Department of Geography, College of Education Katsina-Ala
The paper examines consent provisions under the Land Use Act and stresses the position of the Governor in whom all land in the state is vested, except where the Act clearly states otherwise as having a final say on land matters. It further stresses that in order to minimize clashes between pastoralists and peasant farmers, the Governor’s consent should be sought and got after a careful profiling of the herdsmen is done, before land can be enjoyed. It therefore recommends ranching, banning open grazing among other suggestions to reduce the conflict.
Prior to the promulgation of the Land Use Act in 1978, land in Nigeria was under different authorities with diverse management problems. For instance, the application of customary law which was in vogue in each case was often the one prevailing in the area where the land was situated. There was no uniform system of customary law operating throughout Nigeria. Access to land was the privilege of being a member of the family or community. The West African Lands Committee of 1912 (in Egute, 2002) captures this aptly, “land belongs to a vast family of which many are dead, a few are living and countless number still unborn”. The land tenure system in the north was independent of what obtained in the East and the West. With this kind of scenario, access to land for over-riding public interest was not easy to come by. While this subsisted, there was also a bourgeoning population with a penchant for rapid industrialization, agricultural expansion and urbanization, all requiring land that could not be easily acquired. Where land could be got, the cost was prohibitive as land speculators bought land at low prices only to sell at exorbitant prices in what is known as land racketeering. It is also important to note that prior to the enactment of the Land Use Act, the acquisition of land by Nigerians and Corporate bodies in some parts of the country was frustrated by customary law practices that did not recognize the sale of land. To crown it all, even the government could not readily obtain land from the holders for over-riding public purposes, as government was required in some cases to pay huge amounts as compensation. Land proclamations of 1910, 1916 and 1962 which sought to position the government strategically in land matters still had features typifying regional governments. For example, a Northerner could not own land in the South and vice versa. The application of customary law in each case was often the one prevailing in the area where the land was situated. The cardinal principle of customary land tenure in Nigeria was that land belonged to all the people which may be held by families, communities or individuals. The right to access was the privilege of being a member of the family or community. Alienation, transfer or terms of grant were normally restricted only to strangers. A stranger may be defined as a person who is not related by kinship to the native community and has not been residing on, or within native land. He cannot acquire land unless consent of the head of the family or community is sought and granted. While these practices subsisted, the Land and Native Rights Proclamation of 1910 by Sir Percy Girouard was particularly necessitated by two reasons: the colonialists wanted a free hold on native lands to boost their commercial activities as well as the need to work into the system of land tenure which was left intact under the principles of indirect rule with its existing system of land taxation, much of which was an oppression on the peasantry (Egute, 2002). Realizing that two separate land tenure systems obtained in Nigeria, namely Southern and Northern land tenure systems, the 1962 land tenure law was enacted to remove lands from the firm grip of the regional governments to the federal. This still could not remove bitter controversies since skirmishes still persisted. And since Nigeria was an independent state thereby necessitating a central hold on her resources for the common good of all, a repeal of the various statutes was imperative.
With all these acting severally and in concert, an examination of the land tenure system in Nigeria was overdue and consequently, the Land Use Act had to be enacted on March 29th, 1978 to achieve the following set objectives:
- To remove the bitter controversies, resulting at times in loss of lives and limbs which land is known to be generating.
- To streamline and simplify the management and ownership of land in the country.
- To assist the citizen, irrespective of his social status to realize his ambition and aspiration of owning the place where he and his family will live a secure and peaceful life.
- To enable the government to bring under control the use to which land can be put in all parts of the country and thus facilitate planning and zoning programmes for particular uses.
In order to achieve the above lofty objectives and remove all bickering and acrimony in a non-rancorous environment, the act provides in Section 1 as follows:
Subject to the provisions of this Act, all land comprised in the territory of each state in the federation is hereby vested in the Governor of that State and such land shall be held in trust and administered for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
Since all land in the state is vested in the Governor except otherwise clearly stated in the Act, as it is the case with “other land” (Section 6), it is only with his consent that land can be made available to all citizens of Nigerian origin for their enjoyment. The question now is, has the Governor’s consent in land matters helped in achieving the above objectives for development? The thesis of this paper therefore is a resort to the Land Use Act to end the needless skirmishes erupting between herdsmen and peasant farmers and ensure that land is enjoyed in a non-rancorous manner and without bickering and acrimony.
