Surveying and Geoinformatics as Instruments of Conflict Resolution


Nigeria has been grappling with insecurity. Commendably, the military, the police and other security forces have made enormous sacrifices in tackling it on many fronts. The country, was enviable for her relative peace; that was when primordial and ethno-religious sentiments were veiled by ethos of self-rule consolidation, redefinition of diversity and national cohesion.

The vicious security challenge is a major headache of the government.  The Administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is scouting for more ingenious approaches and technological-based operations to maul it. The appointment of an astute investigator and pioneer Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallan Nuhu Ribadu as the National Security Adviser (NSA) gives credence to the commitment of the government to deflate the humongous space of armed criminals in the country.  We are already seeing light, hopefully, at the end of the tunnel.

The security situation as it is today, is dimensional, often triggered by intra and inter-ethnic/communal dynamics. The conflict arising from land and boundary disputes, is a recurring decimal among people of various communities that have been living together for ages.  According to Toyin Falola in is “Neighbours at War: Conflicts over Boundaries in Colonial Nigeria” published by the Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, Volume 19 (2010), the violent conflicts so far generated by land disputes over boundaries and the fights over land control are many to be discussed in any single write up. He says, “Boundary disputes and adjustments led to the loss of lives, the source of livelihood and identity. They led to loss of citizenship in a community defined on the basis of ethnicity and land.” There is hardly any state in this country that is free of land related conflicts.

In a report attributed to the Director General of the National Boundary Commission (NBC), Surv. Adamu Adaji, The Punch Newspaper edition of September 13, 2022 listed not less than 20 states that witnessed cases of land dispute between January of 2018 and August, 2022 with records of 676 death and 444 destroyed houses. The states included Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, Gombe, Kogi and Kwara.  The list also include Niger, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Yobe and Taraba. Ethnic and communal clashes induced by land and boundary disputes remain a source of serious disruption to the infrastructural and socioeconomic development efforts of the government.

In order to find a more enduring means of resolving such conflicts, we must rethink the vital role of surveying and geoinformatics in conflict resolution, and other developments around national security. Prioritizing surveying and geoinformatics in our governance system is necessary in the quest to achieve long-lasting peace.

The nexus between surveying, geoinformatics and conflict resolution is spick-and-span for an inquisitor who is not an expert in surveying, security or conflict matters.  Land is determined or measured by surveying, including the determination of any country’s air space and water areas and even the materials underneath the earth and for the development of a national gazetteer among many others.

Surveying and geoinformatics can basically expose flood and disaster prone areas in order to plan against avoidable fatalities. While they are relevant to many industries, they are also vital to evolving legal instruments that can be used to deal with cases over claims of land ownership or boundaries. Governments can underscore surveying and geoinformatics through favourable policies to ensure the appropriate surveying and documentation of every parcel of land in the country. Administrators can easily access data (land size, location, coordinates, etc) for issuance of title-deeds. Titling of lands has many implications. The value of the land will be increased; the land becomes a source of capital; it will boost security and vigilance; and government will generate revenue. Substantially, it a boost in the process of resolving conflicts.

Resolution of conflicts induced by land and boundary disputes are not exclusive to a particular agency; therefore, the emphasis to spur realistic collaboration between and among agencies of the government in tackling our challenges can never be said to be belated. To mitigate the insecurity especially those induced by land and boundary disputes, the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) should connect its task with the mandates of the Office of the Surveyor General of the Federation (OSGoF) in one hand, and the National Boundary Commission (NBC) on the other hand in order to chart a holistic approach. Surveying and geoinformatics remain crucial to the resolution of land and boundary disputes, and the activities  remain the statutory responsibility of OSGoF, and adjudication of disagreements on land and boundary matters assigned to the NBC, IPCR has the mandate to lead in matters of peace promotion and resolution of conflicts.

As peace and conflict resolution intellectuals who know how best to communicate peace, deepening the knowledge of the officials of the IPCR, the country’s apex agency for peace promotion and conflict management in surveying and geoinformatics as they relate to resolving land ownership and boundary disputes is most fitting for Nigeria.

Michael is Head of Press and Public Relations,
Office of the Surveyor-General of the Federation