Reps probes Chinese firm for land grabbing
NEWS DIGEST–The House of Representatives has resolved to investigate the alleged illegal takeover of 500,000 hectares of land across four states by a Chinese firm, Lee Group of Companies.
At the plenary on Thursday, the House called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission to investigate the alleged bribery and money laundering by the firm, which was allegedly named in the Panama Papers scandal.
The lawmakers also called on the acting Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, to withdraw the men of the Mobile Police Force protecting the expatriates against the protests by the affected communities.
These were part of the prayers of a motion moved by Mr Sani Zorro and unanimously adopted by the lawmakers on Thursday.
The lawmakers also resolved to invite the board and management of Messrs Lee Group to appear before an ad hoc committee of the House for full disclosure and defence of its land-grabbing activities especially in Jigawa, Kano, Bauchi, Niger and any other states under the guise of direct foreign investment.
The House further resolved that, “In view of the appearance of Lee Group of Companies on the infamous list of Panama Papers as artful tax dodgers worldwide, the company’s tax receipts and expatriate workers be scrutinised to ascertain if they had not been short changing our tax authorities over the years or engaging serving Chinese prisoners under the pretext of being expatriate members of staff.
Moving the motion, Zorro criticised the alleged renewed harassment, intimidation and detention of helpless peasant farmers by a contingent of gun-wielding riot policemen deployed in Gayawar, Malam, Garin Chiroma, Kore Sabuwa, Dan Mani and other villages and farmlands allegedly on the request of the Northern Agri-Business Limited, a subsidiary of Lee Group of Companies.
“The House is conscious of the fact that no Nigerian citizen would be allowed to dispossess Chinese of their own land in China, and therefore as a patriotic Nigerian and legislator, it is part of my constitutional responsibilities to defend the interest of my country and its people even at the expense of threats to my life,” Zorro stated.
Making a series of allegations against the Chinese-owned conglomerate, the lawmaker said, “The Lee Group of Companies, of which the Northern Agri-Business Limited is a member, has so far grabbed no less than 10,000 hectares of farmlands in its predatory activities in Jigawa State alone and most of which has only been fenced since the last eight years without utilisation by Nigerians or the Chinese invaders.
“This Chinese company may have dispossessed Nigerians of an estimated 500,000 hectares of farmlands according to private investigations of its unacceptable activities in Jigawa, Kano, Bauchi and Niger states alone without regard to Nigeria’s ever-growing population and pressure on our land resources.
“The affected peasant farmers have not been given suitable and alternative farmlands or were forced to receive a paltry compensation as low as N3,000 or have been swindled by local collaborators and state authorities, including officials of Jigawa State and Gagarawa Local Government Area, respectively, contrary to the provisions of the Land Use Act.”