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Despite rubber being one of the major exports of Nigeria in the 1960s and 70s and also a major boost in the country’s economy, many of the land used for rubber plantation have become abandoned and some have been reportedly taken over by land grabbers who now sell the land at an exorbitant price to people. Investigating the situation, SODIQ OJUROUNGBE, toured some parts of Ogun state where rubber plantations were located, interacted with the residents, and confirmed that some of the government acquisition land has been taken over by ‘hijackers’. The reporter also discovered how this illegal act can lead to soil degradation and accelerate climate change.
Just like how land grabbers have taken possession of properties that belong to people, properties that belong to government were not spared in their illegal possession. The rubber plantation, an initiative of the late ObafemiAwolowo has also been illegally taken by the land grabbers popularly called “AjagunGbale” in Southern part of Nigeria. Investigation conducted by this reporter revealed that not less than 70 hectares of the rubber plantation at Ikenne-Remo have been illegally sold by the land grabbers who always look for a way to trace their history to the government acquisition land.
A visit by this reporter to the Ikenne rubber plantation which was located at the outskirt of Sagamu, a popular town in the eastern part of Ogun state showed that over 700 hectares of land were reserved for the plantation of rubber in the area. The government reserved land expanded from Araromi in Sagamu to Ikenne and ended at Aiyepe in Ijebu area of the state. It was however observed that about 70 hectares of the land have been illegally possessed and sold at exorbitant price to people.
Getting to the part of the rubber plantation which has been illegally possessed by land grabbers, the area was called Araromi Phase 2 (Oko-Rubber), the environment look like a newly developed area; new houses were erected at different parts of the land. But from the outlook, many of the houses were shed by big rubber trees and it was obvious that the land has once been used for rubber plantation.
Land grabbers selling a plot of government acquisition property at N1.5 million
This reporter who disguised as a land buyer that is interested in the land in the area met with one of the residents identified as Baba Ife. This man alongside his wife were engaging in illegal logging of one of the rubber trees when this reporter approached them to ask how he could get a land in the community. The man who was in his late forties abandoned what he was doing to take the reporter to an elderly man, Alhaji Rabiu who was the family head and was in his late 60s.
When this reporter told Alhaji Rabiu that he wanted to buy a plot of land, he was told that all the land in the rubber plantation area has been sold. The reporter who looked disappointed asked if there is any way he could get a plot; from the rubber plantation land and luckily for this reporter , the family head told him the portion of the land available goes for N1.5 million. All efforts to reduce the price of the land were abortive as the man insisted that he could not sell the land below N1.5 million.
This reporter was later shown another portion of land which was at the riverine area of the rubber plant by Baba Ife. There a plot of land cost N700,000.
Another efforts to reduce the price of the land were not successful as he insisted that the land is expensive in that part of the state.
How rubber plantation was birthed in Ogun by late Obafemi Awolowo
Nigeria was a leading exporter of three major cash crops namely palm oil, groundnuts and rubber. Today however little or nothing is heard about these sources of foreign exchange. Rubber, which used to be the fourth largest foreign exchange earner for Nigeria after crude oil has since been neglected by successive governments despite the fact that rubber plantation is one of the resources that thrive in Nigeria.
The country’s sole dependence on crude oil has rendered the rubber industry unattractive. Most rubber plantations still existing in parts of the South West of Nigeria today were planted during the days of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
The late pa Obafemi Awolowo had laid down Agro-Economic policies for revenue generation for south-western Nigeria and Ogun state in particular. Rubber farming attained a very great height during this period as its harvesters became very important people in the society.
Rubber plantations in Ogun State are located in Ilushin and Ikenne-Remo. Collectively, both settlements have 1,377 hectares of rubber plantation. It is the most economically important member of the genus Hevea. It is of major economic importance because the milky latex extracted from the tree is the primary source of natural rubber.
Harvesters make incisions across the latex vessels, just deep enough to tap the vessels without harming the tree’s growth, and the latex is collected in small buckets. This process is known as rubber tapping.
