By Chipenzi MacDonald
HAVING failed to convince the traditional leaders to support the Land Policy which would consequently lead to amendment of the Lands Act, government seems to want to use the backdoor strategy to grab traditional land from the traditional leaders through the proposed Local Government Bill N.A.B. 2, 2019 that seeks to repeal and replace the Local Government Act of 1991.
As i was perusing through the proposed Local Government Bill (2019) i came a cross some threatening provisions which i thought could lay my opinion on.
I hope and trust that the Ministry of Local Government had extensive consultations with traditional leadership on the inclusion of Section 21 (1) in the proposed Local Government Bill (2019). This section states that, “A local authority may acquire land by agreement whether by way of purchase, lease, exchange or gift.” If no consultations and agreement are arrived at with traditional leadership, then this Bill may be a source of serious land conflict in the country between government, local authorities, the Presidency and Traditional leadership and other landowners in the country.
For instance, in subsection 2, the proposed Bill suggests that, “where the acquisition by a local authority of land under the powers conferred under subsection (1) is being hindered by reason of the inability of the parties to agree on the terms of the acquisition or any other cause, the President may, on an application by the local authority and on being satisfied that the land is land to which the Lands Acquisition Act applies and that its acquisition by the local authority is necessary or expedient acquire land— (a) in the interest of public safety, public order, public morality, public health or urban and regional planning; or (b) in order to secure the development or utilization of that or other land for a purpose beneficial to the inhabitants of the area of the local authority.”
This provision above empowers the president to get the land from anybody compulsorily and give/transfer it to the Council then the Council looks into the issues of compensation. Perhaps, this provision has been prompted in here because of the new districts that have been created which have had challenges in acquiring land from chiefs/traditional leaders and residents/communities, in some cases, leading to lawsuits against the government or total failure to construct district offices due to no land.
But what does the Lands Acquisition Act (1970) states which the proposed bill has dragged into in its effective enforcement and implementations?
Lands Acquisition Act is “an Act to make provision for the compulsory acquisition of land and other property”. It defines “land” as to include “any interest in or right over land, but shall not include a mortgage or other charge” while “transfer” includes convey, assign, surrender or otherwise alienate or dispose of land or other property”.
Section 3 of the Lands Acquisition Act (1970) stresses that, “subject to the provisions of this Act, the President may, whenever he is of the opinion that it is desirable or expedient in the interests of the Republic so to do, compulsorily acquire any property of any description.”
And section 3 of the proposed Local Government Act (2019) guides that “all expenses and compensation incurred as a result of the acquisition shall be paid by the local authority into the Consolidated Fund and, on payment being made; the estate of any land so acquired by the President shall be transferred to the local authority.”
It is my hope that the chiefs and the House of Chiefs, as a collective, have or will take keen interest and involvement in the making of this Local Government Law and flush out some of these provisions rather than leave it to Councilors alone otherwise their hold to traditional land in the face of indiscriminate establishment of new districts in their chiefdoms is threatened with the compulsory acquisition of land by the State through the President using the current and to be laws.
Hope the chiefs’ representatives in these councils will have the right intellectualism to argue their cases especially on the provisions of section 21 of the proposed Local Government Bill (2019), otherwise, some people will be left in the cold.
I submit my opinion!