the right to allocate land in their states to who ever pleases them and at rates and conditions determined by them! That is why it is possible for some governors to allocate land to their cronies with a waiver of statutory payments some to even to ridiculous extents! The case of Ogun State may be a child’s play if what is happening or has happened in most other states are exposed.
In the same way, if the FCT has a functional Land Use and Allocation Committee, most of the abuses of land allocation that have been exposed there may not have happened.
A former Minister of the FCT discovered and exposed a lot of irregularities in the allocation of land in the Federal Capital where land meant for public uses, open spaces and land over sewers were allocated to cronies of people in power but he is said to have ended up committing similar offences during his own tenure.
“Absolute power corrupts” is a common saying. Perhaps this is what was in the mind of those who drafted the Land Use Decree that made them to insert the clause that provided for the Land Use and Allocation Committee (LUAC). Unfortunately, ours is a country where those in power choose which part of the laws they will obey. In more civilized countries, somebody would have gone to court to compel the Governors to obey this constitutional requirement of the Land Use Act to constitute the Land Use and Allocation Committee (LUAC) as provided for in the law.
Section 2.3 made provision for the membership of the Land Use and Allocation Committee. This is to include a legal practitioner and two estate surveyors and valuers of not less than five (5) years experience. The inclusion of these professionals is to bring some professional expertise to the process of control and management of land in the states. The writers of the law must have envisaged that the Governors would not necessarily be knowledgeable enough in the management of land- a very scarce resource.
Hence the provision for two estate surveyors who are trained in the economics of land use and management in the committee. This is to ensure that every action to be taken by the Governor would have passed the necessary test during the deliberation of the committee. In the same vein, all the legal implications of any excise to be recommended by the committee would have been subjected to legal scrutiny to ensure that all actions of the Governors in the process of land allocation and management including revocation of rights are perfectly within the law.
There is little wonder then why there had been several abuses of land uses whereby land meant for public open spaces, schools, hospitals, shops, fire and police, etc. have been converted to residential plots and allocated to satisfy the demands of friends and political associates of the governors in power! The Land Use and Allocation Committee would have prevented these happening if such decisions have passed through them. But even in the few cases where such committees have been constituted, these professionals are not included as provided by the law.
There had been calls for the removal of the Land Use Act from the constitution to make it amenable to amendments as and when necessary or to amend several parts of it which have been found unworkable. Thirteen years of the National Assemblies have failed to produce a single amendment to this law! Perhaps the on-going proposal to amend parts of the 1979 constitution to which the Land Use Act was made a part of by the Obasanjo’s supreme military council by a fiat will finally direct its search light on this part of the constitution.
If this happens, it will be delighted if an amendment could be made to make it compulsory for all land allocations by the Governors to be subject to the recommendation of the Land Use and Allocation Committee. If this is done, it will, to some extent, curb or reduce the flagrant abuse of the process of land allocation by the Governors.
Chief Kola Akomolede
President, International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI), Nigeria Chapter & Chairman, Faculty of Housing, NIESV.