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Counter-accusations trail UniJos-Naraguta community land dispute

The crisis between the University of Jos and Naraguta community over a disputed land worsened when the institution attempted to dig a trench to serve as demarcation. This action resulted in skirmishes between security personnel who accompanied the workers engaged by the university to dig the trench, and residents of the community.

On February 22, 2020, Daily Trust on Sundayreported how one person was allegedly killed in the area by an official of Operation Safe Haven (OPSH) during the process of digging the trench. This led to a heavy tension within Jos city centre, especially along the Bauchi-Gombe road. The incident generated protest among youths of the area and created chaos, which saw some buildings, including a church, set ablaze by hoodlums.

Our correspondent gathered that security agencies were able to douse the tension by imposing a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the community following the death of one Babangida Saudi Adam.

On Saturday, March 7, 2020, residents of the community woke up to notice a heavy security presence, even as bulldozers demolished no fewer than 50 houses.

Describing the incident as barbaric, the traditional leader of the community, Muhammad Bello, an engineer, said the demolition rendered hundreds of people homeless, while properties worth millions of naira were destroyed.

Bello alleged that authorities of the University of Jos, with support from the personnel of OPSH, demolished their houses without prior notice.

Members of the community had equally accused personnel of the OPSH of forcefully invading homes, arresting and molesting youths and women.

Zakariyya Abdulsamad, a resident of the community and victim of the incident said, “I was in my shop in the morning on the day of the incident when I saw people running helter-skelter. Suddenly, an elderly man approached me and said I should close the shop. I immediately complied. In no time, I saw a number of military personnel coming on motorbikes, carrying firearms and forcing people to vacate the area. Before you knew it, we were all asked to pull our cloths, and they started beating us until they got me wounded on different parts of my body and broke my right hand.”

Another victim of the incident, Ismail Muhammad said, “I was at home when my door was banged. By the time I opened it, I saw two soldiers who forced me out and asked whether the occupants of the other rooms were around. Before you knew what was happening, they started beating me until they broke my hand.’’

When contacted over the allegation of molestation and arrest of the people of the community, the spokesperson of the OPSH, Major Ibrahim Shittu said, “I am not aware of any arrest or molestation of residents of the area.’’

Why we demolished houses at Naraguta – UniJos

Giving reasons they demolished houses in Naraguta, the senior deputy registrar, Office of the Vice Chancellor, University of Jos, Wilson Yale said, “The houses that were demolished in that community sprung up overnight, so I don’t think the university did something wrong.

“Government had agreed that new houses that came up after the university purchased the land should give way. That was exactly what the university did. The old houses around the area were not touched. That was what happened.’’

The university further alleged that since the acquisition of the land, the institution had been under intimidation and siege by land grabbers, a situation that led to the erection of illegal structures, most of which were built at night.

But Alhaji Musa Jagab, a traditional titleholder, denied the allegation, saying, “The expressions of the university are baseless, unfounded and doctored to harass the people of the community.”

Both the university and the community are claiming ownership of the land.

Mr. Yale further claimed that all the documents for the purchase of the land had been handed over to the university.

“The university purchased the land from the defunct Nigerian Bricks and Clay Products Limited, through the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPE). When it was realised that some people encroached on the land, as a law-abiding institution, we sought the intervention of the state government. The government came up with a white paper in November, 2019. The white paper authenticated the Certificate of Occupancy number PL9636 issued in 1988, measuring 11.950 hectares. The property now belongs the University of Jos.

“Also, a certificate signed by the director-general of the Bureau of Public Procurement indicated that the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the National Council on Privatisation (NCP), approved the handover of Naraguta Bricks and Clay Limited to the university on January 17, 2019,’’ he said.

But the community, through Alhaji Musa Jagab, claimed that the occupants of the land in dispute bought it from Ron Properties Nigeria Limited, a company that obtained power of attorney to sell on behalf of Jatau family, who are said to be the owners of the land.

A document obtained by Daily Trust on Sundayindicates that the Jatau family obtained a power of attorney on the disputed land from the state Ministry of Land and Survey. The power of attorney was duly signed by the Registrar of Deeds and Titles on April 15, 2019.

According to the power of attorney granted to the Jatau family, among other things, they were “to take possession and control of all the land situated at Naraguta village, Jos, Plateau State, comprising of 120 plots of 50ft by 50ft and an additional (extension) 50 plots of 50ft by 50ft.

In his response to the disagreement, the director of Ron Property Nigeria Limited, Samuel Kasuwa, told Daily Trust on Sunday that due process was followed before the plots of land were sold to interested buyers.

“At first, I was introduced to the land by the agent of Jatau family, who asked for my services in selling the plots of land located at Naraguta. After that, I wrote a letter to the university and gave them seven days to respond on whether or not it was interested in the land, but there was no response. I did that because they are neighbours. So we concluded that the university was not interested,’’ he said.

However, in a letter dated June 6, 2018, written by lawyers of Jatau family to the commissioner of police in Plateau State, it was noted, “Other customary owners of the adjoining lands occupied by Naraguta Clay and Bricks Company Limited were duly compensated, but our clients were not, because of the fact that their land is rocky and not suitable for the activities of the Naraguta Bricks and Clay Company Limited.’’

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The letter further notified the commissioner that the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development wrote a letter to the Plateau State Ministry of Lands, Survey and Town Planning, informing it that after mining activities, lands that compensations were paid on would belong to government but those compensations were not paid on would reverse to the customary owners.

To further buttress their position on the power to sell the plots, Jatau family also wrote a letter dated June 1, 2016 and addressed to the Bureau of Public Enterprises. In the letter, which was equally seen by Daily Trust on Sunday, it was alleged that the owners of the land had not been compensated for 30 years, and their complaints were not responded to, even after a series of letters were written to various agencies of government.

When contacted, Shakara Jatau, who spoke on behalf of the family, said, “The disputed land belongs to us. We inherited the land from our great grandparents. The land wasn’t sold to Bricks and Clay Products Limited because the company said the other side, which belongs to us, was rocky, and therefore, not needed for any activity.

“The former commissioner for land and survey in the state, Festus Fuanter had, in 2017, ordered that our land be given to us. It was done and Ron Property was asked to sell it to interested buyers. If some people encroached on the university’s land, that is something different. All I know is that the plots sold by Ron Property are ours.’’

Mr. Jatau called on the state government to urgently intervene in the matter for peace to reign.

Source: Daily Trust

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