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Ekiti cargo Airport, Nigeria


Description:

On 2nd October 2015 the state government of Ekiti, in western Nigeria, sent in bulldozers to begin clearing 4,000 hectares of farmland for an airport. Bulldozers ripped down trees and destroyed farmland before compensation, for loss of land and livelihood, had been even discussed with affected farm owners [1]. The Nation Nigeria reported that State Governor Ayo Fayose was pursuing the project with such a ‘frenzy’ that he had failed to even consult with farmers holding customary titles to the land [2]. An oil palm farmer whose plantation was bulldozed, Tijani Hakeem, died, reportedly of shock.

Landowners from the five farm settlements affected – Igbemo, Igbogun, Aso Ayegunle, Ijan and Araromi Obbo –  demanded compensation and to be relocated elsewhere. Produce cultivated on the land allocated to the airport had been their only source of livelihood, and the area also hosted sacred trees and a shrine. Their outcry succeeded in stalling the land clearance. On 13th October Governor Fayose announced that work on the airport would be suspended until December, promising to pay affected farmers compensation and grant them time to harvest their crops [3].

The airport faced vocal opposition from within the state government. Former Speaker Femi Bamisile described pursuit of the project as a “misplaced priority” and a “criminal act”, saying it has been inaugurated without following due process and querying the tender for the project [1]. The All Progressive Congress (APC) of Ekiti state criticised state funding for the airport, which would benefit the elite, at the expense of initiatives for growth of the local economy to support impoverished residents. The estimated project cost was US$85.4 million, allocated in spite of Fayose’s claim that the state had no money. An APC spokesperson described the airport project as a “drain pipe to siphon money from Ekiti State treasury”, and questioned the economic rationale with an underutilized established airport, Akure, less than an hour’s drive away [4].

Farmers continued their resistance to the airport. In December a group of affected farmers and landowners filed a suit, on behalf of themselves and others in the four affected communities, seeking damages for ‘unlawful and forcible acquisition’ of their land, displacement, destruction of farm buildings and removal of their crops. They also sought an injunction barring officials from further removal of or damage to their crops and buildings, and for the revocation of their rights to the land to be declared ‘unconstitutional, illegal, null and void’ [1].

On 20th January 2016, a group of farmers protested, storming the project site, and demanded that work cease immediately, in respect of the suit that they had filed. They held placards reading: “Gov Fayose, Please Leave Us Alone, Don’t Damage Our Life”, “This Land Is The Major Cocoa Plantation, Please No Trespass”, “Please Relocate Your Airport to Government Forest”, “We All Say No To Illegal Airport Project”, “Iwajo, Aso Say No To Illegal Airport”, and “Igbogun Cries Over Illegal Destruction of Our Property”. Farmers said that government officials had entered their land and stolen produce including cocoa, yams, and bananas. They also stated that at least ten farmers, including three women, had ‘died of shock’ caused by the destruction of their farms and ensuing economic loss [5].

On 22nd March 2016, nine farmers secured a major court victory. Their suit was successful and all their claims – against Governor Fayose, the state Commissioner for Works, Commissioner for Lands and Housing, and Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice – were fully vindicated. The high court in Ado-Ekiti ruled that forcible takeover of land for the airport project, revocation of their rights to their parcels of land, forcible entry into farmsteads, and destruction of crops, trees and buildings on this land, were all unconstitutional, illegal null and void. The judge also ordered that over US$25,000 be paid to the farmers in damages and an injunction was granted restraining the defendants from forcibly entering the farmland and from harassing or intimidating the claimants [6].

The project was re-instigated. In October 2016 the Ekiti State government stated that Ekiti Airport would be included in its 2017 budget [7]. In January 2018 Governor Fayose was still determined to construct the airport and said the matter was at the Appeal Court [8].

