News

June 6, 2023

Ondo farmers raise alarm over destruction of N500m farmlands by security personnel

Ondo farmers raise alarm over destruction of N500m farmlands by security personnel

—- Accuse Ondo govt, private firm of flouting court order

— Ooni of lfe intervenes

By Dayo Johnson, Akure

Cocoa farmers in Oluwa Forest Reserve in Odigbo council area of Ondo State, have raised the alarm over the destruction of their N500m worth of cocoa plantations by thugs hired by a private firm, despite a court injunction halting such action.

They alleged that the firm, SAO Agro-Allied Services Limited, has also engaged soldiers and men of Amotekun Corps, to attack them on the farms.

The over 10,000 farmers who had spent over 25 years farming in the forest have cried to the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, to intervene in their plight.

Addressing newsmen in Akure, their chairman and Secretary, Abayomi lsinleye and Odugbemi Omolewa, said that some farmers’ had died as a result of the destruction of the cocoa plantations.

Recall that the state government, through the Senior Special Assistant (Agric & Agribusiness) to the governor, Akin Olotu, has said that the Oluwa Forest had been handed over to SAO Agro-Allied Services Limited to grade and plant oil palm in line with CBN project.

But, counsel to the farmers, Tope Temokun, dragged the state government, Attorney General of the state, Ministry of Agric and SAO Agro-Allied Services Limited to court when the firm began to clear the cocoa plantations with earth moving equipment.

The court, thereafter granted an order of interim injunction restraining the respondents, including SAO Agro-Allied Services Limited, their privies, servants, agents or anyone acting through them or for them from further grading of the applicants’ cocoa plantations.

But in flagrant disobedience to the court order, the company had allegedly continued grading the cocoa plantations using soldiers, officials of Amotekun Corps and miscreants to intimidate and attack the farmers.

Speaking with newsmen, the chairman of the farmers, lsinleye, said that “Surprisingly, after the giving of this order, with the backing of the Ondo State government and in flagrant disobedience to the said order of the court, workmen of SAO Agro-Allied Services Limited, under heavy armament of a combined team of over hundred of Amotekun officers, soldiers and local vigilante and gunmen were mobilised to the farms.

” The claimed they have the directive of the governor’s son, who’s the behind-the-scene veiled chief promoter of these private companies buying up the Ondo State forest reserve lands, to shoot and kill anyone who dared to protest around the farms or dares to stop their work and they have continued on daily basis to grade our cocoa farmlands in the Oluwa Forest reserve.”

” We have approached some notable personalities in the South-West, including the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi to intervene in the matter to stop the firm from further destroying the Cocoa plantations and respect the court order.

“Oba Ogunwusi has sent delegations to the governor of Ondo State to intervene in this matter to see that due process ess is followed.

“But the destruction of our farmlands has continued by SAO Agro-Allied Services Limited with the backing of government force and state apparatus in disobedience of an order of the court.”

” We have been paying our dues on the land to the state government as it charges N10,000 per hectare.

” We have paid N3.5 million this year, leaving N1.5 million outstanding to be paid later in the year. This we’ve been doing for the past 25 years that we’ve been cultivating farms in the forest.

But reacting to the farmer’s allegations,
the Senior Special Assistant on Agric and Agribusiness to the governor, Akin Olotu, said that “They have done incalculable damage to the cocoa business in Ondo state.

“In the global market, it has been observed that cocoa in Ondo state is planted in the forest reserve and EU is of the opinion that they don’t want any chocolate product that is coming from forest reserves.

“Those that will bear that brunt are the real cocoa farmers that are farming on community land.

“Apart from that, it was as a result of security threat. When there was insecurity all over, it was part of South West decision to evict illegal farmers on government reserves.

“Who gave them the place in the first place? We need to recover our forest. We have photographs of the farmers setting big trees on fire, cultivating Indian Hemp. So, it is a serious matter.

Olotu added that ” We can’t jeopardize the interest of everybody in the state, the country and those passing by because some few people are utilizing the forest illegally.