Farmers in Ekiti, Nigeria achieve High Court victory in fight against airport project

An article in The Ecologist, Nigerian farmers win High Court victory in fight against Ekiti airport, is a story of a successful struggle against a land grab for an airport. On 2nd October 2015 the state government of Ekiti, in western Nigeria, sent in bulldozers to clear 4,000 hectares of farmland for an airport. Bulldozers were sent in and began destroying crops, without even warning the farmers, never mind making provision for compensation for their loss of land and livelihood. Affected farmers from the five affected villages fought back, organizing a protest and filing a suit.There was widespread criticism of the airport project, allocated an enormous amount of public funds in a state where many residents are impoverished. The viability of the project was dubious as many airports in Nigeria, including one in the neighbouring state, are underutilized.

Ekiti picThe plan for Ekiti airport was not, to my knowledge, referred to as an ‘aerotropolis’. But the land area allocated, 4,000 hectares, is far more than would be required even for an enormous global hub airport (an unlikely prospect in an agrarian state). In comparison, Atlanta Airport, in the USA, the busiest passenger airport in the world handling over 100 million passengers in 2015, covers an area of about 1,600 hectares. As well as land used for airport operations.this includes considerable commercial space, such as retail and warehouses.

On 20th January 2016 farmers held a protest, storming the Ekiti airport project site and demanding that work cease immediately, in respect of the suit that they had filed. They held placards with slogans 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”. They also stated that at least ten farmers, including three women, had ‘died of shock’ caused by the destruction of their farms.

In 22nd March the Ekiti farmers secured victory in the High Court, which ordered that forcible take-over of their land for the airport was unconstitutional, illegal, null and void. But there are plans for major new airports all over Nigeria, in the states of Osun, Bayelsa, Abia, Ogun, Anambra and Nasarawa, all of which are being vigorously opposed. Citizens are calling on governments to use the vast amounts of public funds being allocated to these airports to infrastructure that will benefit ordinary people – to repair roads and bridges and support small businesses. And yet another major airport plan is looming. The Yobe state government plans to build a N6 billion (over US$30 million) cargo airport in Damaturu, to act as a gateway for investment in the state and facilitate export of meat, dairy produce and gum arabic (acacia gum). The scheme which is meeting with criticism and goes against state commitments to prioritise water supply, schools, clinics and roads to benefit local communities.

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