SUGGESTIVE ROADMAPS TO ENDING LAND GRABBING IN EDO STATE:
BY Leftist Osazee Edigin AICMC is an estate developer and a human rights activist.
It’s usually said that desperate times call for desperate measures. Every society have developed solutions to their peculiar challenges because the brain needs to be engaged in resolving any challenge present.
There was an incident that happened penultimate week in Benin City which has to do with the demolition of some buildings in a community called Ulegun which the secretary to the Benin Traditional Council and some chiefs were said to have executed. This incident struck a for and against positions as to whether the action was right or wrong. What this post seek to address isn’t who was right or wrong but to critically examine the issues leading to what happened and how effective policies can be put in place to reverse the ugly trend.
The Oba of Benin and the current state governor came on board almost same period. Among their major policy thrusts was putting an end to land grabbing menace at all cost. The Oba of Benin as the custodian of the traditional administration of Edo south senatorial district indigenes called on the abolition of the Community Development Association (CDA) and the administration of land in communities by youths. He declared that land transactions and related activities falls within the purview of dukes, odionweres and elders of each community.
The state governor on his part initiated an executive bill on the protection of private properties and related matters which prohibited the forceful entry of lands and placed a ban on the activities of the CDAs. A committee was set up to look at complaints headed by a former IGP, Dr. Solomon Arase. This seemed to have brought some respites as petitions flooded the table of the committee. Arase resigned his position after a while and the committee fell into the hands of core politicians and some persons who have been accused of land grabbing in the past. The rest they say is history.
The committee and the enabling law itself suffered some setbacks as it became clear that the handlers turned it to their own share of the political patronage while the law had some defects that necessitated it to undergo another round of review by the state house of assembly. At another time, the legal status of the committee was challenged in court as to whether it has the powers to sit and adjudicate on land related matters. The court ruled that the committee does not have jurisdiction to entertain land related matters save a court of competent jurisdiction. We can conveniently hold the failure of that approach to the failure of government to carry out wide consultation with stakeholders in finding lasting solutions.
The demolition that took place in Ulegun community was supposed to be a pointer for Edo people to sit back and begin to ponder on how to forestall future occurrences, moreso looking at the institution involved, which suggests that it has been taken to a very high pitch. The fight against land grabbing cannot be won through reactionary approach but through well thought out policies and strategy. Edo state government through EDOGIS have been selling a dummy approach to people that a holder of a C of O owns the land. It is a known fact that a C of O doesn’t confer absolute ownership of land to a holder of it. This has been a marketing strategy to raise revenue base for the government without solving the inherent problems with land grabbing in the state.
The process of buying landed properties should be streamlined that communities and individuals selling or buying must follow a centrally configured process. A central digitalized register for land sales and purchase can come to the rescue. All lands document should have security features and a unique number that can easily be verified online even through mobile phones. It must be one authority/agency that should issue a building land approval after an application made to it. Before a land is bought, a buyer can easily check online using the coordinates and unique number on the land document to check if the land truly belongs to the seller or if it’s a government acquired land. This is capable of reving up revenue for the state government if properly annexed and managed. This is a different commercial proposal entirely.
On the issue of disputes on land ownership, special courts should be created for land related matters and there should be a court directive that any matter shouldn’t exceed one year before judgement. This will eliminate unnecessary adjournment and delays. The cases should be heard and disposed as soon as possible. Some land related matters have been in the lower court for over 20 years. This is capable of discouraging people from going to court and would rather resort to self help. A special enforcement police detachment should be put in place to execute judgement as well.
As we speak even government lands have been taken over by land grabbers and some buyers are also accomplices in it. This is a challenge before us that we all should put our heads together and eradicate.
Leftist Osazee Edigin AICMC is an estate developer and a human rights activist.