Tackling gender disparity in land ownership in FCT

Land is one the most valued properties in the world. It is not for nothing that famous economic scholar, Adam Smith, classified it as one of the factors of production.

In many ancient Africa communities, land ownership is a major determinant of who is rich and who is poor. Challenges remain as in some traditional settings, women are not permitted own land. The impact is far-reaching on women.

“I had the money and want to buy land but instead buying it directly, I gave it to my ex-husband to buy. He bought it in his name.

“Now has remarried and is currently living on the land with his new wife and their children.

“Now I and my children in a rented a one-bedroom apartment,” says Mrs Murna Ayuba, a mother of six.

According to Murna, the experience made her more vulnerable to exploitation as he has to dependent on her meagre income from akara business to fend for herself, her children, and her aged mother.

“I have to work all the time, if I am not in the market buying items for my business, I am at home picking the beans or by the roadside frying akara. In the rain, cold, or under the sun, the story was same.

“I was naive and thought I will build a house with my ex-husband not knowing that another woman and her children would benefit from it. It also left a scar in her mentally. “I will never trust anybody again,” she said.

Similarly, Mary Emmanuel, a 49 year-old teacher, said though she was the eldest among seven siblings, her father bequeathed the only family land to the youngest and only son among them.

“It is culturally uncommon for women to inherit landed properties because they believe that women will end up married and, hence did not need property,” she said.

Many women have either been denied of their land ownership rights, leading to different mental torture and psychological bruises as they seek ways to acquire property that cultural practices stripes them of.

These and many some other similar cultural orientations contribute immensely to huge land disparities between women and men in many societies in Africa.

And these disparities affect many women’s economic conditions and have impacted negatively on their socio-psychological well-being.

Gender disparity refers to unequal and unfair differences in the status, rights, opportunities, and treatment of individuals based on their gender.

According to the Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) released in 2018, the North East has more women (57 per cent) who own houses with a Title/Deed, while the North West comes after with 43.8 per cent.

The South-West follows with 31.4 per cent, while women in the South East own 2 per cent.

These disparities, clearly favour men and are often institutionalised through the law, justice, socio-cultural norms, religion and other factors.

According to experts, these differences are reflected in virtually all aspects of life, including education, economic opportunities, political representation, health, social and cultural norms, and property ownership.

The issue of gender disparity in land ownership is significant in many parts of Nigeria, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

According to Chapter Eight, Section 297 of the Nigeria Constitution, all the land in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), belongs to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

They are under the authority of the FCT Minister, through the Federal Capital Development Agency (FCDA) and Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS).

The Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, in a document recently released on the National Women’s Economic Empowerment Policy and Action Plan, also known as WEE, says that only 10 per cent of landowners in Nigeria are women.

The 129-page document released by the minister revealed that while women accounted for 70 to 80 per cent of agriculture labour and output in Nigeria, only 10 per cent own land.

The document read in part: “Only one in five landowners in Nigeria is female. This accounts for only 10 per cent of all landowners in Nigeria.’’

The document said several political and sociocultural factors such as ineffective programmes, limited funds, technical capacity bottlenecks, purely welfare-based interventions, and normative barriers limited women’s progress and contributed to gender inequality.

Mr Bunmi Aimola, a legal practitioner, says there is no law that prohibits anyone from owning land or properties based on their gender.

Aimola said: “Section 43 of the Nigerian constitution says every citizen (includes both women and men) of Nigeria shall have the rights to acquire and own immovable property (land inclusive) anywhere in Nigeria.

“Even if, for which I doubt the existence of any law that discriminate against women owning landed properties, our constitution will override such practices that exist in any part of the country including the FCT.

“But that is not to say because of this low percentage of women owning property in Abuja is due to any discriminatory factor or law that forbids them from owning property.

“And even if there are identifiable cultures, or traditions in any part of FCT that prohibits a woman from owning landed property, if it is challenged in court, be rest assured that such practices cultural practices will definitely not see the light of day by virtue of this provision in the Constitution.’’

He added that land administration reforms by streamlining land registration and administration processes to reduce gender-based discrimination would also ensure women owned more properties, including land.

“Women should be more forceful and pushing in terms of acquiring landed properties.

“The government should look at and identify areas if there are any, where such barbaric cultural practices and traditions still exist that deny women full property rights.

“Government should produce a policy that if certain plots of land are to be sold to individuals, consideration should be given to women.

“This should be in terms of the amount of money to be paid just as it is done during electioneering to encourage more women to acquire land and properties’’, he said.

He said society owes women the responsibility of protecting them from land grabbers, harassment, and intimidation.

“The weight of the law should be meted on such land grabbers, that will encourage women and give them confidence when they know that their rights can be protected.

“Policies should be tailored towards strengthening the law enforcement agencies to go very hard on land grabbers that tend to intimidate women from enjoying their land or acquiring their land,” he said.

Mr Johnson Edeh, an estate developer, said that men were more likely to own land and properties than women due to economic inequality, social and cultural norms, illiteracy, laws and policies, as well as inheritance.

Edeh said to address the issue legal reforms, promoting awareness and education, providing economic opportunities and support for women, as well as strengthening security forces to protect women from land grabbers should be pursued.

Mrs Gloria Gabriel, an FCT resident and businesswoman, blamed patriarchy, discriminatory laws, cultural norms, economic inequality and lack of awareness for gender disparity in property ownership in the territory.

According to her often, women don’t think about long-term tangible investment, like acquiring land, property, unlike the men.

“So, there is a need to enlighten women on the need to own property in their name instead of joint ownership with men.

“Parents need to learn how to bequeath properties to their children, both male and female.

“Because some people prefer to bequeath the male child a land as gifts, while when the female child is wedding they receive electronics, furniture like fridge, even cars as gifts “, she said.

Mrs Chizoba Ogbeche, Vice-President, Zone D, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), said there was need for specific legislation against discrimination against women regarding land inheritance.

“Also, there is a need to increase advocacy and sensitisation through traditional institutions and religious groups on the need to stop discrimination of any kind against women, including ownership of land and property.

Ogbeche said that changing the culture and tradition of people is usually a slow process, adding that changing the culture of land ownership is a task that should be promoted by all stakeholders.

Ms Adaora Jack, Executive Director, Gender Strategy Advancement International (GSAI), recognises the pivotal role the media plays in bridging gender disparities in every sphere and promoting gender inclusivity.

She said the need to ensure gender accountability prompted the Gender for Agenda project with support from the MacArthur Foundation and Wole Soyinka Center for Investigative Journalism to undertake gender-gap bridging initiatives.

“Nigeria, like many countries, has been grappling with gender disparities, limiting the full potential and contributions of its female population.

“By empowering women, the country stands to benefit from a more diverse and inclusive workforce, increased economic growth, improved societal well-being, and enhanced political representation,’’ she said.

In spite of the wide disparities between the men and women in land ownership and other property acquisition that tend to hinder their progress, Nigerian women have continued to excel in various disciplines.

They have made a great landmark in their chosen profession both locally and on the global stage.

Some of them are Ngozi Okono-Iweala, Director General, the Director-General, World Trade Organisation; Amina Mohammed, Deputy-Secretary General, UN and Folorunsho Alakija, the wealthiest black woman globally.

These women have proven that if given level playing ground women can excel, even beyond expectations. Removing cultural inhibitions to landownership now is one of such steps.

This should be done in no other place than FCT given its position in Nigeria’s political and economic life.

What do you think?


Written by Nike

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