We Are Coming to Recover our Lands – Autochthonous Communities to Land Grabbers
By Ralph Madugu
Indigenous communities in the north whose ancestral lands have vowed to recover all ancestral land forcefully occupied or trespassed on.
The communities under the canopy of The Conference of Autochthonous Ethnic Nationalities Community Development Association (CONAECDA), a network of 400 indigenous people’s group in Central and Northern Nigeria while addressing newsmen in Jos, said the communities had decided to embark on a project to secure, reconstruct and protect all displaced communities in the two regions.
Addressing newsmen in Jos, the group said “With regards to displaced communities, CONAECDA conference had decided to immediately commence a project to secure, reconstruct and protect such communities.
“We therefore use this occasion to notify all trespassers and occupiers of our communities that we are coming after them and shall recover through every legitimate means our communities and lands.”
While giving a background on the issues that necessitated the press conference, the group led by its Secretary General, Suleman A.D. Sukukum, listed issues relating to agricultural land use by farmers and herders, activities of criminals cutting across ethnicity and religion, terror attacks by terrorists against CONAECDA member communities including the activities of Islamists terrorists groups such as ISWAP and Boko Haram as well as the destruction of crops and killings; displacement and occupation of lands belonging to displaced communities among other issues.
It added that CONAECDA decided to go public to give victims of violence a voice and to also highlight the “serious security and humanitarian situation” in the affected communities.
“This press conference is called to address the following issues: to present to the world the dire situation of women and children in the frontline communities.
“To inform the world of certain decisions of our communities.
“To appeal for assistance well spirited individuals and organizations to the communities and individuals affected by violence.”
On what it described as CONAECDA position on the various issues bedeviling its communities, the group stated that the current happenings in the country “is a crisis that affects the entire fabric of our society and needs to be addressed by all stakeholders in the Nigerian project.”
CONAECDA said while government is expected to provide the needed leadership in addressing these problems, it is obvious that the level of success achieved is hampered by many factors adding that CONAECDA experience indicate weakness in the level of engagement and sincerity of public officials in dealing with these issues.
The group added that as stakeholders in the Nigerian society and leaders of over 400 indigenous communities in Central and Northern Nigeria, they have observed with certainty that some public figures while embarrassed by the security and humanitarian situation, prefer to whitewash or deny the extent and impact of the crisis rather than act decisively in addressing the relevant issues.
On efforts geared towards addressing the security and humanitarian issues, CONAECDA announced that it has commenced a community based early warning and early response programme designed to address every security and humanitarian situation confronting member communities.
It added that in consonance with international practices as obtained in Europe and the Americas where such conflicts once existed among farmers and herders and in line with due recognition of the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other legal documents, communities and individual CONAECDA shall embark on the fencing of their property including the planting of protective plants and other relevant barriers.
“We use this opportunity to notify all intending trespassers that they will be arrested and prosecuted according to existing laws, whenever and wherever they trespass into our private or public property.
“All livestock holders are required to barricade their animals to avoid trespassing.
“The CONAECDA Secretariat shall provide legal aid to all its member communities with respect to these issues.”
While making case for the plight of member communities especially regarding security and humanitarian issues, CONAECDA said “Millions are displaced worth over 1.5 million in Benue Sate alone; thousands of women are raped with over 700 women in Zuru-Kebbi State alone; thousands of houses have been destroyed with over 2,500 homes in Irigwe land alone between 2nd and 12th of August.
“Our girls are being trafficked because they are internally displaced. Our ability to farm, attend school and carry out our legitimate businesses is being denied by these terrorists’ activities.
“Despite all these, we are hopeful that one day it will be over. We are appealing to all Nigerians and the international community to provide these victims with help and to act on their behalf.”