How state limits youth, women access to land in Nigeria

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In Nigeria, access to land by citizens irrespective of age and gender has been through inheritance and acquisition through purchase going by the custom. However with the nationalization of land, which vest control on the state, condition for access to land is determined through Land Use Act.

Backed by the enabling law, government takes over unregistered land and sell same to those who can afford them.
• Women & youths accessing land The existing law marginalized young people, who represent more than 60 percent of the population in the area of access to land. The law stipulates that although persons under the age of 17 can inherit land under inheritance, but people under that age cannot access individual land and the government is in no authority to grant an occupancy permit. Under the Land Use Act, property rights of individuals under 17 years are managed through guardianship. Experts say such condition not only excludes a significant margin of the population in that it deprives them of essential tool to generate wealth, but also contradictory considering the provisions relating to the inheritance of the earth. Like the young people, women in Nigeria are also at the receiving end of all land matters due to socio-cultural and other factors as in elsewhere in West Africa. The land generally belongs to men and women can only access such indirectly. Study shows that constraints hindering access to land by women differs from one region to another. In southern Nigeria, especially the Igbo speaking areas although women are critical to food production, land is concentrated in the hands of men. The men inherit the land as women are customarily regarded as ineligible for land management. The social body is organized so that the management and control of land tenure incumbent upon men. Experts say although women provide almost half of agricultural workforce and dominate the processing, storage and transport of food, land rights undermine their efforts. The study said undervaluation of women’s right to land negatively impact on productivity and food security across Africa, especially that they are often the main users of land for the production of small crops. • Religion hampering women from accessing land Unlike in the southern part where custom is the hindrance, religion is the main barrier to women’s access to land in northern Nigeria. In a Muslim dominated area, land management is supposed to be regulated according to principles inherent in Islamic law, which also recognizes women but implementation are done otherwise. In reality, these principles advocate equal opportunities in the fields of social life, however, in practice, land is controlled by men. In matters of inheritance, Islamic law provides the opportunity for women to inherit land but in reality because the woman is believed to be under the responsibility of the man, he takes charge. To fight against the marginalization, women often come together under different umbrella to advance their cause. They are often supported by civil society groups and other NGOs who add their voices to the struggle. At the organizational level, the Organization of Women in Nigeria (WIN) , the Cooperative for Assistance to Women (WACOL) , the Accountability Initiative and assistance for Women (WELA) , the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) all defend the idea that the development of women first begins with the recognition of their socio -economic rights. They operate mainly in the field of education, information, support women in conflict of gender discrimination. Their actions are particularly appreciated by women but are often not sustained. However, courts rulings on inheritance have been favourable to women who seek justice through that means. But study shows that law is stagnant and disputes concerning women’s access to land are rarely brought before the courts. Study recommends development of an enduring system to ensure access of young people and women to land; ensure transparency in land management; reduce bureaucratic land management; promote women’s land inheritance; facilitate the access of young people and women to land loans in order to pay the costs of land tenure among others as ways of addressing the problem.

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