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18 Sep 2023

Eniitan Olorunyomi, Premium Times (Nigeria)

Nigeria: Farmland grabs becoming a serious concern in parts of the country as mining activities take preferential treatment

‘Rush for Solid Minerals Turns Farmers Into Sacrificial Lambs in Nasarawa’ 14 September 2023

Chinese companies are at the forefront of mining activities in Nasarawa State that are taking land away from local farmers. Ilyasu Umar's farmland in Adudu, Nasarawa State, served his family for generations until he was evicted from it in 2021. Adudu is located in Obi Local Government Area of Nasarawa, an agrarian northern Nigerian state with lots of mineral deposits. However, the exploitation of the minerals is turning into woes for the local farming population. The lush green landscape of the area, once devoted to agriculture, is now being devoured by mining operations. Mr Umar, whose 30 hectares of farmland was taken, is in despair like many other farmers who have accused community leaders of supporting mine operators to take their farmlands without compensation…"When the miners started coming into the community, it was a cause for concern for me and the other farmers. The sarkin (chief) has taken all the land from us and said we should not complain about it," he said. Some other villagers corroborated Mr Umar's account of the land takeover. They narrated how mine operators allegedly induced the community's chief into taking land from farmers and handing it over to the mining firms.

…Apart from being displaced from their farms, the farmers also said they received no compensation from the mining company…However, the community leaders and the operators of one of the big mining companies in the village said they did no wrong in the acquisition of the land. Amali Ubangiri, the CEO of Adudu Prospective Mining Ltd., and Imap Mohammed, his associate, initially claimed that their company provided compensation to the affected farmers and also resettled them in new farming locations. Mr Ubangiri said his company started its operations in the village five years ago and paid the appropriate compensation for every farmland it took. He also said the company is actively contributing to the development of the local communities, in line with its corporate social responsibility…When asked to provide details of how the compensation was paid to individual farmers like Mr Umar, Mr Ubangiri acknowledged that his firm did not make any direct payments to the displaced farmers. "Indeed, we didn't provide direct compensation to the farmers, but we diligently fulfil our social responsibilities to the community. For instance, we have contributed to infrastructure development, including road construction in Adudu," Mr Ubangiri explains.

…At the mining site in Toto, this reporter saw extensive extraction of minerals. Two Chinese companies, "Wanwang Global" and "Lideal Mines Ltd.," were carrying out mining operations in Toto. The companies had state-issued mining licenses and were conducting excavations for the exploration of solid minerals, particularly lithium, in Toto. Officials of the two firms declined to speak with this reporter. The spokesperson for "Lideal Mines Ltd" declined to provide a statement, citing ongoing legal issues, while officials at "Wanwang Global" also declined comment…Attah Ademu, an agricultural economist, said farmland grabbing has a broader implication on food security. He said the loss of farmlands disrupts local food production, leading to increased reliance on imported goods and higher food prices. This, in turn, affects the most vulnerable populations, pushing them further into poverty and food insecurity. "Smallholder farmers constitute a significant proportion of all farm holdings in the country. And in turn, many of us living in the urban parts of the country depend on these people for our food. Almost 80 per cent of the food we enjoy comes from these small-scale farmers," he said.