Definition of Terms
Consent as a Concept
For a proper digest and assimilation of the topic in question, it is pertinent to do a thorough synthesis of the concept, consent.
According to the Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, consent means “to give agreement or permission”. In legal parlance however, consent connotes “deliberate or implied affirmation; compliance with a proposed course of action” (Oxford Dictionary of Law, 2002). Consent must be given freely, without duress or deception and with sufficient legal competence to give it.
The author of this paper associates himself with the second definition and asks, does the Governor have the legal competence or powers to give consent? Since Section 1 vests all lands in the state in him and section 5 (i) (a) empowers him to “grant statutory right of occupancy to any person for all purposes,” he has the legal powers to give consent. This is so because it has long been recognized that a lessor of land – be it the state or private lessor – could impose a covenant on the lessee not to alienate his interest in the lease without the consent of the lessor, Kasunmu, 1986 (in Egute, 2002).
“Other land’ means land which is not under the control and management of the Governor that lies and situate within the jurisdiction of a Local Government.
Urban communities are those with a population of 20,000 and above. But for the purpose of this write-up, urban settlements include the above category as well as all Local Government headquarters as enshrined in the Act, whether they show visible signs of rural life as well as any other area so designated by the Governor as urban.
Rationale for Consent
The most significant feature of the Land Use Act, 1978 is to vest the ownership of all land within a state in the Governor of that state, thus making all land within the state, state land. Having vested the title in respect of all land in the Governor of each state, the Land Use Act (Section 5) then empowers the Governor to grant statutory right of occupancy to any person for all purposes while the Local Government Authority (Section 6) is vested with powers to grant customary right of occupancy in “other land”. It should be noted that all local governments’ headquarters are designated urban centres and are therefore apron strings of the state. It will be sordid therefore to divest the local government from the state.
Furthermore, Sections 2 and 3 of the Act read together empower the governor to designate certain areas as urban land. It follows that once this is done, the area not so designated as urban land is “other land” within the purview of Section 2 (i) (b) of the Act for which the local government can exercise authority (Tarhule, 2003). In Benue State, for instance, the whole of Makurdi Local Government Area has been declared an urban area thus leaving the local government without control on land.
Additionally, the local government is limited in its grant of the Customary Right of Occupancy in that it cannot grant land in excess of 500 hectares to an individual or organization for agricultural purpose or 5000 hectares with respect to grazing purposes without the consent of the governor (Section 6(2)).
Since local governments are mere “geographical expressions” of their state architecture, the issue of consent by the governor or the local government becomes most compelling.
Taking the validity of consent further (Tobi, 1992) asserts that the Land Use Act has as a first measure converted all old forms of estate into a right of occupancy as far as citizens are concerned, having vested absolute ownership in land in the Governors……………. The Governors, it can be argued, have merely stepped into the shoes of family heads or community heads whose consent must be sought and obtained before land can be enjoyed or alienated.
Sources of Conflict among the Migratory Herdsmen and the Sedentary Farmers
Conflicts occur when there is a perception that values, goals or needs are incompatible. Among the herdsmen and sedentary peasant farmers, the commonest sources of conflict are trampling on grown crops, pollution of water sources, raping of young girls and house wives which often trigger disagreements, quarrels, fights etc.
The Agricultural and Rural Management Training Institute (2016) captures this succinctly: “the herdsman wants to feed his cattle on plants and on the other hand, the crop farmer is the owner of the resources. Why won’t there be clashes or conflicts?”
Reasons Why the Fulani Are Constantly Migrating
According to Umoh (2001), “the inability of available opportunities within the immediate environment of man to satisfy his unlimited economic, social, cultural and physical expectations at a given point in time has often been behind man’s desire to move to other places. Therefore, from earliest times, men are known to have moved either individually or in groups to new places in search of food, wealth, better environmental conditions and security”. In a nut shell, this summarizes why the Fulani herders indulge in out-migration.
But for the records, according to Azeez (2016), about 19.7 million cattle presently harbor Nigeria. Out of this number, about 5 million are forced to migrate southwards yearly from the core North during the dry season. This forced migration is inevitable due to climatic change resulting in long periods of drought, lasting between October and April. During such periods, they are forced to migrate southwards because there are no green pastures to graze their cattle. The depleting Lake Chad and other rivers become drier leaving them with no choice but to seek for greener pastures and water which they find elsewhere.
