Environmental experts have called for the review of the Land Use Act, saying it has been abused by state governments.
The experts submitted that current Land Use Act, which came into effect in 1978, has outlived its usefulness as it serves the interest of few privileged persons in government at the detriment of communities and the masses.
They said this on Friday in Calabar, Cross River State at the end of a two-day public lecture with the theme: ‘Policy intersection: Strengthening bottom-up accountability amidst land grabs in Nigeria.’
The lecture was organised by Environmental Rights Action/Friends of Earth Nigeria and facilitated by Dr Maurice Olory of the Community Forest Watch, Centre for Educational Services, University of Calabar.
According to Olory, who spoke on: ‘The Cross River experience- the need for a modern Land Use Act’, the Act has become oppressive as top government officials, especially governors, have resorted to using it for their personal gains.
He said, “The Act is oppressive and it gives too much power to governments, especially the governors who take land in the name of overriding public interest and divert it for their personal interest.
“There is, therefore, the need for the national framework and policy on land use and the need for a modern Land Use Act for the country.”
Presenting a paper on the theme of the lecture, the Head of Department, Urban and Regional Planning, University of Calabar, Dr Raphael Offiong, said over the years, many communities in Cross River State have lost their lands needlessly to the government.
“Over the years, with this Land Use Act, many individuals and communities in Cross River State such as Ekong Anaku, Mbarakom, Njaghasang among others have lost their land to government and multinationals without due consultation.
“The Land Use Act has led to indiscriminate entry into contiguous community land without due consultation, lack of restriction on land intake and lack of farm expansion leading to unemployment as the government acquires land for overriding public interest but transfer same without consulting the people.
“The Land Use Act has not done any good for the locals, there is a great extent of land grabbing, leading to the displacement of the rural inhabitants.
“The continuous land grabbing may lead to conflicts between multinationals and the rural communities in Cross River if urgent action is not taken to arrest the situation,” he said.
Originally published in The Punch