Residents of Shadawanka community surrounding two Army Barracks in Bauchi metropolis Sunday protested what they described as forceful eviction and confiscation of their ancestral land, houses and farmlands by the Bauchi Emirate Council and the Nigerian Army.
The protesters stormed the busy Bauchi-Jos road carrying placards with inscription such as ‘Save Shadawanka community from Nigeria Army’, ‘Save Shadawanka community from Bauchi Emirate Council’, ‘Save Shadawanka community from Land Grabbers’.
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The protesters, made up of men, women and children, were also chanted solidarity songs calling on Bauchi State government to rescue them from forceful eviction from their ancestral home, a situation that left travellers and other road users stranded for over five hours.
It took the intervention of the Security Adviser to the Bauchi State Governor, Brigadier General Marcus Yake (rtd), who pacified the protesters, to open the road on condition that the government and all stakeholders would meet to resolve the matter within 24 hours.
Speaking with newsmen during the protest, the village head of the community, Haliru Abubakar, said the people had lived in the area for over 200 years, long before the establishment of the army barracks.
“Why should someone just wake up one day and ask these communities to vacate their ancestral land?” he asked.
Abubakar alleged that the Bauchi Emirate Council was behind the move to eject them from their land, saying “We have not been summoned to the palace on the matter but who are we to challenge the authority. All we are asking for is fairness and justice.”
One of the protesters, Habibu Suleiman, said the problem started during the Gowon administration, 1972-74, when Shadawanka barracks was built.
“They have been living there and the barracks is separated from the communities. But between 1982 and 1985, a part of Shadawanka was demarcated to be used as Shadawanka barracks and Obienu barracks, and the communities did not in any way form part of the two barracks.
“In 2019, a memorandum of understanding was prepared by the Bauchi Emirate Council and some members of the community were forced to sign the document without their knowledge since they were illiterates.
“On Friday, the representative of the emirate and the representative of the army asked the communities to vacate the land because the army wants to fence it for security reasons,” he said.
“But as citizens of Nigeria, the constitution guarantees our right to ownership of our land. Some communities were paid compensation, but they didn’t pay us. How can they eject us from our land? They said since the matter came up some time ago, even the army confirmed that they didn’t pay us a kobo since during Gowon administration,” Suleiman added.
Effort to get the reaction of the Public Relations Officer of 33 Artillery Brigade Bauchi, Major Yahaya Kabara, proved abortive.
When contacted, the Information Officer of Bauchi Emirate Council, Babangida Hassan Jahun, asked for time to respond, saying, “I am not aware of protest but please give me time to consult with the council officials to respond appropriately.”