Govt. abandons rubber plantations, as farmers convert land for other purposes
A visit by this reporter to the two rubber plantations in Ogun state, Ilushin and Ikenne- Remo revealed that the farms have become abandoned as there was no real plantation on the land. At the Ilushin plantation, it was observed that while there are still some plantations at the forest, there have not been any real activities of planting and replanting in the forest in the last five years.
A tour round some of the facilities at the Ilushin settlement, shows the place is dilapidated, abandoned and neglected. The settlement which was built decades ago was still in existence as some of the rubber farmers were living unperturbed with the reality of the “about to collapse” buildings around them.
It was also gathered that there was no replanting effort for about five years on the government owned planation. Also, this reporter observed that some parts of the lands have been converted to farm used for other purposes. There are cassava, maize and banana planted on some of the lands which was meant to be for rubbers.
Speaking with some of the rubber farmers at the Ilushin plantation, they claimed government has abandoned them as they were not getting any support from the government. The farmers also explained that the government has sold part of the land to some private firms. The rubber farmers further claimed that operators of the private rubber plantations were replanting, while the government owned has become more or less an abandoned project.
One of the farmers, Alisson Samson said, “it has been long we plant here, we don’t replant for about five years. We are only tapping from the old rubbers. Things are not easy here because we have been abandoned by the government; the essence of this has been forgotten.”
Another farmer simply identified as Baba Nkechi told this reporter, “government has given part of this land to a private firm; they now have their own rubber estate just opposite ours. These people are investing lot of time, resources into it, you can’t believe that they produce more than us, they always replant.
“We need government attention here; they are shouting about economic downfall, this can help us to generate more income in Ogun state. Rubber is a cool business and government need to pay attention to that.”
When this reporter visited the plantation at Ikenne, the situation seems worse as a larger percentage of the land has been reportedly taken over by the other activities. This reporter discovered that larger part of the land has been converted to other uses which include cassava, maize, and rice plantations. There was high level of deforestation at the Ikenne rubber plantation as there were no government officials to checkmate some of their activities.
Apart from some parts of the land that have been illegally sold by land grabbers, it was further discovered that government also allocated a portion of the land around Araromi area of Sagamu for another use. This reporter observed that the government is currently constructing an estate in the area. Work are ongoing. It was however gathered that construction started around early October and is part of the affordable accommodation agenda of the present administration. Also, a part of the land was given to a block industry that used it for his personal business.
This land was owned by our fore-fathers, landgrabbers insist
The Family head, Alhaji Rabiu who claimed to be a native of Ipoji in Remo area of the state insisted that the land was owned by their forefathers. He argued that, although some parts of the land were given to the government of the western region, the land sold still belong to them. He explained that the land was a farm settlement of the family.
Speaking on why the government was referring to the land as illegal, AlhajiRabiu said, “the truth is that government came here to claim that the land does not belong to us. They claim it was illegal for us to sell this land, we are already meeting with them and a peaceful resolution is going on.
“This is our land, it belongs to our forefathers, this is not part of the place used for rubber plantation, it is the only portion that we have as a family.”
We were not aware it was government acquisition land until we were asked to vacate, residents lament
A tour round the community showed that the government was aware of the illegal possession of the land as ‘pull down’ warning sign was seen being stamped on all the buildings erected on the land.
When this reporter spoke with some residents of the community, they claimed they were not aware the land was a government acquisition land until the Sagamu Local Government came to mark the buildings as illegal structures.
The residents noted that efforts are ongoing to ensure a peaceful resolution between the government and the land seller.
The degradation of Nigeria forest resources in indisputable.
Between 1980 and 1990, the annual rate of deforestation averaged 3.5% and the forest area declined form 14.9 million ha. to 10.1 million ha. This translates to the loss of 350,000 to 400,000 ha of forest land per annum for the country. This is leading to phenomena which affect most of the population, including soil degradation, water contamination, siltation and drying up of water bodies, micro-climate change and the depletion of fauna and flora.
