- Demand FG’s abrogation of 1978 Land Use Act
BY UBON EKANEM, CALABAR – Cross River Women have raised an alarm over the Land Use Act of 1978, describing it as an albatross that has continued to inflict untold hardship and sufferings upon them and their families.
They have therefore pleaded passionately with the Federal Government to abrogate the Act which has over the years denied them access to their ancestral farm lands currently taken over by multinational companies operating within their communities.
The aggrieved women are anchoring their plea on the fact that being mostly widows, their only means of livelihood and survival remains farming and dependence on the forests that government arbitrarily acquired for rubber plantations, oil palm estates and timber logging businesses by multinational companies without paying adequate compensation to the affected individuals and communities.
Protesting on the platform of ERE/FOEN Civil Society groups and Community Forest Watch, the women from Ekong-Anaku, Mfamosing, Mbarakom, Mbobui Communities in Akampka Local Government Area as well as Betem, Akpet and Igbogo Communities in Biase Local Government Area, narrated their ugly experiences, recounting that their husbands, who were employees of some multinational companies, died with no death benefits paid to the bereaved families.
They also regretted that even the scholarship schemes promised by the affected companies for their youths have proven to be a mere scam packaged to entice the communities and deceive them into letting go their forests without being adequately compensated.
Spokesperson of the women, Madam Halima Oja who addressed the press, drew the Cross River House of Assembly (CRSHA)’s attention to the pending Model Land Use Bill and urged the lawmakers to give it an accelerated hearing.
In their view, when passed by the Assembly and eventually signed into law, the legislation would address some of the hardships the women and their families are currently passing through.
According to the women, they can no longer endure a situation where as bread winners, their families are daily exposed sufferings, adding that the time has come where they are not ready to continue watching their children roam the streets without employment opportunities.
Speaking on the “Impact of Land Acquisition on Women and Food Security” at the occasion, Associate Professor of Environmental Science, University of Calabar, Dr Raphael Offiong, noted that women’s right are completely eroded in land governance, adding that in most cases the women are saddled with the tasking responsibility of overseeing their children education alongside providing food on the table for the entire family.
He said since the women play a key role in land investment processes like farming, they should be active participants in land appropriation because of their capacity to be more rationale in reasoning and approach to issues affecting the families and communities.
Dr. Offiong listed the effects of land acquisition on the pretext of public interest by government to include, communal wars and family crisis, which occur due to limited access to the now smaller land spaces left for cultivation.
In such circumstances, he said women are prone to becoming widows, as their husbands, who take part in such communal wars and clashes, risk losing their lives.
Narrating their experiences to Forefront, some of the affected women claimed that the by-products of most chemicals used by the multinational companies operating in their communities have contaminated their natural sources of drinking water, aside exterminating the remaining wild life species they rely on, as a major source of protein for healthy living.
On his part, the Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigerian, Dr Godwin Ojo assured the women that their campaign for gender inclusiveness in land appropriation matters would be escalated and taken to the appropriate quarters as long as the companies operating in their communities continue to remain adamant to their plights.
Forefront learnt that when passed into law, the Cross River Model Land Use Bill has provisions for revoking previous Company/Community Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), as well as new MoUs drafted to reflect community interest and demands.