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Controversy over demolition of Fulani settlement around Jaji

Some Fulani farmers living in surrounding communities of Jaji Military Cantonment along the Kaduna-Zaria highway have accused the military of demolishing their shanties and asking…

Some Fulani farmers living in surrounding communities of Jaji Military Cantonment along the Kaduna-Zaria highway have accused the military of demolishing their shanties and asking them to relocate without compensation. 

Daily Trust gathered that over 40 shanties were demolished at Ringa settlement by the military in July 2021 even though the occupants claimed they have lived in the area for over 50 years. 

A Fulani leader, Shehu Usman, said the only reason given to them by the military was that they were living too close to the barracks which posed a security risk. 

“We told them that we have lived there for 52 years but they told us to leave because we were too close to the barracks.

“We tried telling them that we are law-abiding citizens because none of our children have been involved in criminality but they insisted that we must leave saying the directive came from the headquarters in Abuja,” he said. 

According to him, some soldiers loaded them and their properties in a truck and took them to a primary school in Jaji town and then left without giving them compensation.

He appealed to the military to either allow them to return to their lands or compensate them appropriately since they have been forced to forfeit their lands. 

However, when our correspondent reached out to the authorities at the Jaji Military Cantonment, they denied the allegations that the people had not been compensated.  

The Acting Assistant Director, Army Public Relations, Captain Akinola Skid Ajibola who spoke with Daily Trust confirmed that the military had demolished shanties but said emissaries had been sent to inform the occupants beforehand to vacate the area before the clearance operation was carried out in July. 

“The Army did not destroy any building within or outside its cantonment, however, sometimes on the 13th of July 2021, the authorities of Jaji Military Cantonment (JMC), in a bid to ensure the safety of lives and properties in the cantonment, conducted a clearance operation to rid the cantonment off illegal shanties erected inside the JMC, which is a security concern to the cantonment,” he said. 

He said some mud shanties occupied by some farmers were identified within 50 meters from the cantonment’s Armoured Personnel Carrying Vehicle (APC) wing, adding that more worrisome was the proximity of the shanties to the cantonment shooting range; a place where various high flying and destructive ammunition are regularly test-fired.

“The back blast of such trajectory ammunition is hazardous to the life of anyone around that area. To prevent future foreseen civilian casualties, the shanties were pulled down,” he said. 

He said the army does not owe the farmers any obligations as they were not at any time granted access nor approval to do anything on what he described as “army land” beyond farming for personnel at the time. 

“However, the commander treated them humanely by addressing the farmers to inform them that their safety is paramount and cannot be guaranteed if they continue cohabitating at that location and thereafter gave them a sum of N300,000 as compensation for their planted crops despite earlier warning for them not to farm on that land.” 

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