On 18th November 2020, residents of Igbemo and Orun, in the Irepodun/Ifelodun Local Government Area of Ekiti State, protested the development of Ekiti Airport project in their communities. They called on the state government to relocate the proposed cargo airport to the forest reserve, instead of destroying their cash crop plantations for the project. They alleged that the state government had destroyed their cash crops, noting that Igbemo Ekiti is known as a hub for the production of large quantities of local rice, called ‘Igbemo rice’. The protesting residents, most of them rice, cocoa and cassava farmers, claimed they had never signed a pact with the state government to convert their plantations into a cargo airport. Youths and elderly people from the two communities explained that their protest was triggered when they saw unfamiliar people in their farms during the night, destroying their crops and digging holes. Some protesters expressed fear that they would end up with nothing. A woman said: “We don’t have any other land to plant cocoa and rice should the government convert our farms to cargo airport. We don’t have any other occupation than farming since we couldn’t secure white-collar jobs.” Residents explained that they were not opposed to the development of their communities but were against the destruction of their farms which were their source of livelihood [9].

On 15th March 2021, it was announced that Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, had paid financial compensation of N500 million (USD1,312,336) to 700 landowners, mostly farmers whose lands had been acquired for the airport project, now referred to as the Agro-allied Cargo Airport project. Presentation of cheques to landowners coincided with the formal handing over of the project site to the main contractor to commence construction of a 3.2kilometre runway. Governor Fayemi said a total of 4,017 hectares of land was acquired for the airport project, which aimed to connect the Ekiti state’s agribusiness industry to global markets. He said, “Agricultural products such as cassava, oil palm, cocoa, cashew, timber, rice, plantain and banana and others will be better marketed locally and internationally when the Airport becomes operational.”[10].

Farmers from Igbemo, Orun, Aso Ayegunle, and Igbogun towns rejected the compensation from the state government, saying they were not ready to trade their plantations because it is their source of livelihood. one of the farmers, Mr Allie Temitope, said: “though, it is a developmental step but detrimental to our well being. "There was an announcement on the radio that all the farmers in Igbemo, Orun Ekiti, Igbogun, and others should come to Ado-Ekiti to collect cheques, we are not going anywhere. “We are just appealing to the state government to leave our land because we don’t have anything to do in Igbemo and Orun than farming. "I’m a graduate, since there’s no work, I have been engaging in farming activities. "We are just begging the government, they should leave our land and relocate the cargo airport to another area like government reserve, they should go there and build it there.”

Other farmers said they had no other means of livelihood but their cocoa plantations and thus rejected the government’s compensation offer [11].

On 15th March 2021, as the Ekiti State Government was set to commence massive land clearance for the airport, a group of farmers whose land fell within the project area staged a peaceful protest, appealing to Governor Fayemi to grant them more time to harvest their produce. The farmers, from the Bolorunduro area, said they had discovered that the contractor had mobilised to the site and might commence clearing their farmland at any time. If this happened some of their produce - such as yams, cassava, and vegetables - would be affected. The protesters included aged people, women, men, and youths who urged the governor to save their products from being destroyed. Protesters carried placards and chanted: “Mr Governor please give us time to harvest our farm produce”, “Mr Governor please don’t increase poverty in Ekiti” and “Fayemi have mercy on our children”. Two of the affected farmers said they had continued with their farming activities in the current year because the government had informed them that clearing of land for the airport would not affect them. Another farmer, a woman who had been widowed nine years ago, said that if her farm, that she depended upon, were to be destroyed it would be difficult for her to feed her children [12].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Ekiti cargo Airport, Nigeria
Country:Nigeria
State or province:Ekiti State
Location of conflict:Ado-Ekiti
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Ports and airport projects
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The plan is for a cargo airport to open up Ekiti for development. Farmland was destroyed for an airport that its proponents envisaged would be utilized to export farm produce. The Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Kola Oluwawole, stated support for a cargo airport, to open up resources to exploration and to “ensure seamless exportation of agricultural products” [13].

When the farmland was bulldozed in October 2015 the estimated project cost was US$85.4 million. A 2017 investigation of Nigeria’s abandoned and unviable airport projects stated that the Ekiti State budget for Ekiti Airport is N20 billion (US$55.4 million) [14].

Project area:4,017
Level of Investment for the conflictive projectUS$85.4 million
Type of populationRural
Affected Population: five villages
Start of the conflict:02/10/2015
Relevant government actors:Ekiti State Government

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local government/political parties
Women
Forms of mobilization:Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Noise pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Deaths
Potential: Malnutrition
Other Health impactsTen farmers died, reportedly of 'shock' caused by destruction of their farmland and ensuing economic loss[5]
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Specific impacts on women
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures

Outcome

Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The affected landowners' suit was successful and the Ekiti cargo airport project was halted. But the project was re-instigated and land clearance is imminent. This has triggered protest from farmers within the area allocated for the project who fear they may not have time to harvest their produce.

