Recently, the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Dr Adesina signed a Joint Venture Agreement on Commercial Rice farming with Calvin Burgess, owner and principal promoter of the Oklahoma-based Dominion Farms Limited.
No details on the nature of and the terms of ownership, costs of the Joint Venture Agreement were disclosed by the parties at the Media briefing held in Abuja early this week. However, the activities of Dominion Farms Kenya Limited, the local Kenya subsidiary of Dominion Farms Limited, Guthrie, Oklahoma, suggest something sinister. Dominion Farms Kenya Limited has consistently been accused by the locals of the Yala swamp basin of land grabbing and have consistently resisted attempts by Calvin Burgess, supported by corrupt Kenya officials, to forcefully and unlawful evict them from their naturally rich, ancestral land.
We fear that an investor who has become notorious for land grabbing on the continent could be allowed access to the 30,000 hectares Gassol swamps of Gassol Local Government Area of Taraba state, without any public assurances given by the Honourable Minister of Agriculture in his media briefing.
That General Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, is a known promoter of this private farming venture, is a matter of public record. What isn’t known is the extent of his private interest in the Joint Venture that was made public by the Honourable Minister of Agriculture as wholely a business relationship between the Federal Government of Nigeria and Dominion Farms Limited, Oklahoma and its local subsidiary, Dominion Farms Nigeria Limited.
Pursuant to the right to know, guaranteed by the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, I caused a letter dated 23rd February 2012 to be served on the Honorable Minister of Agriculture requesting that disclosures be made on information relating to the Joint Venture Agreement in his possession or custody of his Ministry. Please, find the Freedom of Information Letter attached to this press statement.
Being the text of a press statement sent in by Abdul Mahmud,Managing Partner/Attorney,Berkeleys,Abuja.
Below is the FOI request he sent to the Minisster:
23rd February 2012
The Honourable Minister of Agriculture,
Federal Ministry of Agriculture,
Request for Access to Record or Information made under Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
I am writing to request information under the Freedom of Information Act 2011. Sir, in order to assist you, I am outlining my request as specifically as possible and as follows:
- I am interested in any information in your custody or in the possession of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture relating to the ‘Terms of Ownership’ of the Rice Farm in Taraba State provided for by the Joint Venture Agreement you recently signed on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria with Dominion Farms Limited, Guthrie, Oklahoma, United States of America and its newly incorporated Nigerian subsidiary, Dominion Farms Nigeria Limited;
- Any information in your custody or in the possession of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture relating to the ‘Nature of Training’ that Dominion Farms Limited intends to deliver to Nigerian farmers;
- Any Information in your custody or in the possession of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture relating to the Nature of the Land designed as the farm in situ, the Land Holding and Ownership;
- Any information in your custody or in the possession of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture relating to the Cost of the Joint Venture Rice Farm to Nigerian Tax Payers.
Sir, by Section 1(2) of the said Freedom of Information Act 2011, I need not demonstrate any specific interest in the information I am applying for.
Furthermore, sir, if my request for all or part of the information or record is denied, I humbly request that you serve me a written notice pursuant to Section 4(2) of the said Act stating reason(s) for the refusal to make available the information requested, the specific section(s) of the Act under which the denial is made.
I look forward to receiving the information within Seven Days (7) following the receipt of my request, as stated in the said Act.