By Pat Utomi
I thought it worthwhile to explain how the Land Use decree, now Act, and how the Governors have administered the Act, have contributed to growing poverty in Nigeria. Unless that young Farmer or Real Estate Developer can relate to how that apparently distant revocation of a C of O by a Governor impacts prospects of his venture, or the commuter in Lagos jumping on a bus to get to the day’s hustle knows how the Governors behaviour is impacting his misery level, we will all be swimming in the dark.
When experts talk of evidence-based policy prescription, it is easy to think of it as “too much wahala over little’’. But it came with much power in a recent conversation with a researcher who showed graphic evidence of how agricultural outputs and production, in general, have declined on a per capita basis since the land use decree was promulgated some 34 years ago. Of course another study can show that the rise of Oil may be as much a cause of decline as the Land Use Law but the pattern traced should affect how we make choices.
The survey shows, for example, that Nigeria’s rice production and consumption globally and the same rate until the Land Use Act says consumption has consistently outstripped production. Even if one were to argue that new tastes and increasing prosperity turn people towards rice, then the logic is that increased demand should have been more incentive to grow rice.
In probing further SBM Intelligence from which much of this solid data has come have built up significant evidence for such phenomena. And Cheta Nwanze, its CEO passionately interprets research evidence.
Almost everywhere you look high uncertainty regarding the violation of the rule of law and property rights by governors, relating to the land use Act have contributed to the conclusion that Nigeria is not a safe to place to invest in. In pursuit of self-interest and legal plunder, many governors have revoked the certificate of occupancy signed by their predecessors. Yet on the basics of such C of O’, long land lease, and contracts, many businesses had borrowed money and committed other valuable resources to initiate value-creating Enterprises.
Land, and political leadership designs for plunder, around it, is an age-long challenge. In the Judeo – Christian tradition the story of King Ahab and Jezebel tells well how far political leaders can go to appropriate people’s property rights for their unearned gain. The story also speaks to the consequence of such abuse. In our time, that consequence is in the raising of the perception of risk in the environment which makes for high transaction costs. These make the environment uncompetitive, directing capital elsewhere and allowing poverty to get deeper and more debilitating.
Part of the trouble with the abuse of property rights by state actors is that it complicates state access to land for the development of infrastructure for common use. I was trying to push a minister of works to fix some badly maintained roads in Delta State. He replied that people had built up on the space allowed as setbacks and were aggressively seeking compensation.
In most parts of the world the law of eminent domain built on the fact that none appropriability goods, those common facilities whose use you cannot exclude those who cannot or will not pay from accessing. Yet in spite of the Land-use act which vests land in the Governor, it is not enabling easy access to land even for infrastructure and development partly because the implementation of the law has not engendered confidence.
So, when an official like a Governor, does the untoward, and it seems like it is not your business you may be grossly underestimating the consequence of his or her action, for the quality of life you live.
Many times, the public officials who conduct himself badly for what he considers small gain may not know well the real effect or damage to the lives of many. Sadly, much of the information to make them wiser exist but exists in forms more readily accessible to people of only a certain level of education or of interest. This calls for considerable effort to build media and political actors that can make available to the marketplace such ideas.
If Nigeria’s failing state situation is to be reversed, we not only have to increase the quality of education of public policymakers and implementing agencies but also build up a civil society that is triggered for greater accountability. Equally important is building up Media that can reduce experts’ thoughts for Citizens in ideas you can use for your good.
Utomi, political economist and Professor of entrepreneurship is the founder of Centre for Values in Leadership.