Sources & Materials

[1] Nigerian farmers win High Court victory in fight against Ekiti airport, The Ecologist, 8 April 2016
http://www.theecologist.org/campaigning/2987347/nigerian_farmers_win_high_court_court_victory_in_fight_against_ekiti_airport.html

[2] My airport bigger than yours, The Nation, 21 October 2015
http://thenationonlineng.net/my-airport-bigger-than-yours/

[3] Fayose suspends Ekiti airport project, The Nation, 13 October 2015
http://thenationonlineng.net/fayose-suspends-ekiti-airport-project/

[4] General Fayose’s airport project a drain pipe – APC, Daily Trust, 23 September 2015
https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/general/fayose-s-airport-project-a-drain-pipe-apc/111968.html

[5] Farmers protest over government airport project in Ekiti, Daily Post, 20 January 2016
http://dailypost.ng/2016/01/20/farmers-protest-over-government-airport-project-in-ekiti

[6] Court Asks Fayose To Stay Action On Airport Project, News Herald, 23 March 2016
http://newsherald.com.ng/2016/03/23/court-asks-fayose-to-stay-action-on-airport-project/

[7] New Ekiti Airport, Centre for Aviation (CAPA)
https://centreforaviation.com/data/profiles/newairports/new-ekiti-airport

[8] Why Ekiti airport project failed – Afe Babalola, Fayose, Vanguard, 26 January 2018
https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/01/ekiti-airport-project-failed-afe-babalola-fayose/

[9] Ekiti communities reject proposed cargo airport project...Allege govt's destruction of cash crops, The Sun Nigeria, 05/11/2020
https://www.sunnewsonline.com/ekiti-communities-reject-proposed-cargo-airport-project/

[10] Cargo Airport: Ekiti pays N500m in compensation to 700 land owners, WorldStage15/03/2021
https://www.worldstagegroup.com/cargo-airport-ekiti-pays-n500m-in-compensation-to-700-land-owners/

[11] cargo-airport-ekiti-communities-reject-compensations-from-government, Nigeria Newspapers Online, 16/03/2021
https://nigerianewspapersonline.net/news/cargo-airport-ekiti-communities-reject-compensations-from-government/

[12] Airport Project: Give Us More Time To Harvest Our Produce, Ekiti Farmers Beg Fayemi, Independent Nigeria, 15/03/2021
https://www.independent.ng/airport-project-give-us-more-time-to-harvest-our-produce-ekiti-farmers-beg-fayemi/

[13] Airport will open up Ekiti –Speaker, The Eagle Online, 11 September 2015
http://theeagleonline.com.ng/airport-will-open-up-ekiti-speaker/

[14] 14 states spend N250bn on abandoned, unviable airport projects – Investigation, The Point, 30 June 2017
https://www.thepointng.com/14-states-spend-n250bn-on-abandoned-unviable-airport-projects-investigation/

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

2nd October 2015 - Commissioner for Works of Ekiti State, interviewed about procurement of 4,000 hectares of land for Ekiti Airport, bulldozers remove trees in the background
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntLQgD-gaC0

Meta information

Contributor:Rose Bridger, Stay Grounded, email: [email protected]
Last update29/08/2018
Conflict ID:3676

Images

 

Farmland bulldozed for airport in Ekiti

The state government sent in bulldozers to clear land for an airport. Source: Daily Post Nigeria

Palm trees, cocoa trees and other crops destroyed

Trees were ripped down before compensation had been even discussed. Source: Information Nigeria

Crops bulldozed for Ekiti Airport

Landowners from five villages were affected. Source: Homeland News

Farmers appeal for time to harvest their produce

With land clearance for Ekiti airport due to begin farmers whose land fell within the project site protested, appealing for more time to harvest their produce. Photo: Independent Nigeria, 15/03/2021 https://www.independent.ng/airport-project-give-us-more-time-to-harvest-our-produce-ekiti-farmers-beg-fayemi/