About a dozen white farmers who left Zimbabwe eight years ago to settle in Nigeria could be in trouble.
Local farmers in the area where they were settled are demanding their land back because they are not benefitting from the activities of the commercial farmers and they have vowed to drive the white farmers out because their benefactor can no longer protect them..
About 14 000 farmers in six communities in the Shonga region of Kwara State sent a petition to the National Assembly last week claiming that they were dying a slow death as a result of the forceful takeover of their farmlands in 2004.
The villagers were moved out by then State governor Bukola Saraki to make room for 14 commercial farmers from Zimbabwe who were given 1 000 hectares each under a 25-year renewable lease.
Bukola was elected to the Nigerian senate last year.
The villagers are now up in arms because Bukola can no longer protect the white farmers and is facing fraud charges. They have vowed to “reverse the years of abuse and injustices even if it means adopting the tactics of Niger Delta militants”.
The military in the Niger Delta have been sabotaging the operations of oil companies to get money some of which they have used to develop their own communities.
An irate Chief Muregi Ndanusa fumed: “The land belongs to the people but this is a commercial venture. The Zimbabweans did not pay for the land. They arrived here without a cent in their briefcases; so how can you call them foreign investors?
“This is the most bizarre partnership we have ever seen because the initial capital was provided by tax payers and the bank loans were guaranteed by the state. So, my question is: what did the Zimbabwean farmers bring to the table; these are the question we are taking to the National Assembly”.
Bukola is said to have taken advantage of the plight of the white farmers who were haunted out of Zimbabwe to win international sympathy, and obtained loans from five banks to finance the operations of the farmers.
The farmers operations were hailed as a major success but the locals say they have not been part of that success. The farmers were, for example, supposed to train local youths in modern farming methods but “the youths are still carrying hoes and cutlasses” eight years down the line.
Chief Ndanusa also complained that the white farmers were acting like a colonial force, treating local villagers with little respect and “showing routine contempt for our customs”.
Bukola is accused of mismanaging $433.3 million in state funds.