The president’s grazing routes – Part 2
It is important to highlight the provisions of section 34 of the LUA, in relation to the ownership of land prior to the commencement of the Act in 1978. It states as follows:
“34. (1) The following provisions of this section shall have effect in respect of land in an urban area vested in any person immediately before the commencement of this Act.
(2) Where the land is developed the shall continue to be held by the person in whom it was vested immediately before the commencement of this Act as if the holder of the land was the holder of a statutory right of occupancy issued by the Governor under this Act.”
Without any doubt therefore, the LUA preserves and protects land vested in citizens prior to its commencement in 1978, as such persons have deemed right of occupancy even though it has not been issued officially by the Governor. All they need do is to apply for it. If this is the case (and no doubt it is), the President cannot extinguish the right of land ownership granted under the LUA for the purpose of imposing grazing routes on land owners.
Sections 43 and 44 of the Constitution are clear on the right to own immovable property (land) and freedom from compulsory acquisition, whether for grazing or any other purpose.
“43. Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, every citizen of Nigeria shall have the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria.”
44. (1) No moveable property or any interest in an immovable property shall be taken possession of compulsorily and no right over or interest in any such property shall be acquired compulsorily in any part of Nigeria except in the manner and for the purpose prescribed by a law that, among other things:
(a) requires the prompt payment of compensation therefor; and
(b) gives to any person claiming such compensation a right of access for the determination of his interest in the property and the amount of compensation to a court of law or tribunal or body having jurisdiction in that part of Nigeria.”
The zeal with which the President has been pursuing the establishment of grazing routes can only mean that he is working in line with a hidden agenda, which he has not openly declared to the people of Nigeria that elected him into office. The governors who have control of use and management of land have openly condemned and opposed unrestrained open grazing as being impracticable and unsustainable. In whose interest therefore, is the President then acting, if I may ask?
The concept of open grazing, which the President is propagating with all his energy, is totally outdated. If the President had summoned the same zeal with which he has granted several media chats in support of open grazing, if the President had mobilized the same strength with which he is presently pursuing the recovery of the so-called grazing routes, to tackle insurgency and the mindless invasion by bandits, Nigeria would have been a peaceful place to live in. According to Wikipedia, grazing is “a method of animal husbandry whereby domestic livestock are allowed outdoors to consume wild vegetation in order to convert grass and other forages into meat, milk, wool and other animal products, often on land unsuitable for arable farming.” In Nigeria, the animals being referred to are the cows, assembled together by herdsmen who are itinerant livestock farmers. From the Wikipedia definition, the grass to be grazed is usually on land not suitable for arable farming. This then takes us to the very important question of ownership of land.
Generally, grazing is not expected to be a free for all exercise embarked upon openly and with reckless abandon, not giving care to ownership of land and farmlands. This is the major difference between the position of the President and the people of Nigeria. Open grazing simply means that herdsmen will be free to trespass upon land anywhere and at any time, with their cattle, whether or not that may lead to destruction of crops on farmlands is immaterial. In order to preserve the provisions of the Land Use Act, it has been inserted into the 1999 Constitution as one of the laws that cannot be easily amended. The right of occupancy granted under the LUA has been held to be sacrosanct, by the Supreme Court and it cannot be overreached even by the Governor, without following due process of law through proper acquisition and compensation. If the Governor cannot take over land without following due process of law, how will it be possible for herdsmen to take over people’s land without their consent and even proceed to destroy their crops, at will and unquestioned? This is what the President is defending, with our meager resources. It is simply unacceptable and I urge the President to drop the idea of compulsory and illegal grazing routes.
Adegboruwa is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).