BY: VITALIS UGOH, Çalabar
Stakeholders and experts on Environmental issues have drawn the attention of both Federal and state governments on the urgent need to amend the Land Use Act of 1978 to protect women and livelihood in the country.
These views were contained in their various presentations during a one-day validation workshop, organized by Environmental Rights Action/Friends of Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) and the Community Forest Watch in Calabar.
In his paper titled, “Review of Land Use Act 1978 and Propose Model Laws to Promote Community and Women Right, an activist and Lagos-based legal practitioner, Barr Nurudeen Ogbara, called for the inclusion of more women in the membership of the Land Use Act of 1978 as has never been the case.
He said as of today “many families are handicapped in accessing legal prcesses whenever their lands are grabbed by government or multinational companies for use under “public interest”.
Ogbara also regretted after grabbing their lands, compensation are not paid to such victims, noting that’s “there should be parameters on why lands should be acquired by the government and due MOUs for compensation”.
According to him, “under the existing law, you cannot use the acquired land for anything other than public interest but some governors acquire people’s land and convert the same to personal use or give it to political cronies.”
The Model Land Use Bill (MLUB) already before the Cross River state House of Assembly is seeking to protect, sustain and secure livelihood as well as gender consciousness..
The Bill says” land associated with livelihood can no longer be acquired by government for public purpose”.L ands upon which the people depend on for their livelihood should not be acquired by the government except it is absolutely impossible to get an alternative land. Also, livelihood has been made a human right issue and so provisions should be made for all authorities to take into cognizance this critical need”.
Dr. Rebecca Enuoh, a lecturer from the University of Calabar in her paper titled ‘Strategies for Women Involvement in Land Reform’ said gender inequality was correlated with intense poverty and exclusion of women and insecure land rights for women threaten their progress.
Therefore she advised women to speak in one voice over matters such as exclusion of women in policy making bodies.
She said “women are more likely to rise where there are women in leadership. Decide to speak out and be determined to be heard”.
Enuoh said “land belongs to everyone and not only for men. Lands are mostly cultivated by women as this can be proved in our various homes, communities and villages
She sued for support and cooperation from all and sundry in the course to back women up whenever the need arises.
Enuoh regretted that women are negatively impacted by the effect of environmental degradation such as land grabbing and deforestation in our society.
Earlier, the Executive Director, ERA/FoEN, Dr. Godwin Ojo, represented by Dr. Ralph Offiong, said the Land Use Act as implemented has robbed communities, mostly women, of their means of livelihood and that the practice of gender inequality in Land governance has increased poverty and breed deprivations, and therefore should be amended
Also speaking, Rt.Hon. Charles Ekpe Okon, Chairman , House Committee on Agriculture in Cross River State House of Assembly, said the bills before the House is the Second Reading.,
Okon said the draft of the Model Land Use Bill (MLUB) at the Assembly had passed through the first reading and that it would soon pass through the second after which the House would call for public hearing.
He believed that the Bill would address some lingering issues in land governance in the state, and that the House would take all issues raised into consideration, adding that steps were being taken to address the cry of women marginalization, exclusion and other ills associated with land governance in Cross River State.
“The Law is for everybody and communities and stakeholders should give accurate information to help in passing the bill which is for our overall benefit. The bill will help address some lingering issues in land governance in the state. This is very important at this stage and we are not rushing the bill so as to come up with what will be of utmost benefit to the State,” he stated.
Other papers presented includes “Contribution to Regional Land Governance and “Land Governance in ECOWAS Region: Strategies for addressing the Gap”..