It has been a highly polarising subject, not necessarily due to scarcity but more due to value placed on certain portions of it. The value of land owes it to either location or substances placed below or above them. Mostly it is this value that is at stake among pastoral-ists, communities, governments, environmental rights activists and
corporations. West Africa sees many of these tussles.
Access to land and the resources that land bears have been extremely delicate subjects and this tenuous relation has character-ised acquisitions for development. Governments have had to inter-vene in disputes relating to establishment of the business ventures such as the West African Gas Pipelines Company, disputes that originate from divergent paradigms of land ownership, between the customary and the modern land tenure systems.
In September 9, 2005, civil society groups from West Africa met in Accra, just two weeks after the construction of the 617 million USD West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) began off the Ghanaian coast, and sent out a release on behalf of “[R]epresentatives from communities living near the pipeline route in Nigeria and Ghana”. They complained that that the gas pipeline would “damage land, destroy livelihoods and pollute fishing areas” and that the communi-ties were not consulted before their lands were seized for the pur-pose. A West African Gas Pipeline Authority had been established in 2004 pursuant to a WAGP Treaty that grants the Authority “the right to enter upon land or seabed, [and] take possession…”
This epitomises the types conflict posed by the Land Use Acts that have vested land and the natural resources such land bears in the government of any of the nations in the sub region. In themselves, the Land Use Acts ought not pose great challenge but for the exclusionary, self-serving use the laws are put to by government officials, politicians and multinational corporations. Emphasis is being placed on the interests of public servants and multinational corporations that satisfy such selfish interests. If consultations with host communities increase, conflicts over land and natural resources would gradually retreat, and sustainably too.
Consultations with interest groups should take care of gendered aspects of land ownership, a longstanding challenge in modern land tenure system. Most of the contributions in this edition agree on this.
–Odoh Diego Okenyodo