Farmers kick over alleged land grab by Cross River, seek N500m compensation
State eyes N50b yearly income from rice factory
The allocation of land by the Cross River government to a South African firm for a massive agriculture project has pitched the Governor Ben Ayade administration against over 400 farmers from Ochon settlement in Obubra Local Council of the state.Bulldozers and other tools were last weekend mobilised at the vast land currently being cultivated by the locals.
But the farmers had last Wednesday protested against the move, insisting that the government should pay them N500 million as compensation for their crops.
A retired head teacher and spokesman for the protesting farmers, Mr. Elemi Odey, disclosed the position of his colleagues.The Village Head of Ochon, Chief Felix Igbang, stated: “Yes, government actually came to inform us that they want to use the land for a factory, and they have promised to compensate affected farmers.”
An environmentalist and Programme Coordinator of a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Wise Administration of Terrestrial Environment and Resources (WATER), Chief Edwin Ogar, said: “Government is majorly responsible for the development of the society,” adding: “The destruction of food crops in Basin Farm in Ochon community by the same administration for the establishment of an agro-feed industry has further impoverished the farmers who have totally lost their sources of livelihood and food.”
He went on; “Barely two months and half after the farmers cultivated the land, it became a sorry sight when two bulldozers started clearing their premature crops without an informed consent or even assessment and payment of compensation by the government prior to the destruction of the crops of these poor farmers. This is abuse of rights to life and food by the same government they voted into power.”
During the tour of the site in company of a team of South African experts and the Ambassador for Food Security in Africa, Dr. Brylyne Chitsunge at the weekend, Governor Ayade had stated: “We are putting yellow maize alongside soya bean farm for a feed mill. We made a choice of this land as an administration, as we are setting up a poultry farm to increase the protein intake of Nigerians and to focus on agriculture as an alternative to oil.
“This will deal with issues of food security, considering the increasing population of Africa. If we do not do something about agriculture and our protein intake, the coming generation will definitely be in trouble.”He noted that the choice of the land was based on history and preliminary data, adding: “I am sure by the time they (experts) are done, they will give a final opinion. But it looks very good.”
Meanwhile, the state government has said it hopes to generate N50 billion yearly from its multi-billion naira automated rice factory to be commissioned tomorrow by President Muhammadu Buhari in Calabar.A statement yesterday by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor and Special Assistant Media, Mr. Christian Ita, reads in part: “The governor projects that with Federal Government’s support, the state will be generating at least N50 billion annually from the factory.”
Reputed as first of its kind on the continent, the rice factory, located along the Goodluck Jonathan bypass within the metropolis, has been under construction in the past one year.
Addressing newsmen in Calabar ahead of the President’s second visit in three years, the governor stated that all was ready for the historic occasion.
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