With Nigeria losing over 500,000 hectares of forest yearly to deforestation, experts have called for the repeal of the Land Use Act in the country.
The Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, (ERA/FoEN) Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, in an inception workshop on “Community Mobilization and Resistance Against Land Grabbing and Transnational Oil Palm Plantations in Cross River State” in Akamkpa on last week by ERA/FoEN-RainForest Resources Development Centre (IDRC), said this massive loss of land is against the recent globally approved land guidelines of 2012, which is intended to protect communities’ right to land and forests.
He said, “on a global scale there is a growing effort to discentralised natural resource management in ways that local communities can share in the roles, responsibilities and benefits from conservation and forest management.
This sort of initiative is gradually gaining roots in Ghana, Liberia, Uganda, Cameroun, where Community-Based Forest Management Systems (CBFMS) have been elaborated and functional.
“In Nigeria the reverse is the case as “the forests and natural resources face severe degradation and acute problems of land tenure system, thereby depriving settlers as well as small scale farmers to marginal lands which in turn result in reduced farm yields and a cycle of poverty.”
He said, “this has led to loss of deforestation amounting to 500,000 hectares of forests per annum in Nigeria, which is one of the highest in the world.”
The Executive Director, pointed out that “from the foregoing, two major problems arise from the current situation of forest management in Nigeria.
First, the rate of deforestation, which is about 4.2 per cent in Nigeria is one of the highest in the world. Although the rate may seem small, however, this translates to about 400,000 – 500,000 hectares of forest loss per annum.
“The second threat facing forest management is how external development decisions taken in Europe and elsewhere shape the kind of development being witnessed in Nigeria. For example, the EU directive to increase energy mix from biofuels to 20 per cent by 2020 is the result of the massive land grabbing in Africa and in Nigeria.
“This simply means making fuel sources for cars and machines to compete with food sources such as maize, sorghum, soya, sugarcane, and palm oil.
Furthermore, transnational corporation land grabbing is of huge consequence to the local economies. While it displaces local farmers and leads to land scarcity, often, the produce from large scale plantations is mainly for export and to the detriment of local consumption”.
This inception workshop aims to him is to “build on past initiatives to securing communal land rights in Cross Rivers state, explore the new Tenure Guidelines as a basis for renewed fight for communal land rights, provide capacity building and support to local groups to lead in the advocacy process and articulate clear advocacy demand towards the restoration of communal land rights or compensation for losses”.
Taking a review of on Cross River State Review of the Land Tenure System in Nigeria Executive Director, NGO Coalition for Environment (NGOCE), Chief Edwin Usang called for the development of an all-inclusive land policy, effective monitoring of the activities of companies operating in the state while Civil society should engage them effectively.
He called on all stakeholders must ensure effective implementation of international safeguards standards and principles. On his part, Professor Lucky Aworika who presented a paper on “Prospects of Securing Communal Land Tenure Rights: Voluntary Tenure Guidelines Versus Cross River State and National laws of Nigeria”, decried land use act as it gives exclusive powers to the governors and it should be abolished.