Residents of communities surrounding the Shadawanka Barracks of the 33 Artillery Brigade of the Nigerian Army in Bauchi State on Sunday blocked the ever-busy Bauchi-Jos highway to protest their alleged forceful eviction from their houses and farmlands by the Bauchi Emirate Council and the army.
The protesting residents, carrying various placards with different inscriptions and chanting solidarity songs prevented travellers and commuters from going out or coming into the Bauchi State capital for over five hours.
Some of the protesters who spoke with journalists alleged that they had been living peacefully since the Shadawanka Barracks was built in the 1970s during the reign of former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd).
According to them, they had been in the villages surrounding the barracks for over 150 years, adding that the lands they were living were their ancestral lands which they had been using not only for farming and grazing but also for residential purposes.
A 70-year-old woman, Hadiza Ahmadu, said that sometime between 1982 and 1985, when the large land being used as barracks was demarcated to form both Shadawanka Barracks and Obienu Barracks, their communities did not in any way form part of the two barracks.
Another resident, who preferred not to be named, alleged that in 2019 a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was prepared by the Bauchi Emirate Council and some members of the surrounding communities were forced to sign the same.
He further alleged those who signed the MoU on behalf of the communities were illiterates who did not know the content of the document.
He said that to their greatest surprise, a representative of the Emirate and the army visited the area on Friday to ask residents to vacate the lands, saying that the Nigerian Army wanted to fence its land for security reasons.
“We are Nigerian citizens and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees us rights to ownership of our lands.
“Some communities were paid compensation for the land taken over by the Army but they didn’t pay us. Now they said we should leave our ancestral land. How can they eject us from our lands?” he queried.
The protesting residents appealed to the Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, to intervene and save them from being evicted from their homes and farmlands, adding that they wanted to be treated with fair and just.
DAILY POST reports that it took the intervention of the Security Adviser to the Governor, Brigadier General Marcus Yake (rtd), before the protesters could open the highway for free flow of traffic.
The governor’s aide assured them that the state government and all relevant stakeholders would meet within 24 hours with a view to resolving the matter amicably.
Speaking with journalists thereafter, General Take (rtd) informed that he intervened in order to enlighten the protesters that travellers and all those plying the road they blocked had nothing to do with the issue at hand and as such not be subjected to unnecessary sufferings.
He added that he further told residents of the affected communities not to do anything that would lead to the destruction of lives and properties, thereby jeopardising the existing peace in the state.
He, however, pleaded with the Army and the contractors handling the project to maintain the status quo, assuring that everything would be resolved amicably within a short time.