The Environmental Management Project (EMP) report on vegetation and land use changes in Nigeria showed that undisturbed forest decrease from 2.9% of total land area of Nigeria in 1976/78 to 1.3% in 1993/95 – (decrease of 1,383,700 hectares). Also the disturbed forest increased from 1.6% of total area of Nigeria in 1976/78 to 2.1% in 1993/95 – (an increase of 441,700) hectares. The report also revealed that the Riparian forest decreased from 0.8% to 0.6% – a decrease of 214,800 hectares within the same period.
You can generate N9bn on 10,000 hectares of rubber plant yearly, says Ogun NAPPMAN
The Ogun state vice chairman of National Rubber Producers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria, Sunday Oyesola, has claimed that not less than N9vbillion can be made yearly on just 10,000 hectares of rubber plant. Oyesola who spoke with this reporter on the need for government to look into rubber as a major means of Internally Generated Revenue stressed that investment in rubber will boost the Gross Domestic Product of the state.
Speaking on the economic value of rubber, the NAPPMAN vice chairman noted that about N900, 000 can be made yearly on one hectare of rubber plantation. He however explained that the bigger the rubber tree becomes, the more opportunities to generate more income from the plantation.
He said, “when it gets to like five years, you will get double of that because it is like cow producing milk, as the cow is getting bigger, the milk will also increase. The rubber will last for 35 years, the bigger the tree, the more the rubber increased.
“If we can revive the rubber plantation, it is going to create more jobs to the youth; for rubber plantation to take place, it involved a lot of human resources. Rubber goes up just like crude oil goes up.
“70% of rubber all over the world goes for tyre and we can’t do without it, even with the advancement of technology, there isn’t anything that can replace tyre.
“If we get enough land or rubber in Ogun state, we are imploring our governor to give us 10 hectares of land in the state, it is going to boost the state GDP the outcome.”
Deforestation is a threat to human existence, responsible for climate change, says environment expert
When this reporter contacted an environment expert, Dr. SegunOladoye , he explained that deforestation has become a threat to human existence and a major factor responsible for climate change in the world.
Dr. Oladoye who is a senior lecturer at the Fishery and Wildlife management of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta maintained that removing trees from the forest will increase the atmospheric temperature that will eventually affect human existence.
The environment expert who is also a consultant further explained that there are potential implications in having some of the trees in our forest cut without replacement.
He noted, “deforestation is a key contributor to climate change, when the forest were cleared or burnt, they release what we carbon installed and they won’t be able to absolve anything again. Removing it also diminishing an important carbon sink; by the time you remove it, you realise you have also tampered with water carbon sink.
“You will realise this year, we didn’t have rain as it used to be and even the weather is not the same like it used to be. Because of deforestation, it will increase the atmospheric temperature that will eventually tell on everyone. When we say climate change, there is no more motion in the atmosphere. When the temperature has increased, what happened is that it willdefreese; there are potential implications in having some of the trees in our forest cut without replacement.
Off course, you have to clear, but when you are clearing there is what we call selective setting or systematic burning; that means you don’t clear everything at a go. You look for which to be harvested before going ahead with it.
“Deforestation can also affect the temperature from local and regional case, and it can have a global repercussion. When there is high temperature, what happen to our health; body becomes hydrated, animals become less productive because there is nothing to feed on. There is what we call evapotranspiration which is a term describing the exchange of water between the land and atmosphere.”
Dr. Oladoye however maintained that all plants including weed have their usefulness. He explained that the plants have the potentials to sequestrate carbon in the atmosphere. He stressed that an environment with lot of trees is always safer and cleaner.
He added, “If you are very close to the village, you realise that there are clearer and fresher airs in the village than in the city and you know why? because there are many trees in the village that will trap and absolve those carbon. That is why all our fathers that were born in the 1960s live longer and that was because of the environment they grew up. Our life span has been cut short by our activities.
