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Tackling farmers, herdsmen’s clashes with land reforms



To find lasting solution to land ownership between farmers and herders, the Presidential Technical Committee on Land Reform inaugurated by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua in 2009 as a forerunner to the National Land Commission recently held a dialogue on land. BERTRAM NWANNEKANMA writes that the three-day event attended by stakeholders, including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in Abuja, opens a new vista in Nigeria’s land reform process.

Issues of land administration predate Nigeria’s corporate existence, though the ravaging farmers’ herders’ clashes is worsening the open sore.

Since the announcement by the Federal Government of its intention to establish grazing reserves in Nigeria, uncertainty has continued to trail the scheme and this has resulted in farmers/herdsmen clashes across the country.


Consequently, the crisis has brought about adverse economic losses to agriculture.

Basically, the grazing reserves in Nigeria are areas set aside for the use of pastoralists and are intended to be the foci of livestock development. Indeed, the purpose of grazing reserves is the settlement of nomadic pastoralists.

They offer security of tenure as an inducement to sedentarization through the provision of land for grazing and permanent water.

But, however, the reality on ground has shown that many states in the country are against the government’s decision to establish grazing reserves in their territories because of the communal clashes, including hatred between the farmers and herdsmen in farm grazing activities.

Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, which has been trending positively since the third quarter of 2016, bucked the trend reversing down to 1.95 per cent in the first quarter of 2018, from 2.11 per cent recorded in the preceding quarter (fourth quarter, 2017), with the agricultural sector recording the lowest growth rate since 2013.

The agricultural sector had led growth in GDP for several quarters and analysts have attributed the sudden decline to the severe impact of increasing incidence of farmer/herdsmen clashes across the farm belts of the country.


This is just a facet of the hydra-headed problems besetting land administration in the country.

Although land remains a veritable resource, increasingly important in the context of development and poverty alleviation, it has however endured ineffective management, which has led to humongous loss of derivable benefits to the citizens and government.

For instance, since the commencement of registration of land in 1863 under the colonial administration, not more than three per cent of Nigeria’s landmass of 923,768 square kilometres has been surveyed and registered.

In its report on the Land Governance Assessment Framework Study in Nigeria in 2011, the World Bank recommended the establishment of a National Land Commission to provide the institutional support needed to enable the Council of State pass the crucial regulations to facilitate the implementation of the Land Use Act and to monitor land system performance as a technical body with representation from key actors.

This has particularly not been effective because one of the best ways of accessing the benefits of land ownership and promoting individual and collective development is by having title to the land, which opens up new opportunities, including the ease of collaterising it to obtain financial leverage for investments in business and agriculture, ease of exchange and commanding higher value than unregistered land in case of sale or other forms of alienation.

Regrettably, Nigeria does not have, and has never had a National Land Policy, which should have set out the broad guidelines for land governance, land use and tenure arrangements, among others.


What is obtainable is a national land law, the Land Use Act of 1978, which was enacted as a military decree to place all lands in the country under state control and thus unify the land tenure system.

The lack of a national land policy since independence suggests a clear underestimation of the centrality and importance of land to sustainable development and livelihood.

As a result of this development, the key legal framework for driving the reform process is the Land Use Decree, 1978, which defines the existing land tenure system.

This law clearly requires advancement because of the absence of regulations necessary to deal with the issues of possessory rights, tenure security, assignment of rights, land registries, lease, devolution of interests and mortgages among other related issues.

However, in a bid to change the narrative, the Presidential Technical Committee on Land Reform last week held a national stakeholders’ dialogue on land, with professionals from Ministries of Lands and Survey in the states, local government land officials, Attorneys-General of the states, land administrators and built professionals in attendance.

Speaking at the event, chairman, Presidential Technical Committee on Land Reform (PTCLR), Prof. Peter Adeniyi, said several attempts in the past at land reform had not met the desired results.

He stressed that the key purpose of land reform is to improve the lot of the majority of citizens within a geographically defined entity by government directly intervening to change the rules and forms of ownership, the administrative and adjudication processes, and the pattern of relationships in connection with owning, acquiring and trading in land, among other things.


According to him, there is a consensus that efficient use and management of land as a critical economic asset can only be actualized through the establishment of an appropriate legal and institutional framework.

