This it said was to avoid upsetting “the existing peace and
equilibrium in the polity,” which it described as a product of
years of political engineering and craftsmanship by the founding
fathers of the Nigerian nation.
However, tempers started rising during the debate on the report
when delegates from the north and the south took opposing
positions on the critical issue.
While delegates from the south insisted on increase between 25%
and 50%, those from the north said nothing more than the
position of the Committee on Devolution of Power would be
acceptable to them.
The matter was immediately handed over to a special committee
comprising leaders of each geo-political zones, who then picked
other delegates from their zones, for discussion and possible
Nigeria’s former Permanent Representative at the United Nations,
Professor Ibrahim Gambari, who was introduced by General Ike
Nwachukwu to present the report of the special committee, said
the process of arriving at a solution was tedious but in the
interest of the country.
He announced the committee’s decision that the derivation fund
be increased from 13% to 18%; and that the decision was reached
after two straight days and several hours of meeting and
negotiation between all the interest groups which extended
beyond the leadership of the six geo-political zones.
He said the decision of the group was guided by the belief that
there would be no winners and there would be no losers; and that
the only winner would be the Nigerian
He also announced a 5% federal revenue allocation for solid
mineral development and another 5% for Stabilisation,
Rehabilitation and Reconstruction for the development of the
North East, North West and North Central.
“We have reached agreement whereby no one will be completely
unhappy,” he said amidst instant murmuring and applause from a
cross-section of the delegates.
As soon as Professor Gambari ended his presentation, many hands
went up for re-opening of debates on the issue while some
delegates applauded the decision of the special committee.
Conference Deputy Chairman, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, after
consultation with the Conference Chairman, Justice Idris Legbu
Kutigi, announced that voting on the recommendations of the
Committee on Devolution of Power would hold on Wednesday during
which a decision would also be taken on the Gambari Report.
On the Land Use Act, the argument for its retention in the 1999
Constitution was based on the belief that allowing the Act to go
would give chance for oligarchs to take over lands which the
Land Use Act has democratized with the government as the
Supporters of this school of thought also said that since land
is not a renewable commodity, it must not be left at the mercy
of land speculators; and that removing it from the constitution
would be discriminatory and unjust to the poor.
It was their position that removing the Act from the
constitution would create dichotomy; describing the suggestion
as a grand design for the rich to buy land at cheap prices, a
situation they said would lead to crisis that cannot be managed.
On the other side, the argument was that the Land Use Act should
remain a law but must be removed from the constitution to make
it easy for amendment.
They argued that at present, amending the Act through the
constitution has become too cumbersome and that in other
countries, land tenure is universal while governments nearest to
the communities serve land tenure better.
They complained that government have taken peoples land and have
refused to pay compensation; and that since the promulgation of
the Act, access to land has remained a major problem, thus
hindering economic development.
It was also stated that the power of compulsory acquisition
vested on state governors has been, in most cases, used
arbitrarily without the payment of adequate compensation to land
The committee noted that both sides of the argument were
convincing; unfortunately none of them agreed with the other and
no side agreed to back down.
Thus, in its decision which was accepted by the Conference, it
was stated that the Act would be retained in the constitution
while certain amendments would be carried out in certain
sections of the Act.
For instance, one of such amendment would enable land owners to
determine the price and value of their land. It allows
government to negotiate with land owners and not compensate
It was also resolved that the customary right of occupancy in
Section 21 of the Act be amended to read “Customary Right of
Occupancy should have the same status as statutory Right of
Occupancy, and should also be extended to urban land”.
It was also agreed that Section 7 of the Act which deals with
the restriction on rights of persons under the age of 21 to be
granted statutory right of occupancy should be amended to read
“restriction of persons under the age of 18”. This, it was
argued, is because the Child Rights Act stipulates that a person
attains adulthood at the age of 18.
With the decision on the issue of the Land Use Act, the report
of the Committee on Land Tenure Matters and National Boundary
was formally adopted, as amended.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY, MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS
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