The Boko-Haram insurgency in the North-East has also aggravated the already bad situation and therefore cattle herders have been forced to move out.
Cattle rustling generally in the North but particularly in the North-West is also a compelling factor necessitating centrifugal movement because hundreds of cattle are lost due to this criminal act.
Furthermore, they take advantage of the economic prospects of the South especially in buying and consuming their cattle which constitutes a powerful luring incentive for out-migration. Lagos alone consumes hundreds of cattle on a daily basis (Azeez, 2016).
Perhaps, a more powerful but concealed reason why they move is brought to the fore in the following account. The Sardauna of Sokoto established WASE Grazing Reserve in the 1960s in the midst of almost 100% Christian Community in Langtang in present Plateau State. Many years ago and in keeping with the Fulani expansionist agenda, WASE Emirate with an Emir who is a first class traditional/religious leader has been appointed in the midst of native tribes who are Christian adherents or traditionalists.
On the 5th May, 1987, Kaduna State Government, then under a military regime, established KACHIA Grazing Reserves on a 30, 956 hectare piece of land. In 1990, the name KACHIA Grazing Reserves was changed to RADUGA Grazing Reserve (TPMF, 2016). Raduga is a Fulani name. Now, the government has appointed a Fulani man as District Head of Raduga. It is the conviction of this paper that following the sequence of events, an emirate will sooner or later be created and an emir appointed for Raduga Emirate.
This suspicion is heightened when the Sardauna of Sokoto in his autobiography “My Life” states: “the countries which did not come under the Fulani rule were the area now known as……………………………….. The Plateau Province (less Wase), the Jukun, Tiv and Idoma people South of Benue (TPMF, 2016).
At the time of putting together this piece, Ukemberagya Community of Logo LGA in Benue State and Godogodo Community in Jema’a LGA of Kaduna State had been sacked by rampaging Fulani herdsmen. These are perhaps, expansionist tendencies by the Islamic Fulani and their Hausa collaborators.
Not given to any prejudice, the pastoralists have the fundamental right to freedom of movement in search of their legitimate business, guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution, as well as the freedom to reside in any part of the country. But it must be noted that, where one’s freedom ends is where another’s begins. In other words, our liberties have limits.
The Ensuing Conflicts and Emerging Consequences
Conflicts occur in all societies all over the world, including Nigeria. And in most of these places, it is considered as something abnormal, dysfunctional and therefore detestable. Yet, conflict is a fact of life and could be a precursor of positive change (Otite and Albert, 2001).
Every plural society is bound to experience one form of conflict or the other. What makes a society an ideal polity is the extent to which the conflicting interests and needs in a society are constructively managed so that violence does not threaten its continued existence. Conflict challenges the rational man to think of alternative ways of meeting contesting human needs and interests hence this paper. According to UNO (2016), Nigeria’s population now stands at about 189 million. With this phenomenal increase, the carrying – capacity of mother-earth is greatly challenged. Since the land available to individual farmers in a predominantly farming society is decreasing by the day while population is steadily on the increase, there are enough reasons for eminent clashes among the farmers themselves, let alone sedentary farmers and their migratory intruders. According to the Agricultural and Rural Management Training Institute (ARMTI) (2016), “the herdsman wants to feed his cattle on plants and on the other hand, the crop farmer is the owner of the resources. Why won’t there be clashes or conflicts?”
Below is a chronicle of some of the most recent Fulani herdsmen/farmers clashes in Nigeria:
- 30/9/2012 – Isoko North LGA in Delta State. One Person, a Director of Personnel Management was murdered.
- 5/4/2014 – At least 200 people were killed in Galadima Village when the Locals were holding a community meeting.
- 18/2/2016 – Five people were killed in Okokolo Village of Agatu LGA in Benue State.
- 5/3/2016 – About 500 massacred in communities of Agila, Akun, Okokolo, Adagbo, Ugboju, Ogbaulu, Egba, Obagaji in Benue State.
- 12/4/2016 – 15 people killed in Gashaka Village in Taraba State.
- 19/4/2016 – 23 people killed in Delta State. As fate would have it, the police were able to recover 20 AK-47 rifles, 70 dane guns, 30 double-barrel guns and over 1000 live ammunitions.
- 21/4/2016 – In Oyo State, communities were attacked, property carted away and some destroyed.
- 25/4/2016 – 40 people were killed in Nimbo in Uzo-Uwani LGA of Enugu State.
