Land grabbing poses high-risks and undercuts local communities’ sources of income. Government particularly endorses this practice, hiding under the banner of infrastructural development and “public good”. However, the reality on the ground, particularly in Nigeria, paints a starkly different picture.
Local communities bear the brunt of the negative economic consequences of land grabbing. Forced displacement and disruptions in agricultural and business activities are common outcomes, crippling income and livelihood opportunities for local farmers and residents. The Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria recently expressed concerns about the escalating incidents of land grabbing in the Federal Capital Territory. But this is one of many that go unnoticed.
In cases like the 2016 eviction of Otodo Gbame residents by the government and private developers in Lagos state, local communities are uprooted, often for the sake of luxury development projects.
Beyond the immediate effects on local communities, land grabbing also presents a formidable barrier to broader economic development. Uncertainty around land ownership creates an unfavorable business climate, discouraging domestic and foreign investment alike. Secure land rights are critical to spur job creation, infrastructure development, and overall economic growth.
Tensions between business interests and local communities have been especially prominent in the Niger Delta. Companies like Shell Petroleum Development Company, Chevron Nigeria Limited, and others have faced significant opposition from local communities due to allegations of land grabbing, environmental degradation, and human rights abuses. This hostility has led to disruptions, delays, and even project cancellations, highlighting the high stakes of unresolved land conflicts.
The impacts of land grabbing extend beyond the economic sphere. Environmental degradation and social unrest compound the challenges already faced by affected communities. The case of the Ajoda community of Ibadan, Oyo State, illuminates this clearly. Initially hailed as a solution to urban congestion, the Ajoda New Town project soon sparked backlash due to perceived unfair land acquisition processes and perceived inequity in compensation and relocation measures.
Despite the existence of the Land Use Act aimed at promoting wise land use, legal protections for communities have proven inadequate. Those lacking resources or legal representation often find themselves powerless against land grabbers, leaving thousands homeless.
The audacity of land grabbers or “omo onile”, as fondly called in local dialect, was manifest recently in Onjuwon village, Illogbo in Ogun state, where these people asserted control over the area with violence and intimidation. Sadly, local government and police action was conspicuous by its absence, leaving citizens in perpetual fear and instability.
Critics argue that the government’s complacency in tackling land grabbing is partly to blame. The administration is accused of only making marginal efforts to address the issue, further encouraging the activities of land grabbers due to alleged political loyalties.
To effectively combat land grabbing, Nigeria needs comprehensive land reform policies and stronger legal protections. The Land Use Act must be revised to ensure heavy penalties for anyone posing societal threats and land grabbing should be curtailed. For Nigeria to achieve its full economic potential, the scourge of land grabbing must be confronted head-on.