Chinese billionaire’s company in Jigawa farmland controversy

Part of the land in contention
Part of the land in contention

The Fulani settlements in Garin Ciroma of Gagarawa LGA, in Jigawa State, have been evicted to give way for the establishment of a sugarcane plantation owned by a Chinese billionaire, under the auspices of Mr. Lee group of companies. Residents say the herders are not the only ones whose land has been grabbed, as the people of Gayawan Malam, one of the largely agrarian communities affected by the project, have also lost their farmland.

Residents of Gayawan Malam have said they lost their entire crops for this year’s cropping season, as Northern Agribusiness Limited, a subsidiary of aforementioned Mr. Lee group of companies that is handling the sugarcane plantation project, has deployed heavy duty machines to make way for the construction of boreholes for a 12,000-hectare sugarcane plantation.

Ditches about two metres deep were dug all across most of the farmlands for water pipe-laying, making work for local small-scale farmers impossible. The machinery deployed for road clearance and sinking of boreholes had to be accompanied by heavily-armed mobile policemen.

Hassan Haru, one of the family heads of the Fulani herders, said when the company wanted to start work, they were given three days to vacate the area. At the expiration of the three days, a detachment of armed mobile policemen invaded the settlement, forcing them out. “As we were packing, armed mobile policemen were harassing us to hurry. We were given another place to relocate, about two kilometers away from our original place. But without our farms, what will we eat?”

Danu Mohammed Abubakar, said there are 2,000 farm owners in Gayawan Malam community, with only four out of them compensated, as the others are standing their ground, that a foreigner will not take over their ancestral land. He particularly lamented that the company did not wait until after harvest to carry out their illegal activity. “About 35 percent of the expected produce at harvest has been destroyed. Hunger is staring us in the eye, within a few years to come.”

A member of the legal committee that took the company to court, Mohammed Rabiu, said despite the controversy, the Chinese company is digging about their farmlands in the name of laying down pipes. He also said it has made it impossible for the farm-owners to work their farms. Though, he said, the case is before a court in Gumel, the company continues to work. According to him, there is hope, as the court has already issued an order that permits the 13-member legal committee to continue to farm before the determination of the case.

He also said a majority of affected farmers have not collected compensation, saying when lawyers made the copy of the payment voucher, about 7,000 people had not collected compensation, but it was indicated that they had.

“Winning in court is within sight, because the 13 members of the legal committee that took the company to court on behalf of all the affected, have secured an order to continue to work on their farms, pending the determination of the case.”

Mr. Lee, owner of Mr. Lee group of companies, has plans to invest $80million (roughly N40 billion) in the state, for sugarcane plantation and sugar industry, for which the company requires 12,000 hectares of land. The process for acquiring the land for the million-dollar investment started during the administration of ex-governor Sule Lamido, but the deal could not be sealed, until the coming of the present administration of Governor Muhammad Badaru Abubakar.

Director Agricultural Services of Great Northern Agribusiness Limited, Umar Mohammed Majia, decline comment, citing the court case.


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