Bauchi farmers, herders raise alarm as govt leases out land to businessman for 99 years

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Some farmers and herders from Zaki Local Government Area of Bauchi State, numbering about 1,000, on Thursday lamented the leasing of 10, 000 hectares of their ancestral land to a Kano-based businessman by the state government.

Addressing journalists in Bauchi, the leaders of the farmers and herders in the area, Abubakar Tatari and Bello Umar respectively, informed that they had been using the land leased out by the government for farming and cattle grazing for years.

The leaders, who were in company of some of the affected farmers and herders, said they were unaware of the leasing of the land and grazing areas to the Kano-based businessman, one Mamman Mai Fata, until they saw vehicles and tractors working on the land.

According to them, as of the time the land was leased to the businessman, they were about to harvest their dry season rice.

Tatari informed that upon the discovery, they contacted the district head, who told them that the state government had leased out the plots of land to Mai Data, who owned Umza Rice Company.

“We visited the district head of the local government to report the matter. He told us that government had given out the plots to a businessman Mamman Mai Fata who owns Umza rice firm to use them for a time period of 99 years but that he would contact those in charge.

“The development led to altercation between us and those trespassers. They left for sometime but after we harvested the rice and planted another for the rainy season, they came back with the officials of the local government and entered into people’s farms to make some surveys,” Tatari said.

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He informed that 3,000 hectares out of the leased land were being used by the affected farmers, while the remaining 7,000 hectares were bushy areas and herders’ settlements.

He further disclosed that in order not to the take law into their hands, the affected people contacted the police, saying that the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in the area referred them to the palace of the district head.

“In order to avoid taking the laws into our own hands, we contacted the police DPO of Zaki Local Government but he referred us to the palace of the district head. The district head told us the land was leased out for 99 years to the businessman by the government. We also saw the land officer of the local government with the people surveying the land,” he disclosed.

Also speaking, the leader of the herders, who is also the secretary of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Zaki LGA, Bello Umar, informed that the lease affected 97 Fulani settlements (Rugas), adding that the affected herders were now helpless without anywhere to go.

“We have been displaced. We don’t know where to relocate to now. We call on the Bauchi State Governor to review this action,” Umar appealed.

Meanwhile, the chairman, Zaki LGA, Yahuza Abdulkadir, when contacted on phone, slammed the farmers and herders for coming to Bauchi to complain about their plight without first contacting him.

According to him, “if they meet me and didn’t get satisfactory response, then they can come to Bauchi. They should have met me and told me their farms were encroached first. But they didn’t.”

Abdulkadir disclosed that the rice company met with Governor Mohammed and was given the land to grow rice and sugarcane.

He said both the local government and the district head, upon being contacted agreed that the land to be leased out would be only the wet area, adding that it was further agreed that nobody’s farm would be encroached unless the owner agreed to rent out his farm.

On the grazing areas allegedly affected, the council boss said that the local government had yet to designate any place as grazing reserve in the area.

He added that over the years, it has been the practice for traditional rulers to earmark places to be used as grazing reserve in their domains.

He, however, urged the affected herders to alternatively use other bushy areas for grazing.

In a related development, the state government has declared that it only leased out its reserved land and not people’s land.

This was disclosed by the Permanent Secretary in the State Ministry of Lands, Adamu Hassan Bashir, when commenting on the development.

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