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Selling of lands in Nnewi ~ Managing the Challenges of Urbanization Crises

By Godson Moneke


I was discussing with some friends about the emerging trends whereby our younger ones at home often get intoxicated on proceeds from sales of their ancestral lands thereby accelerating their roads to perdition and being vagabonds. Some people even sell their ANA-OBI and squander the proceeds on frivolities. We have failed to learn from the sorry and sad experiences of youths from prior urbanized societies because we believed that theirs were far-fetched. Urbanization has caught up with us and we are now experiencing what we see in Enugu, Onitsha, Benin, Lagos, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Kano, Kaduna and other urbanized societies. Our youths at home are fast turning into AREA BOYS after selling their ancestral lands and squandering the proceeds on wines and women of easy virtues. We should see this as a very big problem and brainstorm and come up with ideas on how to mitigate the impacts. Most lands are being sold to and bought by those we call outsiders. You can not legislate against it because we operate a constitution in the country. Besides, it is a matter of demand and supply.

These are challenges that go with urbanization and what communities do is to manage them. We own property all over Nigeria often sold to us by indigenes of those areas. That is the exact thing that is coming to us because urbanization has set in and caught up with us. Land is unique in its form as a factor of production because it is largely inelastic and fixed in supply. For the Southeast geopolitical zone of which Nnewi is part, the land mass is very small relative to the rest of Nigeria. With a growing dynamic population, the population density is very high giving rise to increasing demand for land as a much priced asset. With urbanization, the standard of living among the urban population is bound to improve. With an active private sector, the need to meet the shelter and housing needs of the growing urban population becomes germane. One of the development process problems is the rural-urban migration. Urbanization is the most visible result of this process.

Among the migrants are those with capital who will seek to buy lands for transactional purposes either for shelter or other purposes. The truth is that communal living which was a common setting in our hitherto rural environment is under imminent threat by the forces of urbanization. Our hitherto exclusive pattern of Housing is giving way to a mixed grill. We are being confronted with situations in which we are helpless because that is the natural course of events. We don’t have to reinvent the wheels and are rather advised to examine how others managed the crises when they were confronted with same. This way, we turn a seeming disadvantage into an advantage and be better for it. We should maximize the benefits and minimize the drawbacks because urbanization has more benefits than drawbacks.

In ENU-ONITSHA for example, you can hardly buy any piece of land on FREEHOLD . All land sales and purchases are transacted on LEASEHOLD basis. The same applies to Lagos Island and other jurisdictions. It is an option I recommend to Nnewi for the reason that it presents a WIN-WIN SITUATION. The next question is; how does this model work? A leasehold of not more than fifty (50) years is often recommended. Usually, some societies go for renewable leasehold of twenty-five (25) years. For the purposes of leasehold renewal, the LESEE has the Right of First Refusal in the renewal of any lease. The terms, conditions and considerations are amicably determined by the parties. For a longer lease, a provision should be made for the LESSOR to be a part-owner of the leased property. For example, a twin duplex can be built on the land to be shared between the two parties. The parties may agree on the type of accommodation to be provided for the lessor by the lessee on the leased property. Details should be worked out between the parties and their professional advisers. It must be stated that this does not in any way suggest hostility to INTRASTATE, INTERSTATE OR FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENTS which are sine qua non for growth and development of Nnewi. Deft management of our limited land resources is not antithetical to good neighborliness and no impression should be given to the contrary.

We are faced with a growing population of unemployed and unemployable youths who are imbibing all sorts of social vices as ways of life. Lands are becoming highly priced and expensive in Nnewi thus becoming a very big attraction to this growing club of miscreants. These youths lack focus and are hopeless in most cases. They therefore seek consolation in hard drugs, alcohol and women of easy virtue. This immanent explosion in social vices within Nnewi should be of concern to us as leaders. The youths are the leaders of tomorrow and if they are not properly prepared and equipped for this role, we shall be unwittingly be courting a disaster. There is an urgent need for moral reorientation of our youths by the leaders. Our community leaders must lead by example and not just by setting precepts. We must imbibe in our youths the moral ethos that crime does not pay. They should know that they can always live a good and accomplished life by leading a life of honesty and truth. They should be made to know that a double-faced life does not pay in the end .

