uses of land by the chiefs.
factors have marked major turning points in the occupation and use of land in
the NWP. The introduction of cattle in 1919 (Njeuma and Awasum 1989: 288) and
coffee in the early thirties (Chem-Langhëë 1989). The introduction
of long-horned cattle grazing by Fulani graziers from Nigeria and Banyo has led
to numerous problems for resource management since access rights to land for
grazing competes directly with the agrarian patterns of land utilization.
later introduction of coffee provided new patterns of individual enterprise and
capital accumulation. As a cash crop, the money earned accrued to the farmer
as an individual and not to the lineage. This immediately spurred males to
invade surrounding farmland and plant coffee. This implied long-term
alienation of land and altered patterns of land use in the subsistence
communities. Land occupation increasingly became a case of permanent alienation.
ensuing competition for land has given rise to conflicts over land for cash
crop cultivation and food crop cultivation, and conflicts between farmers and
graziers. The major transformation in the customary law principles is the
commodifcation of land. For example, Fulani graziers settled in Kom paid an
annual tribute of one cow per family to the Fon as a sign of their recognition
of the Fon as landlord over all of Kom. With the enactment of the 1974 Land
Ordinances, and as a consequence of local politics, the Fulani graziers were
persuaded not to pay this tribute. So, a valuable source of royal finance was
lost. The late Fon of Kom, Jinabo II, devised a new strategy of selling all
unoccupied lands to the Fulani graziers. The local bureaucrats in the Fundong
Sub-Division served him notice that he would be arrested if he persisted in
'dabbling in land matters' since, as the local administration now
claimed, all land matters were reserved for the Land Consultative Board chaired
by the Sub-Prefect.
asked why he was selling land contrary to tradition, the Fon retorted:
'Why keep the land when the Sous-Prefet controls it anyway'. He
saw himself in direct competition with the local bureaucracy for management
prerogatives over land. Rather than adopt a confrontational approach to the
local state elite, the Fon opted to sell off the land to Fulani graziers. By
so doing, he was destroying the material basis of his power which hinged on his
ritual construction of space by pouring libations on the same land.
response to the suggestion that he should have registered his unoccupied lands
and then leased them to graziers, the Fon retorted:
makes my land my land? Is it that piece of paper or the fact that I am Fon of
Kom? It does not matter whether I register the land or not. Traditionally,
all grazing land ... is mine, no matter what the Senior Prefect, the Agric.
Officer, the gendarmes and the government people ... may say. I am the
landlord as far as grazing land is concerned'.
a more desperate mood, the Fon resorted to graphic metaphor:
have since realized that I am like an (earth) worm since I became Fon of Kom,
and more specifically since the Senior Prefect started ... to warn me. Yes, I
am as weak as an (earth) worm ... I am like a worm in the midst of ants. On
my right, the 'tiny chiefdoms' are biting me, on my left the Senior
Prefect and his gendarmes. Everywhere around me, there are pressures. Whether
I give the land to the Fulani or not, the Senior Prefect will not only give
them but will threaten me with arrest if I challenge him ... Everybody is
blaming me as if my successor will not sell the land to strangers ...
land is no longer mine
ability to convert public law rights of land control to private law rights of
ownership, has led to unmitigated land alienation. Sale of land is such a
common phenomenon that future generations might fear to find no family land
left for them. This trend has been accelerated by local administrators, such
as District Officers, who are taking advantage of the law to seize control over
land and other prerogatives that formerly accrued to local landlords.
response to this encroachment, the chiefs and their notables have been
formulating new strategies such as to share family land among family members,
unmindful of the fact that land belongs to a vast community, many of whom are
dead, few are living, and many are still unborn. Does this mark the
disintegration of authority of chiefs and the notables in traditional society?
The alienation of the most fundamental of family properties, land, can only
tear apart the corporate juristic entity that is the family. This marks the
emancipation of the individual from the corporate group.
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