Jos: When land-grabbers threaten government projects, natives

Land-grabbers are threatening government projects and the natives in Jos, Plateau State. For over a decade now, some native tribes in Plateau State mostly the Beroms, Irigwes, among others, have raised alarm about their communities being taken over by non-natives.

Also, the affected communities are being renamed by the latest occupants. For instance, in Beromland in Jos North, Jos South, Barkin Ladi and Riyom local government areas, over 54 communities have been taken over by the invaders and many of the occupied communities renamed.

The occupied communities include Rotchun (aka Rafin Acha), Rankum (renamed Mahanga), Hywa (renamed Lugere), Fass (renamed Tafawa), Davwak, Chwelnyap, Lyoho Dakar, Angwan Dalyop, Janda, Darin, Shong I, Shong II.

Others are Rakweng; Dashugu; Diyan-Hei; Maseh (renamed Lugel), Kampwas; Kasa; Zere; Ninja-Hei; Seh; Nicha; Pwabeduk; Hyai; Kufang; Sharu, Dogo, Ningon, Rantis, Angio and Shonong.

There are also Rahol, Chikogo, Ranchol, Nangam, Kak, Dajak, Rarin, Kujei, Attakar, Nantwa, some parts of Bisichi, Rahol-Mazat, Kai, Luk-Fei, Mallel, Bel, Rahei, Zim, Jong, Rabuk, Lobiring, Gwara Dadep, Kachin, among others.

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The Irigwes in Bass a Local Government Area of the State are suffering a similar fate, as some of their communities have also been taken over by the aggressors and the coalition of ethnic groups in the state under the auspice of Plateau Initiative for Development and Advancement of the Natives, PIDAN, has raised concerns about the sad development.

The state governor, Simon Lalong, had warned against land-grabbing, saying his administration will not condone such and has even taken steps to end the trend.

According to him, “those fighting, killing people and destroying their settlements with the intention of taking ownership of such places will not be allowed to do so.

“If you think you can chase people out and grab their land, we as a government will not allow you to own the land. My administration is working out modalities for prosecuting landgrabbers to discourage the act.”

Despite all efforts, it seems the activities of some Federal Government agencies are allegedly supporting land-grabbing.

For instance, in spite of the warning by the state governor, an ultra-modern school building has been erected at Rankum (renamed Mahanga) under the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, with the foreign name being adopted on the project to the dismay of the natives, who are calling for a reversal of the name, as adopting the renamed identity of the community supports and legitimises land-grabbing.

The primary school named Ardo Mamuda Primary School after a renowned Fulani leader is a double 12-classroom block.

Jol Community Development Association, JCDA, which Rankum (Mahanga) is a part of, told the SDG: “Carrying out such project by your good offices on land grabbed for the benefit of invaders/aggressors when it is within public knowledge that over 50 villages in Riyom and Barkin Ladi Local Government Areas have been sacked through armed invasions and currently occupied by the attackers, amounts to condoning, applauding, aiding and abetting crimes against humanity, thereby legitimising aggression in the 21st century which is an outright defiance to relevant statutes that prohibit such conduct.”

In a petition by its Acting Chairman, Joshua Bashash, and 36 others, the association noted that “the speed at which the construction was done, without due consultation, raises a lot of suspicion that the fact of this development was railroaded to foist a fait accompli on the local community.

“The community is demanding the reversal of the projects, which are already set for commissioning and return of the community and over 50 others sacked and occupied by herders, to the original owners.”

The petition against the Office of the Senior Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on SDGs, served on June 25, added: “Since consent of the land owners and local community was not first sought and obtained before siting the project by your good office, JCDA demand for reversal of your action so that all the six built classrooms blocks with its furniture as well as the VIP toilets be exclusively allocated to the natives.

“The entire Rankum is an area belonging to surviving native inhabitants now Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, who were sacked through violent attacks by settlers residing thereon, and remorselessly renamed it ‘Mahanga’ Village in Riyom LGA, which is alien to JCDA.

“Your good offices and other relevant bodies are hereby urged to speedily commence an investigation into this weighty development so that your action and inaction will not project an encouragement to breach of public peace and order.

“Rather, native inhabitants/IDPs of Rankum should be resettled to their homestead through such intervention and also provision of relief materials and as well as psycho-social supports to alleviate the long traumatic plight of all the affected persons;

“Dislodgement of all Fulani from lands grabbed and/or sacked that have been forcefully occupied, especially Rankum, be made a matter of urgent public importance as it will give the disadvantaged persons-IDPs a sense of belonging as members of the human family and fulfill the promises and obligation of government to restore the displaced landowners to their land;

“Your good offices and other relevant agencies should refrain from recognising ‘Mahanga Village’ other than the original native name Rankum of Jol in Riyom LGA.

“This is because the Rankum (now renamed as Mahanga) is a hamlet and not a village as forcefully claimed by the aggressors.”

SDG office reacts

Reacting to the development, Moses Azi, who is the Head of Information in the SDG office in Jos said: “I agree with you that Mahanga is not the name of the village, but the people should come with a letter and request for the proper identification of the project.

“We have not received any complaint. There is nothing we can do. But if we receive any formal complaint requesting for a change because the project was not properly identified, we will look into it.”

VANGUARD

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