OrderPaperToday -The House of Representatives has resolved to investigate allegations of land grabbing and breach of labour laws by Chinese owned companies.
The Chinese-owned Northern Agri-Business Limited was specifically mentioned in a motion of urgent public importance moved by Sani Zorro (APC, Jigawa) entitled; Call for lifting of siege on Gagarawa Farmland, and villages by the Nigeria Police Force at the behest of Chinese owned Northern Agri-Business Limited and called for investigation of bribery and corruption allegations by ICPC and EFCC.”
Zorro in his motion accused the police of intimidating and harassing farmers in Gayawar Malam, Garin Chiroma, Dan Nani and other villages in Jigawa state at the behest of Chinese.
He stated that the land grab under the guise of development projects has been a principal source of displacement in the locality, noting that no Nigerian would be allowed to dispose Chinese of their own land in China.
He went on to accuse the mother company of Northern Agri-Business Limited, Lee Group of company of grabbing over 100,000 hectares of farm land in Jigawa State alone, adding that in four northern states such as Jigawa, Niger, Kano and Bauchi, over 500,000 hectares have been grabbed by the same company.
The lawmaker added further that “some farmers were offered only N3,000 as compensation for forcefully taking their lands, The consensus in Nigeria is that China state-owned companies have constituted themselves to a state, we say the Boko Haram are not in control of land, but such companies have acquired vast land through crooked means, bring in local partners to enforce the illegality.
“In Kano, close to police academy, the same company (Northern Agri-Business Ltd) has taken over 6,000 hectares of land, to produce 1 million loaves of bread. The same company has 15,000 hectares of land, which they have not used in Zuma. This is land grabbing. They do not recognize Nigerian labour laws, if their workers should get injured they dismiss them with N7,000.
“This particular Chinese company with headquarters in Hong Kong is on the Panama paper. This land were given without Environmental Impact Assessment. They are getting support from the Nigerians officers in breach of the land tenure law, which says that land could only be taken for public benefit.”
In his contribution, Bukar Boni Lawal (APC, Yobe) noted that “the issue of Chinese is worrisome; I have seen where Chinese acquires 16,000 hectares of land, despite that our population is increasing. We know that powers of land are vested in Governors. In the future our children will grow up without land to build House.”
Opposing the motion, Aminu Suleman (APC, Kano) disagreed with the mover of the motion, arguing that the Chinese farmers are foreign investors that are engaging in legitimate business. He called for caution and that stakeholders should be invited so that better understanding could be reached.
He added that Jigawa state is an economic disadvantaged state and has the right to embark on industrialization policy. He revealed that the same company is currently employing 5,000 people with a capacity to further employ 10,000 people.
Suleiman said: “I will restrict myself to the motion, land grabbing and anti-labour. We need to be careful, by engaging all stakeholders in Jigawa on the true happening, this is the second time he (Zorro) will be bringing this same motion, Jigawa state is economically weak, Jigawa do not have any industry that can employ 200, the industry he is talking about has engaged over 5000 people. The question should be on anti-labour practice. If there are issues on labour then we can deal with that.”
Also opposing the motion, Fred Agbedi (PDP, Bayelsa) highlighted several moves by government to attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) from China and noted that if those investors are working within the local laws, then it would be unfair to chase them away. He said: “The reasons adduced for this motion are not convincing enough; Nigeria has a robust relationship with China; Nigeria has gone to China for roadshows to woo investors, and every part of this country has benefited from infrastructure development including the North.
“The issue here is that the Chinese are farming in Jagwa, the issue is that did they steal the land from government? If that happened, there is constituted authority, we have Zimbabwean farmers in Nigeria.
“If these Chinese are here on legitimate reasons, then we cannot chase them out, if there are laws they are not complying with, we should death with them. We are appearing as though we have no right information, if there are flagrant disregard of the law, the government of that state should deal with it, then if that is not done, they should come by way of public petition, I think we should disregard the motion with a speed of light.”
In his ruling on the motion, the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara agreed that there are certain parts of the motion that are outside the legislative competence of the House, as some of them relate to land use act which empowers the state executive officers to be in charge of the land.
The House accordingly resolved to call on the Inspector General of Police to immediately withdraw the anti-riot policemen deplored to the State.
The House also resolved to constitute an ad hoc committee of the House that will have the mandate to invite the Board and management of Messrs Lee Group.
The House then called on the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate tax history of workers and to investigate allegation of serving Chinese prisoners brought into the country as expatriates.