Honorable Commissioner for Lands and Urban Development in Enugu State, Surv. Dr. Victor Chukwuemeka Nnam, in this interview granted to Urban Radio in Enugu, speaks on the efforts of the government to improve land administration in the state while explaining several other innovations by his ministry since he was appointed by the Executive Governor of Enugu State, His Excellency, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. In this interview monitored by our correspondent, the amiable Commissioner talks about the past, the present and the future planned developments, as well as the way forward with land administration in the State; Excerpts...
Tell us about your achievements since assuming office as Honorable Commissioner for Lands and Urban Development
I have been running the affairs of the ministry for a year now and I'll say so far so good, the government of Enugu State has a commitment to ensure good land governance and administration. We all know that land means a lot of things to a lot of people, which makes it a very sensitive matter.
That is why the Enugu State government has taken the issues of land very serious in recent times. The government has set modalities in place to handle land-related conflicts and litigations. Land has many dimensions, some of which are legal, socio-cultural, spiritual, physical and economic dimension.
Land administration and management is to administer land in all its dimensions and ramifications, which is not an easy job. Different nations and different states have devised different strategies for administering land, and they devise it fit-for-purpose depending on their land tenure system and the people of the land, they way they see and manage these lands.
The Enugu State government is not left behind in its effort like other states to manage its lands. That is why we are trying to explain what the government has been doing in its effort to upgrade land administration in the state.
First of all, we must acknowledge the fact that Enugu State Ministry of Land has been housing-related information, data and record of government's plan since the colonial era and since the era of coal mining and we know that we have a lot of records and managing these records is not easy because over time they wear out.
So when I came into the ministry of land, I met a lot of good men and women on ground, very sound professionals who were already on ground who worked with my predecessor and I must commend the effort of my predecessor, Mr Solomon Onah who worked assiduously to improve the system he met on ground.
When I took over, we worked on the analogue filing system, the indexing so that files can be easily treated. We also embarked on renovating the main administrative block. We have plans to renovate the whole ministry but access to and paucity of funds has slowed us down.
We introduced an electronic attendance register which has helped in dealing with ghost and absentee workers and we have been able to keep track of workers that way. We have looked into the recommendations of the public sector committee on lands, one of them we have worked on the securing of an executive council approval to upgrade the office of the Surveyor-General to an extra ministerial department.
We also realized that there are lots of land litigation that are related to survey. We started working on upgrading our exiting juristic framework so that we can curb those survey errors that cause overlapping plot and land litigation and dispute. That is what we have been doing in the last year.
What has been some of the challenges that you have faced so far?
Managing land is same as managing people. When people dispute land, they dispute it for legal, socio-cultural, spiritual, physical or economic reasons. We see people every day come with different land issues. So what I want our people to do is get more information about land. The state boundary committee has succeeded in resolving some of these issues I referred to earlier through dialogue and preventing them from going to court because some of them have been in court for 20 years and more without getting a judgment.
What I need the general public to assist government with is information on existing land issues. I also want them to know that we are working hard to improve land administration in the state with the full backing of the governor.
Can you throw more light on the Geographic Information System (GIS), I think a lot of people will benefit from this innovation
The Geographic Information System is a tool for solving land problems. The GIS part we are interested in is the land information system. This system is a computer-based system which brings every land record online and it is a water-tight system that prevents theft, fraud, leakages of government revenue and then fast tracks collection of payment. Everything is online and is fast. With it, you can find out the status of your land without coming to the ministry, so it also reduces the number that have to come to the ministry at a time. The GIS has four (4) major frameworks which would be harmonized by its implementation. This enables people to search and reference their lands in the state no matter where they are.
Apart from improving the speed of lands processes and administration, it will increase government's revenue more than what it currently is. The GIS will increase the authenticity of lands acquired. Enugu State is not a Niger Delta state with oil wells. Our oil well in Enugu is land so we are working hard to improve our land administration system to enable us harness more of this 'oil well' to increase the state's internally generated revenue (IGR). If the GIS are implemented, the next administration will be the one to enjoy it more.
So far, how well do you think that government effort is yielding the desired results?
We have also embarked on the development of newly planned areas. Some of us who have been in Enugu long enough will know that in the past, most of the layouts that were planned and set out were not developed. This administration understands this, which is why most of the newly developed layouts by Enugu State government have infrastructure. We have the challenge of acquiring lands because surrounding communities are now informed and aware of land acquisition processes, which is why it is difficult for government to acquire lands.
People of Enugu are yearning for a satellite town; a big planned area of public low-cost housing but we are still working on acquiring lands in order to plan more.
Some people are worried about the high cost of land and compensation
Enugu State is like the rallying point for most South Easterners. So there is pressure on the available lands in the state and the city is expanding. The city is encroaching into the neighbouring communities. From the analysis we did, by 2030, Enugu Urban will encroach a lot into of these rural communities. Considering the current prices of lands and the fact that more people are buying these lands, the available lands in the centre of the city have an increased value and what government is doing to solve this is by trying to open more areas that are neighbouring to the state to make available more lands which would in return help to increase competition and consequently reduce the prices of lands and compensation is paid based on how the land was acquired. Before government can acquire any land, there must be a written notice to the owner and then an acknowledgement of the notice before an adequate compensation can be paid, and then this compensation is based on what the value of the land say is.
Can you suggest a way forward concerning some of the pressing land issues with land administration?
The way forward is that, because we have noted how vast Enugu land record is and how intricate it is also, we proposed to the Executive Council the implementation of the Geographic Information System (GIS) for land administration which was captured in the 2020 budget but deferred to the 2021 budget because of the paucity of funds due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I believe it would be revisited in 2021 because His Excellency, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is seriously working to reduce the cases of land litigations in the state. We have men and women who are professionals with wealth of experience in the ministry and this new system will add to their experience in delivering good services to the people of Enugu State.