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Lawyers seek review of Land Use Act, want land control revert to owners


By Sandra Umeh

Lagos – Some lawyers on Tuesday in Lagos called for a review of the provisions of the Land Use Act of 1978 to keep reflect current realities and circumstances.

The lawyers told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in interviews that the review would also enhance access to land titles.

According to them, the provisions of the Act are obsolete and need urgent remodeling.

NAN reports that the Act regulates the use and administration of lands.

It vests all lands comprised in the territory of each state (except land vested in the Federal Government or its agencies) solely in the governor of the state.

The governor is responsible for allocation of lands in all urban areas to individuals and organisations for residential, agriculture, commercial and other purposes while similar powers with respect to non-urban areas are conferred on local governments.

Some Lagos-based lawyers argued on Tuesday that the Act conferred much powers on the governor whose consent, they claimed, was rigorous to obtain.

Mr Spurgeon Ataene, who is also a social critic, told NAN that the Land Use Act required urgent reforms.

According to him, the Act seems oppressive on land owners, as citizens are faced with outrageous bills to secure certificates of occupancy and governor’s consent.

“Let the control of land revert to the people; if government is interested in any land for public policy, it should involve the owners of the land, and pay them enough compensation.

“The control government needs to exert should be in ensuring quality buildings to avoid building collapse and loss of lives; penalties should be spelt out for offenders.

“Another means is to incorporate clauses that will ensure prompt compliance with affordable housing policy; nobody should frustrate citizens by giving premium to one area of the city over the rest, as if those other areas are non-existent.

“The sooner we remove these segregations, the better for all citizens,” he said.

Ataene said that land and any property on it should be left to the benefit of its original owners to enjoy in perpetuity, urging that there should be no reversal of such even after the 99 years.

“All multiple levies on lands should be removed; one affordable levy is sufficient,” he advised.

The immediate past Second Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Onyekachi Ubani, told NAN: “The issue of vesting all lands in the governor is very archaic and actually hampering transactions in land.

“`Getting a certificate of occupancy or obtaining governor’s consent is a rigorous process especially in cities such as Lagos and Abuja.”

According to Ubani, title to land is key to land transactions for dealers and investors, as land cannot be used as collateral for bank loans, if there is no governor’s consent and without requisite authentication.

He called for easy access to land titles to give value to lands.

“The Land Use Act has to be amended in relation to this,” he said.

The lawyer, however, noted that the Land Use Act formed part of the nation’s constitution, and must first be separated from the constitution before any review or amendment could be possible.

“Knowing the rigidity of our constitution, we cannot just amend the Land Use Act which forms part of this constitution; first, it should be removed,’’ he urged.

A commercial lawyer, Mr Godwin Adelemoni, told NAN that at the time of enacting the Act, it was necessary to put management of lands under a central control; hence, the need to vest all lands in each state under the control of its governor.

He said, however, that the powers given to the governor appeared to be too expansive, as by virtue of the Act, dealings on land from sale, purchase to mortgage must be done pursuant to the consent of the governor.

“It then means that if you intend to acquire land for factories, farms, property development or even personal use, you must seek the governor’s consent to legalise such land deals.

“This bottleneck must be removed either by narrowing down the types of land transactions that require governor’s consent or by reducing the excessive powers granted to the governor on lands,’’ he said.

According to Adelemoni, state governments can remove the difficulties faced by citizens in registering their land titles as a strategy to enhance access.

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