BACKGROUND TO THE PROJECT
Aspects of this consultation were born many, many months ago and have come together in this period when Lagos State and 11 other States of the Nigerian Federation are celebrating their 50th year anniversary. The State is old enough to be a Grandmother and the city she is named for, where we are today, developed around the 16th century and is a fast changing, cosmopolitan place where many trends are pioneered. It is the epitome of Nigerian modernity in the best sense of the word, with all its seemingly intractable problems AND with the many solutions proffered by its citizens and leaders.
When I was a young student at the Nigerian Law School in 1981, doing my mandatory three months stint to learn aspects of Nigerian Law deemed important for those who did not do their law degrees in Nigeria, I approached my studies with fascination and great enthusiasm. After three years of learning about English law and aspects of its history, I felt that this learning experience was about ME and my people, IT RESONATED, I recognised the names, places and scenarios in the cases! The most interesting subject in this short learning experience was Nigerian Land Law which highlighted the development of land law in Nigeria from 1862 when Lagos became a colony of the British. The cases were fascinating and gave me much food for thought. It was my first encounter with cases such as Amodu Tijani v Secretary of State for Southern Nigeria and Lewis v. Bankole. I had a deep interest in issues of Law and Social Change and these cases painted a vivid picture of changing lives and times in Lagos and environs which I could relate to. I felt that most of my colleagues who were trained in Nigeria and reeled off all these cases, having encountered them in various aspects of their study, took them for granted and didn’t recognise their import. Some of them laughed off my enthusiasm and my constant attempts at talking about the impact of the cases on changing pre-colonial Nigerian conceptions.
Following recent decisions by the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the cases of Ukeje v Ukeje and Anekwe v Nweke, the recurring issues of the nature and place of customary law in the development of the Nigerian legal system, and how we understand and deal with purported norms and “traditions” once again came to the fore. Reading some of the commentaries on the cases, I once again wondered – Is this a clash of cultures, a misreading of cultures, part of a continuing process of globalisation of laws and legal systems, or, at a more micro level, part of a dynamic and progressive process of emergence of a Nigerian Common Law?
In May 2017, we secured a small grant from the Institute for International Education in New York to support part of a process of thinking more deeply about and analysing these issues. We convened a Consultation on Rethinking Women’s Land Rights for the 21st Century in Nigeria and Africa in November 2017. In the wake of the workshop – a Coalition for Land Rights is continuing with interventions towards securing people’s land rights and mediating conflicts over land.
Concerned women and citizens of Lagos and Nigeria, organised as a Coalition for Land Rights, midwifed by EMPARC are inviting you today to consider the questions raised by this Consultation from your experiences in research and in law and policy making. We look forward to arriving at answers that make a positive difference in the lives of ordinary citizens especially vulnerable women who shoulder huge responsibilities for agricultural production as well as reproduction and care of families.