Sunday, September 7, 2014

Landgrab by foreigners forces Kebbi farmers to move to Niger State

Over 1,000 farmers from Ngaski Local Government of Kebbi State, whose farmlands were allotted to a Chinese firm, have been forced to migrate to alternative farmlands in neighbouring Niger state.

Investigations revealed that most of the farmers are currently realizing half of their annual harvest from rented land twice the size of what they were farming on in Kebbi.

Abdullahi Magaji, 40, one of farmers who migrated to Raha, Ngaski Local Government with his family, said they were forced out of their farmlands in Cifamini, which was allotted to a Chinese firm by the Aliero administration, and no compensation was paid to them, neither were they given alternative lands to farm on.

"Part of the land that was collected from us was used to build a staff quarter for the Chinese people.

"We were told that the areas that are not part of the government reserve will not be touched but to our surprise, our own farmlands that were not part of the government reserve were added to it and were allotted to the Chinese people.

"The then Governor Adamu Aliero told us to channel our complaints to our traditional rulers, which we did and up till now, no action was taken over the issue.

"As you can see, I am in Raha village working on a rented farmland; I only harvest about 250 bags of corn, 100 of sorghum, 90 of millet and just about 80 of rice. Back home in Cifamini, I make twice that amount in dry season alone on just about half the size of farmland where I am currently farming in Niger.

"We are therefore appealing to the current governor of Kebbi to look into our plight and assist us to retrieve our lands from the Chinese people," he said.

The Sarkin Noman Cifamini, Mallam Abubakar Musa, 60, who said he has been in the farming business for over 40 years, also disclosed that the portion of the farmland allotted to the Chinese were given to farmers by Kambari locals, 40 years ago.

"We were made to sign some papers and each farmer collected between N30, 000 to, N50, 000. Since then, nothing was given to us and nobody contacted any farmer on any issue concerning compensation.

"We have moved to farmlands in Raha, Baligu and some other places in Nasko LGA of Niger state where we managed to secure lands on loan to farm on.

"The lands are not as fertile as our lands back home. I make only about 100 bags of rice in Niger as against over 250 back home. I also make about 60 bags of corn as against about 200 bags while I was in the land allotted to the Chinese people.

"We are poor people, so we are appealing to the state government to please come to our aid and intervene. Government should look into the possibility of retrieving portion of our fertile farmlands back to us."

The Sarkin Noman Ngaski LGA, Alhaji Garba Abdullahi, when contacted said the farmland was originally acquired by the then Northern regional government under Sardauna of Sokoto and the Prime Minister, Ahmadu Bello for farmers in the area to farm on.

"The farmland was later handed to the Chinese firm by Aliero without any proper arrangement of an alternative farmland for the farmers whose only source of livelihood is that farmland.

"There is no doubt that the farmland is a government reserve, with only some portions owned by some farmers which was added and allotted to the Chinese firm. But we are saying that government should have considered the local farmers who have been working on the lands for many decades during its drive for agricultural development and not foreign firms that have only succeeded in displacing citizens of their only source of livelihood," he said.

On whether or not compensations have been paid to farmers whose farmland formed part of the allotted lands, he said, "Yes, even though I am not directly involved in the payment, I cannot say how much was paid to each farmer. But, some Hakimis in the area confirmed to me that they were fully involved in the exercise and everybody was compensated."

He said the Chinese firm sometimes considered the farmers and loaned out few portions of the farmland to them.

The Hakimin Cifamini, Alhaji Muhammadu Dantsoho, confirmed that compensation was made to the farmers.

In his word: "Yes, the issue of payment of compensation is true but you know that grudges in this kind of situation will not end.

"The truth of the matter is that we had some slight problems with the Chinese firm, but we are in the process of resolving and having a better mutual understanding. Since government has already allotted the land to them, I think the best thing to do is to have an amicable avenue of working together.

"So far, our little understanding has made them to lend us some portions of the land to farm on. The bumper harvest recorded in the last dry season farming in their farmland surprised everybody.

"Our pumping machines in the Chinese farmland were not functional when we started work. The engineers they brought firm China failed to repair the machines.

"So, we capitalized on that and requested for the portions of the farmland that require the pump to be given to us to farm on. We employed the service of our local engineer, who fixed it at the cost of N300, 000. The expenses were shared with the Chinese who paid N150, 000, while we paid the balance.

"These joint effort has really boosted the capacity of this year's harvest of rice by about 200 local farmers who were opportune to farm in the borrowed Chinese farmland.

"Sarkin Noma, other farmers and I, each recorded a harvested of about 30 bags of rice from the Chinese farmland.

"Governor Dakingari complemented our efforts with about 150 pumping machine which we shared each machine to two farmers on the about 200 hectares lent to us by the Chinese.

"We pay N500 per hectare for wet season and N1, 000 for use of the farmland in the dry season farming. The Chinese firm buys up our harvest at N6, 500 per bag. Sometimes, we sell to the middlemen too at N4, 000 in our local market," he said.

He called on the state government to continue to assist the farmers with more dry season farm implements like pumping machines.

"This time around, we call on government to directly handle the distribution of the pumps to farmers," he advised.

Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Ngaski Local Government Area of Kebbi State, Mallam Nuhu Bala, also appealed to government to look into the plight of the farmers, especially those that have to abandon their ancestral home in search of farmlands in other states.

"It is rainy season now; you can see how deserted the town is because all our farmers have moved to Niger state in search of rented farmlands to farm on," he said.

He lamented the non involvement of the association in government agricultural programmes during Senator Aliero's tenure as governor.

"Our association is not aware and was not carried along in the process of the allotment to the Chinese firm during Aliero's administration. We were not carried along in most of Aliero's agricultural programmes that included the allotment of the Cifamini land to the Chinese. It is only in the current administration of Governor Saidu Dakingari that we have been involved in agricultural programmes," he said.

When our reporter contacted former Commissioner of Agriculture who served in Aliero's administration, Garba Muhammad Dandiga, he said the land belongs to government; hence there was no reason for compensation to the farmers who were farming on the land before the allotment to the Chinese firm.

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