He said: “Land reform is a purposeful change in the ways or manners in which land is held, administered, managed, used, accessed, or exchanged.

A common form is agrarian reform to restructure mode of relationships and ownership of agricultural land for equity and improved productivity.

Other forms include tenure and ownership reforms, mass compulsory titling, process reforms, or a combination of two or more of these and other forms”.

The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, in his remarks, noted the importance of land, saying it is not just land but everything from ethnic and cultural capital and legitimacy, to economic potential.

This, he said, explains why families, neighbours, communities and even nations, resort so easily to war over land.

According to him, history is replete with accounts of how land and the resources in, and on it, have decided the fate of nations and kingdoms, hence a good number of the security issues facing Nigeria today as a nation, whether they are clashes between herdsman and farmers, or boundary and border disputes, or the debates around resource control and fiscal federalism –are firmly rooted in the land.

Osinabjo stressed that land reform conversation is far from being unique to Nigeria as there is so much that can be learned from the experiences of other African countries, such as Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa.

He expressed delight that the African Land Reform Advisory Group sent a strong delegation to the meeting.

“The economic policy of the present government is strongly influenced by the notion that given the size of the bottom of the pyramid in our country we must focus policies, especially credit and land ownership, on that segment of the populace. This is the path of economic and ultimately social reformation of our country”, he noted.

He expressed regrets that despite all of these efforts, only about 3 per cent of Nigeria’s land area of over 923,768 square kilometres is documented in land registries, a century and a half after the Colony of Lagos, took the lead in introducing land registration in Nigeria.


“With so much unregistered land, it should not be a surprise therefore, that the benefits of land titling and registration have continued to elude us”, he added.

In his keynote address, professor of Land Economics, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Prof. Ezekiel Olukayode Idowu, said a well functioning urban and rural land markets, and land taxation, operated under a properly formulated but transparent Land Use Policy will release lands for development purposes that are beneficial to all.

Speaking on the topic: “Land Reform: Creating Strategic Pathway to National Economic Development and Wealth Creation”, Idowu called for the urgent formulation of a comprehensive land policy and creation of a national land commission for the country.

“To achieve this, land relations must be transformed from their current complex and confused juridical forms (that include communal, feudal, family, freehold and other holdings to a comprehensive Land Reform.

This should be radically different from the present Land Use Act with its attendant multiplicity of interests and ambiguities.

Individuals, families, cooperatives and corporate bodies should be given titles to land.

“Nigerians would then be able to use their ingenuity to invest, produce, eliminate poverty and create wealth for themselves and the country would develop. All forms of insecurity would then vanish and the country will experience lasting peace”, he added.


Speaking on the theme: “Mainstreaming land Titling and Registration in Nigeria”, Dr. Dodo Danasabe of the Centre for Geodesy and Geodynamics (CGG) National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), noted the growing need for efficient land information for planning, development and control of land resources in order to avoid wastes.

He called for the adoption of cadastre system, which contains un-ambiguous descriptions of the physical location and extent of a parcel of land, the related rights to the land and information on the land.

According to him, the main objects of land titling and registration are to protect property rights, facilitate transactions in land, and enable land to be used as collateral for a loan.

“A system of land title registration identifies each individual land parcel and provides confirmation by the state that the person named in the register has specified property rights in that parcel. Land title registration should be simple, reliable, prompt, affordable and well suited to the society it serves.

“The experience of a number of countries shows that attempts to introduce a land title registration system will be unsuccessful unless that system is supported by appropriate legislation and institutions, and unless there are sufficient financial and human resources for its implementation and maintenance”, he added.
He also stressed the need for the expansion of the membership of the PTCLR to include the state governors.

He suggested a name change to National Technical Committee on Land Reform (NTCLR), where each state governor will have a representative in the committee and decisions binding on all states.

In his lecture titled ‘Institutional Framework for Land Reform: Lessons from Africa, Asia and Europe’, the Managing Director, Land Equity International Pty Ltd, Anthony Burns, noted the increased interest by governments and development partners in funding and supporting land administrative reform.

Stressing the challenges to government in implementing land administration reform, he said Nigeria has been attempting to undertake systematic land titling and registration (SLTR) in several states and SLTR is a topic for this Dialogue.

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