Farmers, who are claiming ownership of the 1,150 hectares of land allocated to Vicampro Farms Ltd last year to farm and process potatoes and to Access Quaint Energy to produce 50 Megawatt of Solar energy on the defunct “Manchok Ranch” in Kaural Kocal Government Area (LGA) of Kaduna state has kicked against the investments.
The Federal Government had said it was committing $120 million (N48 billion) to Vicampro to invest on the farm at the launch of the project in September, 2016.
The villagers said that it was secretive and forceful acquisition of their family lands and allocating them to private companies for the sole purpose of making profit while they, the owners, will end up as farm hands.
Youthful farmers storm the venue of a meeting between their elderly representatives, those of the two companies and the acting Kaura LGA Chairman, Mr. Andrew Agogs carrying placards and singing protest songs, but did not bust the meeting.
Journalists were barred from the meeting while the youths sang protest songs derogatory of Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna state, and his deputy Governor, Arc. Baranabas Bantex, who is a native of the place.
Some of the placards read: “Vicampro, Quint, pack and go”; “Our land is our last resources and is worth dying for”; “we say NO! to land grabbing”.
After the meeting, the representatives of the communities gave reporters a copy of a letter they wrote to el-Rufai stating why they don’t want the Access Quant Solar energy plant on their farms and that if Vicampro must remain, then they must be the ones to cultivate the potatoes and sell to the company to do whatever it wants with it.
The letter, which was dated 16th November, 2017 had its heading: “Memorandum on the position of the landowners of the defunct Manchok Cattle Ranch on the illegal allocation of portions of the defunct Manchok Cattle Ranch in Kaura and Zangon Kataf LGAs to Access Quaint Solar Nigeria Limited and Vicampro Farms Limited.”
Part of the letter reads:
“The land in question belongs to the families and individual who have inherited it from their forefathers, and desire to continue owning and using that land by themselves, for agricultural purposes.
“The land in question is the best agricultural land available to the farmers and the community, and the owners do not accept that such prime agricultural land should be used for solar farming, when there are available alternative land for such project as the case is all over the world.
“Being farmers, and earning their livelihoods from the land, the landowners will lose their means of livelihood if the land were taken away from them.
“Contrary to best practices throughout the world, such a large scale solar project is being proposed to be sited within an existing settlement, which will be injurious to the environment and the health of the people in the communities. Materials provided by Access Quaint to our communities, including pictorials on similar projects they have handled elsewhere, show that in all such projects none are situated near or within human settlements. The project will be harmful to our communities, and cannot be accepted.
“Quaint have not, to this day, displayed the Environmental Impact Assessment Report for inspection and comments by the stakeholders, we believe partly because they have no way of addressing the environment hazards they have enumerated in their report, and partly because they have shown that the ultimate beneficiaries of the land grabbing will be people from outside the project area. . . . the landowners are therefore afraid that there are sinister reasons for insisting on taking over our best farmlands and rejecting the communities’ suggestion of alternative sites.
“On the proposal to take over 1000 hectares of our farmlands and hand them over to Vicampro Farms Ltd, the land owners reject the alienation of their farmlands, as doing so would deprive them of their farmlands and turn them into mere farm hands on their own land and at the mercy of foreign and external land grabbers in perpetuity.
The landowners would agree to produce potatoes or any other products on their own farmlands and sell to Vicampro. The company could provide farm inputs and technical services for the production of the produce of their choice, but the farmers will produce on land belonging to them. The landowners do not accept taking the taking of their land and handing it over to Vicampro or any other company.”
The letter was signed by: Dr. David Duniya Adams for Watyap Community Landowners, Mr. Emmanuel Jonah Duniya for Makwakhu Community Landowners and Mr. Zacharia Musa for Makabun Community Landowners among other signatories from the other four communities.