Members of the Panshekara community in Kano State fightfrom all fronts over an alleged encroachment into a piece of land belonging to a secondary school in the area by some people. ABDULAZIZ ABDULAZIZ writes on their grouse and the efforts made for redress.
When in 1981, the then government of Kano State decided to establish a secondary school at Panshekara/Chalawa town, in the outskirts of Kano metropolis, the aim was to provide alternative school for the growing population of the area and bring post-primary education to the doorstep of the people of the area.Moreover, because of the projection in population, government decided to procure a large piece of land as the site for the proposed school to give room for expansion when the need arises.
Therefore, the state government identified 278 pieces of farmlands belonging to the locals as the proposed site for the school and compensation process was thus heralded. Among the 278 land owners274 claimed their compensation benefits while four persons refused to sell their pieces to the government.The officials in charge of lands at the state Ministry of Education drew the map of the area and the property was given the official number and identification information as follows; “GKN 1015 Land for Government Secondary School at Panshekara, Dawakin Kudu Local Government.”
Owing to the vision of the people in authority then, the land acquired for the school was so vast as to accommodate a single secondary school. However, the plan was obviously to make provision for the future so that the school could be expanded as the population increases. Unknown to those founders of this school, years to come, some self-serving powerful individuals would rise to personalise the school land. The situation was made friendly for the land mongers as the school was not fenced.
Those four land owners who refused to sell off their farmlands to government from the beginning later came to claim the lands. This development paved the way for land mongers to come out in full force to grab their share of what was seen as an abandoned land. By 2002, a popular land speculator in the area, one AlhajiSani Mohammed had gone to every length to ensure he got a portion of what turned out to be a highly-priced land. By July of that same year, he got the then district head of Kumbotso under whose purview the land falls, Alhaji Ahmed Ado Bayero to”dash” a large portion of the school land to him.
In a letter conveying the decision to award the piece of land to Alhaji Mohammed dated 4th July, 2002, a reference was made to discussions between the district head and the businessman over the land. The letter which was signed by the district head himself, defined the borders of the landas thus: bordered from the east by a road, bordered from the West by the plot of Alhaji Abba Sadauki (one of those who refused to sell their lands to government in 1981), from the north the plot is bordered by the secondary school and is bordered from the South by another road. Because the land is located in a prime location, the businessman quickly dissected it into smaller plots and began to sell them out.
However, members of Panshekara community, the host of the school expressed disapproval of the action of the district head and thus began moves to retrieve the school land back. Due to the sustained pressure from the residents, in 2005, Kumbotso Local Government Council decided to intervene by purchasing the allocated land back, therefore the council wrote to the state Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning inviting the ministry to inspect and valuate the land. However, a day after a letter of invitation was sent to the ministry, the council met again to deliberate on purchasing the land even before it got response from the land ministry. Minutes of the council’s meeting dated January 5, 2005, shows that after discussions and deliberations, the council had decided to buy the piece of land for the sum of N4 million pending the approval of the Ministry for Local Government.
In its response dated January 17, 2005, the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning with a heading “Capital Valuation Report In Respect of a Piece of Land Situated at Panshekara Town,” the ministry noted inter alia: “The said piece of land is situated within the residential layout of the main town directly along Panshekara to Kano road. The piece of land is measured as 93.00m x 75.60m with partially demolished cement blocks walls.” In view of this, the letter signed by one YakubuSa’idu an assistant director land (v), valued the same land at four million four hundred and fifty five thousand four hundred naira (N4, 455, 400). However, according to members of the community, it is not yet clear whose pocket the amount went as Mohammed, who was given the land by the district head continues to claim its ownership.
Amid this imbroglio, the Kano State Urban Planning Development Authority (KNUPDA) mapped out a road through the school land from Zawachikicommunity, located behind the school. The road not only passed through the school but also chopped off a substantial portion of the land out of it. In a letter to the Managing Director of KNUPDA, the state Ministry of Education frowned at the road construction without recourse to due process. The letter signed by the Land Officer of the ministry, Abdullahi Yusuf Yola, dated 6/4/2006, the ministry noted that the land in question, GKN 1015 was “the prerogative of the Honourable Commissioner Ministry of Education as such, his consent, opinion should be sought before embarking on such exercise please.”
With all these moves to stop illegal encroachment on the school land as championed by the old boys association of the school as well as other good spirited individuals, there seems no end to the unethical acts. However, the immediate-past administration in the state under Governor Shekarau, acting on its plan of improving educational standard of the state and the intent to reverse any wrongdoing not only in school land encroachment, but in all other facets of endeavours, set up a committee to investigate all similar cases of encroachment into all public premises. The committee, which scope covered May 1999 to May 2003, received petitions about the Panshekara case and even visited the school to ascertain the claims.
After careful study of the available information before it and from its findings from its visits, the committee submitted its report to the state government. In May 2006, the state government issued a white paper based on the report of that committee. About its findings the committee said: “Based on the various presentations received and the visit of the committee to the site, it was found out that the school land was encroached upon. In the area, 443 plots were designed under RDKN 388 with the consent of the ministry of education and the school authority. Some few farmers refused to collect their compensations at the time of acquiring the land. No application for fencing or building was received by KNUPDA.”
The committee therefore recommended that the layout RDKN 388 be cancelled and that all allocations made should be “revoked/withdrawn for overriding public interest.” The committee also recommended that the school land be returned to its original form. It also recommended that “all those who refused to collect compensations at the time of acquiring the school area should be advised to do so now.”
In its view, the state government observed concerns and petitions over the land and therefore directed the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning and KNUPDA to review the recommendations of the investigation committee and come out with appropriate action to be taken on the issue of the layout.
However,despite the government’s directive, nothing on the issue seems to change as more structures are being erected on the school land. This prompted members of the Panshekara community to file a petition before the state Public Complaints and Anti-corruption Directorate. On receiving the petition, the directorate, according to one of its top functionaries who would not want to be named, swung into action immediately. It summoned a meeting of all stakeholders in the matter and visited the site to ascertain veracity of the claims in the said petition.
In a letter addressed to Kumbotso local government chairman, signed by the head of Land Matters and Community Mediation Centre of the directorate, AbdullahiAminu Shams, the public complaints directorate noted that illegal encroachment of school land is “against public interest as well as Malam Ibrahim Shekarau’s effort to revive the lost standard of education, and against the Government White Paper on the Report of the committee set up to investigate encroachment into public lands/premises between May 1999 – May 2003.”
While the GSS Panshekara school land is being encroached, investigations show that three schools in the same areaare operating within a single school building. The schools squatting in one place are Panshekara primary school, GovernmentArabicSecondary School and GirlsJuniorSecondary school. As the people of the area expect justice to be dispensed on the matter, their hope is that the revoked land would be used to provide permanent sites for those schools jam-packed into the few available buildings that could hardly accommodate a single school in a normal situation.
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