Petition by Jigawa farmers Presented to the House of Reps Thursday June 1, 2017 by Hon. M. Sani Zorro:
GAGARAWA LOCAL GOVERNMENT PROGRESSIVE FARMERS ASSOCIATION
c/o GAGARAWA POSTAL AGENCY, JIGAWA STATE
The Honourable Speaker/Members,
House of Representatives,
National Assembly, Abuja.
SAVE OUR SOULS: PETITION AGAINST THE CONFISCATION OF OUR FARMLANDS, FORCED DISPLACEMENT FROM OUR ANCESTRAL VILLAGES AND TOWNS AND HARASSMENT AND TORTURE OF OUR PEOPLE BY JIGAWA STATE GOVERNMENT IN LEAGUE WITH THE JIGAWA STATE POLICE COMMAND ON BEHALF OF A CHINESE COMPANY – NORTHERN AGRIBUSINESS COMPANY LTD.
This petition is as a result of the forced confiscation of our farmlands totaling over 12,000 hectares by the Jigawa State Government, and subsequent allocation to a Chinese company called Northern Agribusiness Co. Ltd., under a dubious transaction shrouded in secrecy and devoid of our consent. It is the tragic story of how an elected government has turned into an agent of a foreign company, betraying and threatening the lives and livelihoods of the very people that brought it to power, in violation of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It is a complex story of how a foreign company has used hundreds of millions of Naira to compromise government officials who in turn unleash terror t0 subdue us because of our social class as peasant farmers, therefore disadvantaged, vulnerable and in need of urgent protection.
PARTICULARS OF THE CASE:
(i) Sometime in 2015, the government of Jigawa State, without our consent, allocated our ancestral farmlands, towns and villages inclusive of cemeteries where we bury our dead to a Chinese company for cultivation of sugarcane. Under the terms of the allocation, the Chinese company was to develop the site in full within a period of 2 years, otherwise the agreement would lapse.
By February 2017, the company was in breach of the agreement, not complying with any provisions of the terms, except for a demonstration farm of less than 300 metres. But, instead of revoking the allocation of the land, the Jigawa State Government under Muhammad Badaru Abubakar as Governor, colluded with others to regularize the ownership of the disputed land in favour of the Chinese company, thereby breaking an electioneering campaign promise to reverse the transaction in its entirety.
(ii) Both the Jigawa State Government and so-called Northern Agribusiness Ltd., further colluded with Gems3 and Adam Smith – 2 non-governmental European organizations, to develop a so-called compensation framework that saw payments of as little as N9,000, N15,000, N21,000 etc, as settlement to individual farmers. Not only that the compensation package and other provisions therein are far below European standards, both Gems3 and Adam Smith as anti-poor organizations have varying antecedents of colluding with public enemy corporations of which Northern Agribusiness belongs to this country, to defraud and short-change third world nations and their citizens.
(iii) That officials of the Jigawa State Government contrary to their oath of office to protect and advance the welfare and wellbeing of their people, instead, became agents of a foreign company as they helped themselves to hundreds of millions of Naira earmarked for so-called sensitization of affected farmers majority of whom have refused to yield to blackmail.
(iv) Only last week, a 20-member delegation led by the State’ s Deputy Governor, returned from China, at the end of an all-expenses paid trip by Messrs. Lee Group – the parent company of Northern Agribusiness Ltd., where they were conducted round various companies. It is instructive to note that the sugarcane plantation they visited in mainland China did not belong to the company, as it never had an experience in this field.
(v) The result of an independent Environmental Impact Assessment has further revealed that the aquatic landscape contemplated for the so-called sugarcane plantation cutting across Gagarawa and Gumel local governments will simply dry up, as the Chinese company plans to drill massive irrigation boreholes whose depth are far beyond the current 40 – 70 meters level, in order to squeeze water from this arid environment that already suffers from low rainfall, spanning between 3- 4 months only, degradation and desertification caused by climate change.
(vi) The Jigawa State Government currently plans to forcibly relocate us (about 12,000 families) to non-arable land that have served only as grazing land for herdsmen, in all cases, tens of kilometers away from our ancestral land despite our pleas, cries and peaceful conduct thus far.
(vii) However, in its selfish determination to force its unpopular agenda down our throat, the Government of Jigawa State has unleashed terror, intimidation and calumny against our population in order to humiliate and subdue us int0 submission. On 3 separate occasions, men of the states police command were used to arrest our youths, framed and charged them to court over frivolities. As we write, 6 of our youths spent their 6th day in police custody, yesterday, where they were beaten and molested, as a High Court of the state refused them bail, yesterday (Wednesday June 1, 2017), and instead threw them to prison for a further one week before a case of trespass, criminal obstruction levelled against them will be entertained.
(1) That the House of Representatives conduct public hearing for the purpose of gathering testimonies of the affected farmers to forestall further breach of the constitution and protect our lives and property against marauding land grabbers with active connivance of unpatriotic state officials.
(2) Establish the motive behind the involvement of Gem3 and Adam Smith organizations in developing the lopsided compensation framework of the project.
(3) Investigate the entire compensation and so-called sensitization exercise(s), with a view to establishing whether or not government officials, local leaders and others have been compromised by the Chinese company and their cohorts.
(4) Find out whether or not the project is in the overriding interest of the people, as opposed to the interest of a foreign company and perhaps a few, corrupt government officials.
(5) Establish whether or not there is security implication embedded in the project and advise the federal government accordingly.
(6) Involve the National Human Rights Commission, Transparency International and Amnesty International among others in the investigation process because of the legal and international dimensions of the matter.
We hereby sign overleaf, on behalf of ourselves and the communities specified on the following pages.