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24.08.2021 news With a Cow and Bag of Rice, Ebonyi Agric Commissioner ‘Grabs Family Lands for Fulani Herdsmen’

Published 24th Aug, 2021

By Emmanuel Uti

Vincent Ezeoke, a resident of Akaeze, Iyioji Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, has accused the state government of coercing members of his family and other families to hand over their lands to Fulani herdsmen.

Ezeoke said the state government, through Moses Ogodoali Nomeh, the Commissioner for Agriculture, threatened to wipe out the entire community if they refused to hand over their ancestral lands.

Ezeoke’s family struggle with the government began in 2020 when the commissioner, in collaboration with Chikason Group affiliated with Rimco, asked the family to give up their land for palm plantation.

“We refused to give them our lands because we discovered they wanted to give them to Fulani herders. They came as an Ebonyi State government agency but when I called an acquaintance who works with the government, he said the government was not aware,” said Ezeoke.

Following the first episode, the Ezeoke family and other families had another encounter with Ogodoali in July 2021.

“The commissioner came with different companies and said he was taking over the land whether or not we liked it. We disagreed. But they fabricated a land document and gave N2 million to unsuspecting relatives in the village to sign. One person signed for at least six people so they could manipulate the family to give up the land,” he said.

Vincent and other relatives later got the document showing that his family had donated the land to the government for free. Emmanuel Ude, Akaeze Community Youth President, told FIJ some community members conspired with the commissioner to lure people into leasing their lands.

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“I tried to ask how members of these families leased their lands and signed a document to companies who wanted to exploit them, and I found the companies came through some known people. The aged people in the family, who are uneducated, signed the deal following assurances that it would give their children a bright future,” he said.

“The representatives of the company said they intended to use the land for 10 years. But a glimpse of the document showed the deal was for 30 years. To deceive the people, they promised to build schools and good roads,” he said. How can leased land have a C-of-O which lasts for 99 years in Nigerian law?

According to Ude, the companies used the same tactic to grab lands from other families.

“In the same vein, we learnt they used this same strategy for people of Mgbede in the same Akaeze. They gave them a bag of rice and one cow,” he said.

To inform the commissioner that they were not leasing their lands out, the families wrote him a letter asking for a meeting with them.

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“The commissioner said that whoever tried to stop him was against the progress of the village. He said a certain man living in South Africa didn’t want the progress of the village. And that person is me. I only stood to say the deal was not done in the right spirit, “Ude said.

To persuade the people, said Ude, the commissioner promised the men who acted as his agents executive jobs with mouthwatering pay, regardless of their educational qualifications.

Ude asked why a company would claim 7 parcels of land, over 2000 hectares, with just N1million yearly payments.

Akaeze community has resorted to protest as top political officials in government are unwilling to help.

“We are now protesting while the other community is using traditional means to fight,” he said.

FIJ placed several calls to Ogodoali’s phone number but they were not answered. He also did not respond to an SMS sent to his phone.

Published 24th Aug, 2021

By Emmanuel Uti

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