- 16/6/2016 – Ossissa Community lost one person to the Fulani in Ndokwa LGA of Delta State.
- 20/6/2016 – 59 people were killed in Ugondo, Turan and Gabo Nenzev in Logo LGA of Benue State (Eyekpimi, 2016).
- 16/12/2016 – It was reported in the media that 23 people lost their lives in Sabon Gari, near Dan Anacha in Taraba State owing to Fulani attacks.
- 24/12/2016` – 10 people were gruesomely murdered in Jema’a, Kaura and ZangoKataf LGAs of Kaduna State.
According to the 2016 Global Terrorism Index tweeted by Eyekpimi on June 21, 2016, these Fulani militants are the 4th deadliest militant group in the world with a record killing of 1,229 people in 2014 alone. Ordinarily, one would think the conflict is simply about farming, grazing land and water dispute, but why do these attacks extend to mass killings and butchery simply on the claim that some cattle are stolen? This carries a criminal toga with an ulterior motive. Though the Federal Government tries to absolve the Fulani herdsmen from accusations laid on them, blaming it on herdsmen who move in from outside Nigeria that cannot be restricted because of the ECOWAS Transhuman Protocol to which Nigeria is a signatory. But the question is, does the protocol permit unwarranted and indiscriminate movement of cattle too?
The economic effects of Fulani herdsmen and farmers clashes in Nigeria are colossal. According to the British Department for International Development (BFID) in a study carried out between 2013 and 2016 on the causes and effects of the perennial clashes between the two groups account for about 47% loss of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) on taxes. There is reduction in crop yield, trade is impeded, and there is loss of lives and propery, destruction of private and public buildings and loss of products in storage. According to Mercy Corps, the clashes caused a loss of $14 billion in three years only (Eyekpimi, 2016).
It may be asked that in spite of this colossal loss, why have Governors failed to invoke the consent provisions of the Act to stop the carnage? It should be noted that the Governor only holds the land in trust for the people and therefore needs to consult widely to avoid discordant tunes. Moreover, we are in a democracy. When the citizenry are united, the Governors consent sought and granted will be weightier.
Given the significant contributions of agriculture to the economy of Nigeria, any impediment in its growth or sustainability should be uprooted. According to Gunnar Myrdal, a Nobel Laureate in Economics, in Todaro and Smith (2003), “it is in the agricultural sector that the battle for long-term economic development will be won or lost”. Therefore, it will not be out of place to implore all methodologies that will ensure a free enjoyment of land to the benefit of all. All said and done, the government should adopt the following strategies in circumventing this intractable crisis.
Suggestions to curb the menace
- Since the Land Use Act (Section 1) vests all land in the state in the Governor with a proviso that it is only with his consent that land can be given out to anybody for his enjoyment, the Governor as a first measure should ban open grazing which often leads to conflicts. This prescription is not oblivious of the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution (as amended) in Section 41 (1) which guarantees every citizen the right to freedom of movement. It should be noted that free movement guaranteed to citizens does not however, apply to livestock.
- Furthermore, by the powers of the Land Use Act, the Governor can and should in one fell swoop, create farm settlements after consulting with the people where nomadic herdsmen can settle with their cattle and rear them within the farm settlement created for that purpose. This should however, be done with the approval of the locals, with adequate compensation paid to them and borne by the Fulani because livestock rearing is a private business enterprise, just like crop farming. Government can however give incentives to them. The Fulani who may want to settle in states other than theirs should formally indicate interest through the M’yetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association that abounds in all states of the federation. The Governor can then give his consent after a careful profiling of the Fulani is done. Such a procedure can protect innocent herdsmen from being wrongly accused of committing heinous crimes.
- On a final note, the Fulani should be educated to embrace modernity because we are in a digital era. The realities of the day demand domestication of livestock, given our large numbers and the fact that we are mostly engaged in agriculture in the face of dwindling available land space. The USA with a population density of 35/km2 on a landmass of 24,436,555km2 is practicing domestication of livestock. But Nigeria with a population density of 96/km2 on a landmass of 923,773km2 is yet to contemplate domestication. Domestication will not place the herdsmen at a disadvantage since animal fodder, the likes of spent grains combined with molasses is a delicacy for cattle and abounds all over Nigeria.
When such a bold step is taken, it will help in quelling the incessant outbursts occurring between the pastoralists and their peasant counter parts.
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