Ondo farmers protest over govt’s move to sell farmland to private investors
By Hakeem Gbadamosi - Akure
Hundreds of farmers in Idanre, Idanre Local Government Area of Ondo State, on Tuesday, protested over alleged plans to take over their lands for private use.
The farmers who are mainly cocoa farmers took to the street, kicking against the alleged attempt by the Ondo State government to cede land of his people in Idanre to private companies.
Armed with placards of various inscriptions such as “Respect Our Rights to Livelihood”, Don’t Give Our Land to Mindless Capitalists, “We Want to Remain Farmers and not Armed Robbers”, among others.
They appealed to the state governor to look into their plight in order not to discourage farming, especially cocoa production in the state, saying the development has been affecting farming activities in the area.
This is just as the Member Representing Idanre Constituency at the Ondo State House of Assembly, Hon Festus Akingbaso, condemned the alleged attempt by the state government to cede the land of the people of Idanre to private companies.
Akingbaso, in a protest letter, alleged that the state government had arrogantly allocated about 50,000 hectares of land in Idanre forest reserve to private business owners for a period of 99 years.
The lawmaker said, “For some time there has been rumours and restiveness in respect of a purported move by the Government of Ondo State to cede the land of my people in Idanre to private companies.
“The fact is that the area known as Idanre Forest Reserve (A05) was submitted to the colonial power under the British indirect rule by an agreement dated 22nd day of September 1918 between Idanre Community and the colonial power represented by the Governor–General.
“The terms of the agreement are explicit. Among which is that “the area was constituted as a Forest Reserve for the joint use and benefit of Government and the Native communities owning the land.”
“Above term is clear and explicit and to Idanre people it is a running covenant in respect of the area. To the dismay of the Idanre people, the government of Ondo state without regard or deference to the Owa of Idanre and the people has arrogantly given about 50,000 hectares of land in the area to private business owners for 99 years.
“The following companies are known to be behind the moves to grab Idanre Land. These are Blue Sky Ltd (4000 hectares), Sao Agro services Ltd (10,000 hectares) and Rex (30000 hectares).
“On Sunday the 17th day of July 2022, SAO Agro services Ltd aided by eight vehicles loaded with personnel of Amotekun security corps and officers of the Nigerian Army invaded Ofosu area with a Bulldozer to begin the destruction of farmlands of over 20,000 farmers who are presently farming on the land.
“It is our belief that to alienate about over 50,000 hectares of land to private people to the detriment of over 20,000 citizens is immoral and illegal. Idanre people will not watch while the government is giving away the legacies from our forefathers and what should serve the future generation of Idanre away s to a few businessmen.
“The reality on the ground is that the government will not be able to manage the economic and social consequences of this move. Government exists to protect the interest of the people not a few opportunists in our midst.
“I’m appealing to the governor to stop this move and protect the image of its government as this is nothing but a move against the people. The so-called ceding of the land of our people to private people is against the spirit of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. This is an ill wind,” Hon Akingbaso lamented.
However, the state government has explained that there was no plan to displace farmers at the Ofosu forest reserve but said plans were ongoing to integrate the farmers for better yields and improved income.
Speaking, the Senior Senior Special Assistant to the Ondo State Governor on Agriculture and AgricBusiness, Mr Akin Olotu said the move was to condemn the insinuations of the alleged sales of the farmlands at Ofosu to a Chinese Company by the State Government.
Olotu described the development at Ofosu as a mix-up which would properly be addressed at an appropriate time and explained that the state government has designed a programme to bring farmers of the same produce together as a cluster like how it is being practised in developed countries.
According to Olotu, this plan was designed “to meet the disabilities requirement, to get things done in the proper way and make things easier for the extension officers and other agricultural benefits get to them through one road,” he said.