11 December 2016

Nigeria: Why We Resist Take-Over of Our Farmlands - Jigawa Villagers

Jigawa State risks losing an $80 million investment following resistance by locals for take-over of farmlands for sugarcane plantation/ industry.

The villagers from 36 communities in Gagarawa, Taura, Suketankarkar and Garki Local Government Areas of the state vowed to resist any attempt to take over their farmland.

It was gathered that Jigawa State wooed Mr. Lee Group, a Chinese foreign investor, to invest in the state. Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that Mr. Lee Group plans to invest $80million (N40 billion) in the state and requires 12,000 hectares of land for the project.

The process for acquiring the land started during the former administration of governor Sule Lamido, but the deal could not be completed before the end of that administration.

The locals are alleging deceit in the transaction. Some of them who spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday said government initially told them that the land was for construction of a dam.

They lamented that after the first meeting, they did not hear from the government again, but only started seeing surveyors in company of some Chinese nationals in the area.

They added that after the survey and demarcation of their farmlands were completed, they were asked to come for compensation which they rejected.

Our correspondent gathered that out of the 12,000 farm owners captured by the government, only about 300 people collected compensation.

Danu Makeri and Mohammed Ada'ilu from Gagarawa Mallam, who spoke on behalf of their community told Daily Trust on Sunday that the people were deceived.

They added that when they were first consulted, they were made to think that the project was for a dam that would aid dry season farming.

They added that after holding several meetings, they arrived at a decision to see the member of the state assembly representing them.

They said a delegation of about 60 people went to the member to lodge a formal complaint and to state that they were no longer interested in the project.

They said when they did not get any positive response from the state Assembly, they decided to take the matter to the National Assembly through the member representing their federal constituency, Sani Zoro. It was gathered that despite the complaint, the project was not suspended.

They said the case had been taken to court. "We will not take a kobo from anybody because our farmlands are not for sale", they added.

Efforts to speak with officials of Mr. Lee Group were not successful. When our correspondent visited the Garin Ciroma sugarcane plantation, he was told that they would not be available until Monday.

When he requested for the telephone number of any of the officials, the gateman at the plantation said he did not have the numbers.

Also, efforts to hear from the state's Commissioner of Land, proved abortive. However, the state deputy governor, Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia, while addressing a rally in support of the project recently, said out of the 12, 000 hectares that would be taken over, 6,000 hectares will be used by farmers to grow their usual crops and sugarcane.


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