“In the face of modernity; there is an obvious clash between the communities and the modern land use laws. On one hand, West Africa is fast becoming an ‘urban region’ with the boundaries between the ‘rurality’ and ‘urbanity’ overlapping and creating ‘periurban’ areas. Also, rich resources such as crude oil, diamond and gold are being discovered deep in the rural areas, thus necessitating the adoption of the statutory system even in the rural areas. On the other hand, even in the urban areas, the customary practices of communal and hereditary allocation of land have not been abolished entirely. Therefore, there is increasing confrontation between the two systems. Perhaps nowhere else is this as apparent as in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region where oil producing communities protesting environmental degradation and also the statutory allocation of land to oil companies by the government have undermined and continue to threaten oil production.”
Implications from IFTF:
The increased urbanization and resource extraction are increasing the use of modern land laws in previously urban areas used to customary law. Often times these modern laws are not seen to benefit the local rural communities, rather benefiting the corrupt governments and large multinationals.
Finding an appropriate way to utilize both customary laws (which have traditionally been very effective in dealing with land disputes) and modern land laws will be the key to future agreement. Choosing one system in lieu of the other will only alienate one party, either leaving the indigenous groups out of their own land or preventing companies from investing in long-term use of lands.
CDD June 2011 pg. 5