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Nigerian Polytechnic traumatizes 135-year-old man in land dispute

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In an attempt to dislodge one of its former host communities after serial allegations of encroachment on its lands, Kwara State Polytechnic, one of Nigerian’s premier tertiary institutions, went a bit too far, traumatizing the community’s oldest citizen.

Pa Kadiri Abdulkareem Akanji, at 135 year, is not just the oldest man in Gaata, the community so invaded at the instruction of the polytechnic.

He may well be the oldest man in the country.

But Kwara Poly thought nothing of that when they moved earth movers and bulldozers into Gaata, accompanied by armed security officers.

It was moment of tension, fear and anxiety of the community who had no inkling of the impending action.

Local reports in the state had it that heavily armed security personnel, including the Police, the Nigerian Army, and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), entered Gaata Village accompanied by officials of the Polytechnic to oversee the destruction of the villagers’ cash crops using a DX 8 Caterpillar Bulldozer.

Pa Akanji, traumatized from ordeal

 

The cash crops, predominantly locust beans and baobab trees, which hold economic significance for the local population, were reportedly destroyed.

Actions were deemed hostile especially when NSCDC officers allegedly fired shots near the residence of Pa Akanji, the oldest man in Gaata Village, causing distress to him and his wife.

Gaata Village, with a population of less than 30 individuals residing in about three houses, has faced tensions since 2005 when the site of the Kwara State Polytechnic was designated for the proposed Kwara State University.

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Back then, the government instructed the institution to issue eviction notices to the surrounding communities to make way for the new university.

However, the villagers vehemently opposed this move, viewing it as an attempt to displace them from their ancestral lands without proper consultation.

The situation escalated when the Polytechnic marked several houses in the communities for demolition, leading to a violent confrontation between the residents and the institution.

This conflict jeopardized the longstanding peaceful coexistence between the school and its host communities that had been established since 1973.

…Economic crops, ruined in Gaata

 

The tension peaked between 2004 and 2005 before the government decided to relocate the proposed university to Malete, a different location in Moro Local Government Area.

In July 2005, the Polytechnic took legal action against the State Government, the Ministry of Lands and Housing, the State Director of Lands, and ten villages, seeking to evict the villagers.

The case lingered in court until 2016 when it was dismissed due to lack of diligent prosecution.

The Polytechnic Rector, Dr. Abdul Jimoh, denied the existence of the court case, claiming that the institution was reclaiming its lands from encroachers to establish a training farm for Agriculture students.

The recent events at Kwara State Polytechnic and Gaata Village underscore the complex dynamics between educational institutions and their host communities, highlighting the importance of transparent communication, mutual respect, and fair treatment in land-related matters.

 

 


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