Daily Trust Sunday
60 Years After, Kano Groundnut Pyramids Site Turns to Football Field
Kano was famous for its magnificent groundnut pyramids during Nigeria’s period of agricultural boom in the 1960s and early 1970s. Its groundnut pyramids became synonymous with the country’s agricultural wealth, and Kano was regarded as an economic hub in West Africa.
A pyramid could be built with as much as 15,000 full bags of groundnut. Invented by the late Alhaji Alhassan Dantata, a prominent groundnut trader, the groundnut pyramids were a tourist attraction and symbol of wealth. Dantata was one of the successful businessmen who supplied the Royal Niger Company (RNC) with most of its groundnut demands. His groundnut were kept at facilities in Kofar Nasarawa and Kofar Mazugal in Dala.
The pyramids came about because licensed agents would go to rural areas, buy up groundnut harvests and bring everything to Kano for eventual evacuation by train to the export facilities in Lagos. Curiously, as groundnut production declined in the 1970s, the pyramids disappeared and were replaced by buildings and roads. However, the Kofar Mazugal location of the pyramids at Dala remains intact till today.
When Daily Trust on Sunday visited the place our reporter discovered that the location has been converted to a football field, campaign ground and test-driving location. People were also seen gathering there for one purpose or another on a daily basis. Despite the long years of its abandonment, traces of the triangular shape of the pyramids could still be seen all over the place.
Many of those who witnessed the groundnut boom and the famous pyramids located at Kofar Mazugal in Dala, Bebeji, Malam Madori, Kofar Nasarawa and Dawakin-Kudu areas, regarded as the hub of trading about 60 years ago, are unhappy at the pyramids’ disappearance. Those who spoke to our reporter recounted the glorious days of the groundnut trade .
Alhaji Illiyasu Danladi, who was a young man during the groundnut boom said, “It was over 60 years ago. I was a teenager then, but I can remember the activities here. I lived close to the abattoir. Cars in the state at that time were not more than 10. What we had were donkeys and camels. Camels represented trailers. People were poor, but we all lived in peace. We were not jealous over the successes of one another. If you had N10, I would pray to God to give me N20. I would not try to collect yours.
“This area was bushy and not tarred. We had trains and railway tracks that led to Lagos. I didn’t participate in the groundnut business. We used to watch the activities from here. At that time, this place used to be filled with people who brought groundnut from different areas. A lot of customers came from other places to buy groundnut and other products.
“Although farmers participated in farming other crops, like rice, the most important crops were groundnut and cotton. That was where the federal government was getting its revenue from. Whoever was privileged to witness the period of the groundnut boom in Kano will not be happy to see
the way it has disappeared. But the government can revive it. In Kano, we still have the capacity to produce groundnut in large quantities, even more than we produced during the boom.
“I remember that I saw white people many times here. We watched some of them as they took pictures of the groundnut pyramids. Nobody would not be fascinated by the way those bags of groundnut were arranged before they were taken to Lagos. Why did they stop it? In those days, it was the only business that was booming here in Dala.
“Some of our people also sold kolanuts around here, but most people came here because of groundnuts. We will be happy to see the groundnut pyramids back. You can see that the field is still there. Any day I walk through this field I remember the activities that went on here for many years. If you were here some years before now, you would have seen the rail lines. They were destroyed during the construction of roads.”
Malam Zakiru is an old man. According to one of his sons, Adamu, he is over 88 years. He was a kola-nut trader at a market close to the location of the groundnut pyramids at the Dala area of Kano city. Recounting his memories of the period, he said: “Traces of the groundnut pyramids are still there. You can go and take a look for yourself. I didn’t work there, but I still have the memories of the activities that took place there from the 1950s. I had friends who were labourers there. They were helping to arrange the bags of groundnut to form pyramids. I was selling kola-nuts at the market here, so we could see what they were doing from here. Whenever it was time to place the last bag of groundnut on the peak of the pyramids we would leave whatever we were doing to go there and watch how it would be done. It was only one man that did that. His name was Dabge. I haven’t seen him come out for many years until I heard he died some years ago. It was fun watching him climb the pyramids to the peak without being assisted by anyone. Whenever it was time to place the last bag of groundnuts on the pyramid he was the one who would do it and people would gather to watch him.
“That was the most exciting time at the pyramids. I was young then, but I don’t think I had that strength to do what those labourers were doing with bags of groundnut at the pyramids.”
Also speaking, another community elder at Dala, Malam Sheriff Aminu, said that going to the pyramids was like going to the market. “No one went to the groundnut pyramids unless there was a reason. Unfortunately, they allowed that business to die. That period, the agents would gather the groundnuts in pyramids and transport them to Lagos.
“Alhaji Alhassan Dantata was the one running the business here. Many farmers in the villages were harvesting for him. Whenever it was the season, you would see people bring groundnut from different parts of Kano to the locations of the pyramids on camels and donkeys; only few people had vehicles to bring their produce here. His own was to get labourers to put them together in pyramids. When this was done, the agents would later transport them to Lagos for shipment abroad. Most of his customers were outside the state and the country. The groundnuts produced in Kano at that time were beyond what the state could consume; they were even beyond what the country could consume. You would see farmers bring their produce for sale from different villages. The next day you would see another set of people coming in large groups and everywhere. The field would be filled with people selling groundnut. But now, things have changed.
“You can see that the place is now used as a football field. Those who want to learn driving and religious preachers also use it. Even politicians use it during election periods as a campaign ground.”
Malam Aminu also said that he and some of his friends always watched the labourers as they arranged the bags of groundnut to form the pyramids. “They would continue to arrange the bags until they got to the peak.
“There was no road here (pointing at the IBB Way built by the PTF during the late Sani Abacha era). Only a railway line was here. It was constructed to link the two groundnut pyramids located at Dala and the one at Kofar Nasarawa. From Kano Radio House to this place, there was no road. When the PTF came to construct the road, they removed the rail line.
“Look at this wall, from up to that end was used as groundnut pyramids. The field belongs to Alhaji Alhassan Dantata. If you look at it carefully, you would still see traces of the pyramids carved out in a triangular form.
“The federal government had made efforts to revive the groundnut industry and rebuild the pyramids many years ago. Former President Goodluck
You can see that the place is now used as a football field. Those who want to learn driving and religious preachers also use it. Even politicians use it during election
periods as a campaign ground
Jonathan, on his visit to Kano during the presidential campaign, promised that his administration would help the people to revive the groundnut pyramids, as well as put in place, the necessary infrastructure to boost its processing and packaging. He said there was the need to empower Kano people and boost trade and industry here. In 2014, he said his administration, under the groundnut value chain programme, expected to produce an additional 120,000 metric tonnes of groundnut valued at N24 billion (US$ 155 million) and supplied to small, medium and large scale processors.
According to him, the project was planned to be implemented in 15 states - Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Gombe, Kebbi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara - in the NorthWest, North-East and NorthCentral geo-political zones of the country.
But nothing was heard of the project till the expiration of his administration in 2015.’’