…..SAYS BUKOLA SARAKI HAS QUESTIONS TO ANSWER.
A leading pro democracy group, “Kwara Must Change” has petitioned the Kwara State House of Assembly to invite former Governor of Kwara State, Dr Bukola Saraki to respond to questions over the illegal acquisitions of 17000 hectares of land from over 33 Shonga Communities and handing the land over to private entities without any record of investment in the state.
The group also said that the former senate president should be made to explain why government funded the shonga farm project and also used state allocations to pay back loans taken by private organizations without any corresponding returns to the state.
In a petition titled “request for investigation into shonga farm conspiracy,forceful acquisitions of community land, wasteful investment of state resources without accountability and disappearance of documents” signed by Abdulrazaq Hamzat, the group said that the ownership of shonga farm project, which started in 2004 through massive investment by Kwara State government has been a subject of controversy and there is a need to resolve the controversy as soon as possible.
“To unearth truth behind the project, newly elected Governor of Kwara, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq in June 2019 setup a committee to look into the project and many others.” It said.
Quoting the report submitted to Kwara State government by Senator Ajadi led committee, the group said it was established that at the inception of the project in 2004, 17000 hectares of land were forcefully taken over by Dr. Bukola Saraki led government from about 33 villages of Shonga District in Edu Local Government area of Kwara State, and were handed over to 13 Zimbabwe Farmers, adding that when the land was taken, owners and people of Shonga protested and resisted, but they were suppressed, brutally attacked and unlawfully arrested and prosecuted”
Kwara Must Change also stated that, apart from the forceful takeover of Shonga land, it was also discovered that a lot of funds were invested by Kwara State government into the project running into billions of naira and till date, the exact amount cannot be ascertained because all files relating to the project have been carted away by officials of the past administration in the state.
Speaking further on the conspiracy, the group stated that, Zimbabwean farmers project metamorphosed into what is now known as Shonga Farm in 2007 with questionable shareholding structures.
“Instead of Kwara State government, which has been the sole financier of the project from inception and the only entity responsible for the repayment of its loans to be the owner or the largest shareholder of the company, several banks were listed as shareholders with 75%, while Kwara State is said to have only 25%”
According to Hamzat, “Another major observation by Kwara Must Change was that, out of the 13 farms earlier established in 2004 by the 13 Zimbabwe Farmers, 11 have been sold to other strangers not captured in the shareholding arrangements as at 2007 and those 11 farms were not part of those incorporated into Shonga Farm in 2007”
This means that, what we have as Shonga Farm today is just 2 out of 13 farms established with Kwara State resources by the Zimbabwean farmers in 2004. The remaining 11 have been sold to others before Shonga Farm was incorporated, he said.
As a result of the numerous contradictions surrounding the project, particularly as it relates to the ownership, Kwara Must Change call for invitation of Dr Bukola Saraki to explain the business relationships between Kwara State government and the Zimbabwean farmers, and the circumstances that led to sales of 11 out of 13 farms established in 2004 before the incorporation of Shonga Farm.
Kwara Must Change also said that Dr. Saraki needs to clarify what necessitated the forceful acquisition of community land from 33 Shonga communities and handing over such to private foreign individuals with no record of any investment, yet registered the land in their own names as sole owners.
The group also said, only Dr Saraki can explain what necessitated government to guarantee the farmers loan facilities with Nigeria Agricultural Bank (NAB), Rural Development Bank (RDB) and 6 other banks and why the loans were paid back through Kwara State allocations.