Olanrewaju Lawal, Birnin-Kebbi
About 450 members of the Kebbi State chapter of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), will lose about N500 million in ongoing destruction of their farms, covering about 14,000 hectares by the atate government, in Gwazawa village of Danko/Wasagu Local Government Area.
Chairman of the association in the area, Alhaji Aliyu Bature, told newsmen in Birnin -Kebbi, on Sunday, that the farmers would lose crops worth N200 million as their farmland have been taken over by the state government; for allegedly trespassing on Forest Reserves.
He said: “We planted crops worth N200 million in our farmland but the state government handed the farmland over to a company for cassava production and ethanol biofuel.
“The destruction of our crops has already started in the presence of heavily armed police officers, and no compensation has been given to us.”
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Bature said majority of the farmers invested the loans they secured from the banks for farming in the area, and added that “some of us sold our cattle and invested the money in the farms while others took loans from banks and private individuals.
“If we are to be allowed three months to harvest the crops we have planted, we would get nothing more than N500 million from the harvested crops.”
When contacted, the Commissioner for Environment and Solid Minerals, Alhaji Musa Hassan Kalgo said the14,000 hectares were forest reserve and not farmland.
“We have about eight forest reserves and the 14,000 hectares, which the farmers alleged we have confiscated is one of them. During the previous administrations, the reserve was given to a company called Excel Solution Nigeria Limited for a project but, the company failed to honour the contractual agreement and embarked on illegal renting of the land to farmers in the area.
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“The farmers in the area, themselves, reported the company’s dubious acts to us and we forwarded the matter to House of Assembly, which set up a committee, went there and came up with a recommendation that the certificate given to the company be revoked.
“Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu revoked the certificate of the company; based on the state assembly’s recommendation. We re-warned them on July 28, 2018, but, none of them heeded the warning. So, we can’t fold our arms and leave an 80-year-old forest reserve to be illegally taken over from the state government.”
Similarly, Commissioner for Information and Culture, Alhaji Muhammed Suleiman Marafa told newsmen that the land has been a forest reserve right from the time of the former governor Adamu Aliero’s administration and has not, at any time, been released to general public for free farming activities.