“Every area where you have forest, you are staying in a cleaner and safer environment because the trees absolve all those waste and process is for us to be able to enjoy. The trees around also help to replenish the soil nutrient thereby it will grow our productivity. The leaves of a tree when they fall on the ground, they will decompose and by the time they decompose, whatever you grow on that soil will germinate. Trees help to reduce the use of chemical fertilizer and also with trees all around us, it prevents our soil from erosion.”
Why we are not investing in rubber plantation, Ogun govt.
The Ogun state government has explained that it has reduced the investment in rubber plantation because the demand rate of rubber has reduced drastically.
The Special Adviser to Governor Dapo Abiodun on Public Communication, Hon. RemmyHazzan who spoke with this reporter at his office in Abeokuta further explained that the local consumption of rubber has also dropped, noting that majority of the tyre manufacturers have exited the country.
Hazzan also stressed that emerging technology has affected the consumption of rubber, saying that some of the plastic materials gotten from rubber can be gotten elsewhere.
He added, “You would have expected also that tyre manufacturers will still place demand from this product even wherever they are outside the country. We are heavily burdened with the demand as structure for rubber by the fact that majority of users, vehicle owners are found solely in fairly used tyres and manufacturers of products will optimize their use of raw materials when the demand in the market is something that encourages them to stimulate production.
“There is need for restructuring of the process, that way when the demand size of a product is enhanced, the supply size will stabilize. The plantations has not particularly reduced drastically, but the market structure is not such that is helping to make farmers going into more rubber plantation. But, if that is done, you will see that many plantations will spring up. As we speak the ones that are on, the market structure is such that has not really helped farmers as much as they will have wanted to do.”
‘Government did not abandon rubber farmers, but more needs to be done’
Speaking on allegation by farmers that the government has abandoned them, Hazzan maintained that government has not abandoned the rubber plantation in the state.
The Special Adviser who admitted that there are lots to be done on rubber plantations emphasised that government did not abandon its responsibility.
He said, “Abandoning is a kind of lexical that portrays government as breaching its duty, I will rather not side with that type of language. I will rather say that government needs to do more than they have done; this problem for the law for rubber is not a Nigeria problem, it is more of an African challenge because Africa is the highest growers of rubbers. It has to do with identifying the demand line for rubbers and every government helping the farmers who grow this rubber to help them have a structure which market this product. I will not say government hasn’t done anything, I will rather say a lot more is to be done.”
Speaking on how government is tackling deforestation in the state, Hazzan explained that the Ministry of Forestry has stereotyped illegal logging and land grabbing in the forest. He insisted that while it will not be easy for any government to totally end deforestation, the present administration is doing everything possible to ensure it is reduced to bearest minimum.
He added, “That agency has done a lot to reduce it to the bearest minimum; that is why you found out that on regular basis, perpetrators of illegalities are arrested and brought all the way to Abeokuta just so that it becomes a warning signal to those who may feel of doing the same thing with government. It then doesn’t mean that we have achieved a zero of activities of criminal in the forestry sector. But, then no society can boost of zero crime, the best is to reduce it to bearest minimum.”
‘Previous acquisition were only done with newspaper publication notice’
While reacting to the report of land grabbers selling some parts of the government acquired land, Hazzan explained that most of the previous administrations did newspapers publications. He further explained that the western government then did not do a structured and detailed acquisition process.
He noted that the processes of some of the acquired land by the government were not conclusive. He argued that the family who claimed to own the land came back to it because there was not a properly arranged acquisition plan between the government and the owner.
He said, “Previous acquisition were only done with newspaper publication notice and that may not survive. Everyday, the entire state is witnessing continuous development and this development is not regulated we should be expecting this scenario. We have a saner kind of land administration of such that acquisition is thorough, structured, detailed and it is difficult to fault unlike what we have before. But, we are struggling to still maintain some previously acquired areas whose processes of acquisition were not conclusive.”