1.1 Background of the Study
Land is the basis for every form of physical development and constitutes the primary medium for food production, for the provision of sheets and utilities, for the manufacture of goods and the establishment of institutions to support the basic needs of modern communities (Lanus ad Olufemi 2006). Ukaejiofor (2009) posited that land at the heart of social, political and economic life of the most African countries. He stressed further that, it is the key factor for economic growth and development of every nation and the foundation for shelter in the urban areas as well as the source of livelihood in the rural areas. Therefore, it is an indisputable source of employment and wealth (Idoma and Muhammed, 2014). In recent times, the struggle for available land resource has often resulted to land disputes and conflicts. A land dispute is a disagreement over the possession/control of land between two or more territorial entities or over the possession or control of land, usually between a new state and the occupying power (Afzalur, 2010).
Robert (2012) asserted that land disputes are often related to the possession of natural resources such as rivers, fertile farmland, mineral or oil resources although the disputes can also be driven by culture, religion and ethnic nationalism. Land disputes result often from vague and unclear language in a treaty that set up the original boundary. According to Afzalur (2010) land disputes are a major cause of wars and terrorism as states often try to assert their sovereignty over a territory through invasion, and non-state entities try to influence the actions of politicians through terrorism. International law does not support the use of force by one state to annex the territory of another state.
Deininger and Castagnini (2004) observed that widows are mostly affected by land conflicts and are the worst hit of land disputes. Studies have shown that female-headed households and widows are particularly affected and that the enactment of the 1990 Land Use Act has failed to reduce the number of pending land conflicts. The government of Nigeria has suggested amending the above said Land Use Act in a bid to resolve the ever emerging land conflicts between the Land lords and the sitting tenants. This suggests that, especially in Africa, attention to land-related conflicts and exploration of ways to prevent and speedily resolve them would be an important area for policy as well as research. Land is a treasured resource for development in every respect and at all levels especially in the sub Saharan regions, and it has become a source of conflict (Afzalur, 2010).
Evidence shows that the highest numbers of cases registered by Local Council Courts from village level to sub-county level are land related (Michael, 1992). According to interactions with the Local Council members in Warri South-West L.G.A of Delta State, these cases range from unclear boundaries, grabbing, disputes of inheritance to deceased property, sell of “air” (land that is not there) and forceful eviction of sitting tenants by the land lords like those in Warri Estates. In Nigeria, over 80% of its population practice agriculture and these depend on land, this is also the case in Warri South-West L.G.A of Delta State especially in the Ogbe-Ijaw sub-region unlike in Warri Metropolis which is predominately an Urban Place. What should be observed in this region is that land is limited due to the high population that has lead to land fragmentation. This has in turn hindered the socio-economic development of the region due to the various land disputes resulting from the scarcity of land resources in Ogbe-Ijaw community.
Studies (such as Michael, 1992; Lanus ad Olufemi 2006; Ukaejiofor, 2009; Afzalur, 2010; Robert, 2012) have shown that there is no sufficient empirical data to show the effect of land dispute on the socio-economic activities in Ogbe-Ijaw, Warri South-West L.G.A of Delta State and as such there is no basis where land disputes can be handled. Little attention has actually been devoted to the study of land disputes despite evidence on increasing incidences of such disputes. It is therefore; against this background that the researcher will investigate the effect of land dispute on the socio-economic activities in Ogbe-Ijaw community, Warri South-West L.G.A of Delta State.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The major problem associated with land dispute is the loss of lives and valuable properties. Land disputes often occur between individuals, groups and organizations. Land dispute in recent times have caused more damage and harm than good to the modern day society (Ukaejiofor, 2009). Land dispute often hinder the socio-economic activities of most urban and rural dwellers leading to economic hardship, poverty, health problems, food scarcity, low standard of living, among others. This is evidence that the problems emanating from land disputes are enormous. It has been discovered in repeated studies that land disputes often results to death and serious injury during conflict battles especially in situations where it is communal disputes or territorial conflicts (Fischer, 2012).
It has been observed that the number of land cases in most Nigerian towns, villages and cities has sometimes led to war which has displaced citizens from their natural habitats thereby hindering their socio-economic activities and day-to-day business activities in the areas (Robert, 2012). Presently, parties have still not come to terms on how to resolve land disputes especially between villages, towns and cities. Communal conflicts still dominate the southern parts of Nigeria since the discovery of oil in the Niger Delta Region. The need for arable land has also increased over the years giving room for conflict issues and land disputes. No matter the effort made by the federal, state and local government to resolve land disputes between villages, towns, and cities, land disputes is still common in these areas especially among the villagers who see land possession as wealth and inheritance (Fischer and Ferlie, 2013).
It is no doubt today that, the problems associated with land disputes could hinder the socio-economic activities and well-being of most urban and rural dwellers of Ogbe-Ijaw community and its environs. The socio-economic activities of the people in Ogbe-Ijaw community which ranges from primary activities (farming, agriculture, fishing, etc), secondary activities (trading, business, artesian, etc) to tertiary activities (banking, industries, factories, etc) have been seriously hindered by land disputes. Businesses are often shut down during crisis, war and conflicts resulting from land disputes. This often leads to loss of perishable goods, increase in food prices, high cost of living, unstable society, loss of infrastructural facilities, damage to available community services and basic/social facilities and poor infrastructural development.