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Rankum Riyom LGA: FG Summons Herders, Natives Over Disputed Land

The Federal Government on Monday held a meeting with leaders of Fulani and land owners of Berom tribes in Plateau State to resolve conflicts arising from the construction of a primary school in Rankum, an acclaimed Berom native community allegedly acquired through violence, occupied and renamed “Mahanga” by Fulani herdsmen.

Named “Ardo Mamuda Primary School, Mahanga”, the 12 classroom block facility was in May 2020 erected by the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Sustainable Development Goals in the hamlet located in Jol Ward of Riyom Local Government Area.

In a petition to the OSSAP-SDGs office, the Jol Community Development Association said building the school and giving it the name of its new occupants “legitimizes land-grab”.

But in a counter-petition, the Fulani herdsmen residing in the hamlet said they had children that needed education.

At the meeting called by the OSSAP-SDGs on Monday 17th August, 2020 in Abuja, the herdsmen further claimed to have occupied the purported village for over 200 years.

“The facts are there; our forefathers occupied that land for long but each time mention is to be made about the Place, it is said that it is a seized land,” said the community leader of Mahanga, Ardo Muhammadu Adamu at the meeting.

“Mahanga,” Mr. Abdullahi Ibrahim, the Youth Leader of the herders in the community told the meeting is a general name which comprises several Fulani settlements with voter population estimated at 2,895 as of 2019.

According to Ibrahim, “Rafin Acha village has 1400 registered voters. Janda 1 has 748 voters and Janda 2 has 747 registered voters.”

Yet, government, the Youth leader said has neglected them for years in distributing social infrastructure.

In his words, “We have three nomadic primary schools; Nomadic Primary School Rafin Acha which has 257 pupils, Nomadic Primary School Loya with 307 pupils and Nomadic Primary School Nyelgagare with 336 pupils all funded by the community.

“No Federal or State classroom block exists in Rafin Acha Nomadic Primary School and even our request for Government Teachers has not been replied. In Nomadic Primary School Loya, only one teacher is paid by the government. We hear there are paid teachers posted to the school but they don’t ever come. In Nyelgagare, there is no government paid teacher except the Islamic Religious Knowledge teacher.”

“Government has drilled over 700 boreholes in Riyom Local Government Area alone but all were sited in Berom native communities alongside roads and hospitals; none in any Fulani village. It was recently that the International Committee of the Red Cross, donated the only borehole currently used in the village.”

The herders should be considered equal with the locals, said Ibrahim, and given equal attention by federal officials.

The Member Representing Riyom/Barkin Ladi Federal Constituency in the Nigerian House of Representatives, Simon Mwadkon however told the meeting that no project was exclusively designed to benefit any particular group.

“As representatives of the people, we have since election in 2019 only attracted Federal interventions in three federal wards which have a fair representation of the Fulani tribe,” said Mwadkwon

Represented by his Chief of Staff, John Chun, the Rep member pledged to investigate all concerns of his constituents, the Fulani included, and lead a resolution process.

Similarly, General Manager, Plateau State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (PRUWASSA), Mr. Peter Kassam said his office has not drilled up to 700 boreholes in the whole of Plateau, and has not sidelined any community on the basis of tribe, religion or political affiliation.

“Our work is not political but partner-driven. Drillng only in Berom community is not true. Community selections was based on criteria e.g. ODF claim; must have registered wth LGA social department and have community acctounts; must have been triggered and WASHCOM formed. Some communities could not be captured because of security challenges. Some, we awarded but security challenges made it not to be implemented. For some, it is accessibility – topography problem. So there was no delibrate effort to sideline any community in terms of WASH interventions please,” said Kassam in SMS chat.

A representative of Jol Community Development Association, Barr. Solomon Dalyop at the meeting declined to comment on the issue of government neglect raised by the herder community, insisting that the purpose of the meeting was to resolve the SDGs’ construction of a Primary school in Rankum, the native community “annexed” and renamed Mahanga, and branding it after a Fulani leader, “Ardo Mamuda Primary School, Mahanga”.

For more robust deliberations, the legal professional sought for the adjournment of the meeting to a later date with all officials and critical stakeholders connected to the identified issues present.

He however sought to know the parameters used to determine the site and name for the project, the protocols followed and individuals or groups consulted in line with the SDGs’ mandate.

The Secretary to OSSAP-SDGs and Chairman of the meeting, Mr. Danjuma Dauda could not respond to the quarries but approved the adjournment to Tuesday next week.

He however requested that the two groups hold separate deliberations to produce unified positions through two representatives each, alongside the member Representing Barkin Ladi/Riyom Federal Constituency, Simon Mwadkwon, instead of an enlarged meeting.

A representative of Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Mr. Shehu Hassan applauded the “peaceful” approach taken by both Berom and Fulani communities in resolving the disputed construction and naming of the school, encouraging more of such for development to thrive.