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How 1978 Land Use Act underdeveloped Nigeria, by Mabogunje


Foremost Geographer, Prof. Akin Mabogunje, has blamed high poverty level in Nigeria on nationalisation of land, urging the Federal Government to review its 1978 Land Use Act to empower people.

He advocated a comprehensive cadastral mapping and registration of all lands in the country for the purpose of generating revenue for government and empowering landowners.
He also called on Nigerians to think more on how to develop their communities without waiting on government.

Mabogunje spoke yesterday at a seminar to mark his 86th birthday, organised by the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP) and themed: ‘Decentralised Governance: The People and Development in Nigeria’.


“Nigeria has to start afresh. China has more than a billion in population but it took that country only 20 years to lift 750 million people out of poverty because of its land policy. Rwanda is currently doing the same. Nigerians have no business with poverty, if our land policy is right. The nationalisation of land is the major hindrance to economic power because land is meaningless without survey and titles,” he said.

He also cautioned advocates of local council autonomy to ponder first how that tier of government can generate its own resources without depending on aid from the federation account.

He said: “The most unfortunate thing about this country is that we all believe in handouts. And there is nothing that is free. If councils want to be autonomous, they should first work on being financially autonomous.

“People should ready to pay for services. The free education people talked about in the Western Region in the First Republic was not free. What should be said was free access to education because some people paid taxes for that education to be available.”

Also speaking at the event, the Executive Vice Chairman of ISGPP, Tunji Olaopa, noted that Nigeria’s land troubles began with the 1978 Land Use Act, which “effectively and unfortunately undermines the very spirit of federalism, because the act is a federal law, which overrides any customary or legal dynamics existing within the state.

“In a true federalism, land belongs with the local communities, and hence with the state governments. And it is at this juncture of federalism and genuine land reform that Prof. Mabogunje interjects his reforms and recommendations.”

The chairman, Presidential Technical Committee on Land Reform and Development, Prof. Peter Adeniyi, said the time had come for the ruling All Progressives Congress to implement its campaign promise to review the 1978 Land Use Act, which he described as obsolete and anti-development.

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