By Ralph Madugu
The Plateau State Government has been advised to ensure that the natural and traditional rights of all victims of land grabbing are respected, guaranteed and enforced under the extant laws of the land.
In a petition submitted to Governor Simon Bako Lalong, the Emancipation Centre for Crisis Victims, in collaboration with 5 other groups representing frontline communities and development associations, called for “an express order of evacuation be made to all illegal occupiers and users of lands, dams, ponds, streams, homes and other properties.”
The 9-page document, signed by Dalyop Solomon Mwantiri, Chief Executive Officer of Emancipation Centre for Crisis Victims in Nigeria (ECCVN) on behalf of the five other bodies said “On the whole, ECCVN alongside the associations passionately praying the Plateau State Government to, as a matter of urgency, pursue both legal and restorative justice by ensuring that a machinery be not only put in place to identify lands and properties grabbed and the trespassers, but a means also to be devised to guarantee the protection of victims upon return to their homesteads.”
According to the groups, Plateau State has continued to witness increasing cases of attacks by armed Fulani herdsmen since 2001 on hamlets, villages and communities which had led to the destruction of houses, displacement of persons, illegal occupation of sacked hamlets and villages as well as the denial of access and seizure of farm lands against the provisions of the Land Use Act and, indeed, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), hence necessitated the enactment of the Anti-Land Grabbing Law of Plateau by the Plateau State House of Assembly, and signed into law by His Excellency, Rt. Hon. (Dr) S. B. Lalong on the 24th day of December, 2020.
“For the losses and disruption on account of land grab and annexation of other properties, a technical committee of Valuers be constituted in order for adequate financial compensation to be recommended for payment by cultprits, occupiers and government to victims.
“All customary lands should be duly registered and documented, under the law of the land.
“Where necessary, Forest Rangers and Livestock Guards should be constituted, reactivated, strengthened, empowered and integrated with Land Administration Protocols of Government; and any other step/prayer deemed fit in the circumstance(s) of this petition.”
The petition, which was copied to the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, FCT Abuja, The State Coordinator of National Human Rights Commission, Plateau State, the Gbong Gwom Jos and Chairman of Plateau State Council of Chiefs and Emirs and 27 others including the Plateau State Director of the State Security Services, the group stated that the Plateau State Anti-Land Grabbing Law “seeks to add credence to the aforementioned legislations that prohibit any person or group of persons from the forcible takeover of land and/or landed property belonging to either a native, citizen, non-citizen or government in Plateau State.”
The group said while they await the inauguration of the Task Force to deal with the situation in line with the law, they needed to provide necessary data and information about the scope, locations and perpetrators of this crime preparatory to further State action and policies that would deliver justice to the victims.
“In the considered view of Emancipation Centre for Crisis Victims in Nigeria-ECCVN and the associations (affected ethnic nationalities), this development is highly welcomed and, indeed, long overdue.
“It is also a golden opportunity for ECCVN and the associations, on behalf victims of land grab to petition the Plateau State Government on the following grounds:
“That all Communities and individuals affected by this crime should have unfettered access to justice as well as the opportunity to state their cases irrespective of either their knowledge or financial capacity to institute a legal action;
“While considering the impact of this crime on the victims, all dimensions of such an impact should be duly taken into account for the sake of justice, equity and good conscience; and
“The law in its entirety should be pursued and diligently implemented to its full extent in terms of the constitution and inauguration of the “Land Grabbers Task Force” according to Clause 22 and 23 p. 18 & 19 of Anti Land Grabbing Law of Plateau State, 2020.
“In addition to the aforementioned grounds, ECCVN and the aforementioned associations on account of this petition, herewith demand the following from the Plateau State Government:
“A clear State action/policy which enjoys adequate appropriation towards securing and the rebuilding of affected hamlets, villages and communities;
“Provision of Development Assistance for the purposes of Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Restoration of affected hamlets, villages and communities; and provision of a Medium and long-term Stabilization Grants and Projects of between 3-5 years and/or 7-10 years warranting start-offs of livelihoods, employment and skills acquisition upon the return of victims to their ancestral homesteads.
“For the avoidance of doubt, ECCVN and the said associations have provided below a list of hamlets, villages and Communities in the general area of Barkin Ladi, Bassa, Bokkos, and Riyom LGAs which have suffered and are affected by land grab.”
It also listed 102 communities across Barkin Ladi, Riyom, Bokkos and Bassa LGAs that have been allegedly annexed by “Fulani (jihadists) in Plateau State.”