Senator Ita James Enang says non-adherence to Land Use Act leading to farmers/herders clashes with imminent food shortage and loss of livelihood is one of causes of mutual ethnic suspicion and insecurity in Nigeria.
Enang, who is the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Niger Delta Affairs, has proffered strict adherence to the Law and agreed policies consistent with the Law as the solution to the farmers herders clashes in the country.
He was speaking at the National Dialogue to mark 2021 Democracy Day, organized by the Civil Liberties Organisations (CLO) in conjunction with the Office of Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, in Uyo on Friday.
”The Land Use Act, 1978, which Law is also in Volume 7 of The Laws of Akwa Ibom State Vests ownership and control of Land in the Government of the respective States if in Urban and the Local Governments if in the Rural Areas.
”Lands in the Federal Capital Territory is Vested in the President who has delegated same to The FCT Minister.
”It Stands therefore that the House of Assembly of a State can Enact Laws regulating the Use of land in the State. The Constitution also guarantees the right to own property and this includes farms and crops thereon,’’ the Presidential aide noted.
According to him, ”Therefore the question of making laws banning open grazing or not does not arise again because this has already been outlawed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999,and the Land Use Act, 1978 which has now been again engrafted into the 1999 Constitution as part thereof.
”The Land Use Act in addressing this issue provided in Section 6 that the Local Governments may establish, make out and gazette grazing reserves to provide fodder for goat, sheep, cattle, pigs and generally for raising animals, fisheries and integrated farming.’’
He pointed out that ”The diversity of the participants in terms of political party and ideological affiliations, APC, PDP, State and Federal government actors sitting together hereat, 9ethno – religious and tribal divides, regional and indeed generational mix shows we have decided to sink our differences in all particulars, to come together in unity to rebuild and restore confidence of Nigerians in the Nigerian project and downplay politicking to recover our challenged Nation
”Of recent and on-going, there has been voices of otherwise respectable National Leaders breathing out divisive and inciting words against other ethno – Religious and Regional groups which has caused the youths, the vulnerable and jingoists to amplify same and take up arms against perceived enemies or adversaries raising tension and Generally heating up the polity and threatening already fragile peace.
”This dialogue, aimed at raising the flag of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, together holding hands and in unison chanting ” PEACE BE STILL” to calm the raging tempest could not have come at a better and indeed more opportune time. We appreciate both the organizers and participants, praying that in the end we will conclude assuring all of faith in one indivisible Federal Republic of Nigeria.
”May we at this dialogue frankly state the grievances we have against other Constituents and segments of the Country, even if they be not present here, state our position and what we want for ourselves, ethnic group, State, tribe, religion, region, land or whatever interest we are aligned or affiliated to.
”Thus, together shall we in the true spirit of National reconciliation address same, give up some, understand the other person’s point of view and fears, proffer assuring solutions and come out smiling at each other again as we were reputed for.’’
He, however, made case for creation of spaces for the younger generation in the governance and economy of Nigeria.
The Senator cautioned Nigerians against unfriendly name tagging of youths as cultists and criminals each time they have the need for agitation, saying that such treatment has continued to lower their self esteem, and largely responsible for the youth restiveness witnessed in the country.
Enang blamed government for using and abandoning the youths without providing jobs for them.
He urged the government to apologize to the youths, saying, “It is time to have meaningful dialogue with the youths of this State and country and practically give them roles and space in the Governance and economy of this State and country.
“We should not profile them as criminals or cultists nor such derogatory nor demeaning appellations that gives them low self or societal esteem.”
“Doing so ostracises them and embolden them to form camps, carry arms and do the worst. This please is in view of the peculiar times, and not the norm for all times. We should not profile nor stigmatise them,” he noted.
The Presidential aide who also advocated for a national dialogue every five years to tackle the problems bedevilling the nation, said the dialogue will help the six geo-political zones in the country express their grievances and reach a compromise that would help to move the nation forward.
Emphasizing that the voices of discord and discontent across the country is getting louder and needed to be addressed, Enang said the national conference would not take over the functions of the government but serve as a feedback from the people.
“The voices of discord are getting louder and it may be time to allow Nigerians to dialogue with each other by whatever arrangement. It was like this under Jonathan Presidency in 2013 when President Jonathan convened that 2014 confab and that political temperature was tamed and calmed,” he said.
Also speaking, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke, member representing Etinan, Nsit Ibom, Nsit Ubium Federal constituency in the House of Representatives, cautioned President Buhari against ignoring the various agitations from the South/East and South/West regions.
Luke who is the Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary expressed disappointment that much has been said but nobody is listening to the various voices of reason in the country.
“It is by coming together to share ideas and share thoughts beyond party lines, taking a bipartisan approach, bringing together men and women who have leaders touch, one solution or the other, one idea or the other that we could all fine-tune and push the agenda for the development of this country.
“I have always been an advocate for bipartisan approach to the problems of this country. The problem we are facing doesn’t know party, it doesn’t know region, religion.
“Now the security crisis we are experiencing in the South East, we have had a case of that crisis in North West. We have had students kidnapped from Schools, and those students are not Christians, those students are Muslims.
“We’ve had this crisis happen in states that are not APC, we have had it happen in states that are PDP. And the people affected by this crisis are the Nigerian populace. It affects our parents, siblings.
“I am a firm believer in the unity of Nigeria, the unity of Nigeria founded on justice, equity and then founded on true federalism. And we can achieve this by every segment of this society seeing ourselves as equals.
“The agitation that we have had, agitation for secession, for all sorts of things is because some sections of the country feel marginalized.
“What I am asking at this level is can we go back to the dialogue table. We should not ignore agitations from Southeast, we should not ignore agitations from South West.
“But what we should not condone or accommodate is agitation. Let the people come and sit at the table and then express their grievances and ask for what would make for their betterment,” he stated.
Highpoint of the dialogue was distribution of the national flag to all participants and the directive to wave in unison, with the call for peace, by the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Enang.