You can not give what you don’t have. The leadership of our town union must be above board to serve as ROLE MODEL to our youths. The current selection process does not give enough comfort at all. The criteria for choosing the leaders are often iniquitous thus making the problem endemic. When loyalty to self-acclaimed kingmakers are elevated over and above CHARACTER AND COMPETENCE, you are merely postponing the evil days of IMPLOSION. Leadership of Nnewi town union should not be reduced to transactional mode or the base level at which it operates at the moment. That is why opinion leaders in Nnewi should see the growing crisis of urbanization as a challenge which may make or mar Nnewi. If we watch helplessly and allow the crisis to continue unabated, we shall reach a point where it will become irreversible and the indigenes of Nnewi will be worse for it. A stitch in time saves nine stitches. We are approaching a dire situation in which unemployed youths will shamelessly turn to pick pockets and be harassing passersby and unsuspecting motorists. At this point people can no longer sleep in their homes with their two eyes closed. This to me is a point of NO RETURN, we should not allow things to get there. This should be seen as a clarion call for all hands to be on deck to stave a looming Armageddon.

I once headed a committee of my community development association which proscribed the activities of youths turned touts who were extorting monies from building owners who bought lands from indigenes and are developing them. The extortion is similar to what the notorious OMONILES do in Lagos. While the Lagos state and Local governments have banned the activities of such miscreants in the state, the practice is fast turning into an industry in Nnewi. Like motor-park touts who see nothing wrong in extorting motorists and their passengers who use government owned and approved motor parks, these community youths turned touts do not see anything wrong in extorting building developers within their communities. A motor park tout who was teaching them the art of making money through extortion of people as they do at motor parks became their rallying point. That showed how low our youths had fallen in the ethical order.

Unfortunately, some of their mentors are leaders of the town union with the active backing of the self-appointed kingmakers(stakeholders) . These stakeholders may not be aware of the character deficits of the petty criminals they often back. There is therefore an urgent need to do a thorough CHARACTER AND ETHICAL PROFILING of people we intend to give the responsibilities of leading our town union. We need more than loyalty to the traditional institutions in the land to qualify as of the town union. Criminals are very deft at eye service and sycophancy, like the inimitable Williams Shakespeare said ‘ there is no art of reading the mind from the construction of the face’, thus making a thorough character profiling, a categorical imperative.

The challenges of urbanization crises are not a TEA PARTY for all the parties involved. The Nnewi town union and the four community development associations have a major role to play in ensuring that our youths follow the right path. The town union and community development associations should make ethical reorientation and career guidance and counseling an integral part of their agendas. I have broached this issue in a previous write up where I spelt out some of the modalities. There should be career guidance in all fields of human endeavors and counselors should try to take people through the basics of most important subject areas. Apart from lifting the self esteem of the youths, listening first hand to successful people may become a life changing experience to most of them.

We have a central Nnewi youths organization as well as four youth organizations at the various community levels. The balls are in the courts of the leadership of the various youth organizations to do the needful. Opportunities should also be provided for employment bureaux so that employment opportunities which exist both within and outside Nnewi can also be harnessed. Our youths should be guided to take advantage of opportunities presented by numerous federal government initiatives aimed at assisting budding entrepreneurs. Our youths need to be guided to prepare their intellect for leadership roles in the future . The town union and the four community development associations have their jobs cut out for them in this regard.

In conclusion, youths should be prevailed on to stop selling their ANA-OBI for whatever reason because they hold the land in trust for their children born or yet unborn. The town union and the four community development associations should develop a policy and design guidelines on this. The policy and guidelines should guide the actions and activities of kindreds (UMUNNA) in matters of this nature. The criminal activities of some local ISI-OBIS who sell COMMUNAL LANDS and squander the proceeds should be looked into. The ISI-OBIS as custodians of communal lands hold them in trust for all members of the communities. It is therefore impudent and criminal for them to sell communal lands as if they were their personal ESTATES. This rascality is widespread and begs for restitution. Some ISI-OBIS are very irresponsible and cannot differentiate between lands they hold in trust as ISI-OBIS and property that is their own as individuals. Taking advantage of a community to advance criminal tendencies is simply unacceptable. A time has come to re-evaluate the practice whereby acknowledged criminals suddenly become ISI-OBIS because they are DI-OKPALA of their fathers even when they are a non-starters character-wise. If their forefathers had sold off communal lands as they are now doing, there would have been nothing for them to hold on to. There is an urgent need to instill a sense of responsibility down the line so that the current bastardization of our moral ethos is held in check.

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