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July 20, 2024

Ondo Farmers Protest State Government’s Alleged Sale of Farmland to Private Company

A number of farmers in Ondo State, on Tuesday, trooped out to protest the state government’s alleged sale of their farmland to a private company.

While at a briefing with journalists in Akure, the state capital, the farmers accused the private company ACME PALMS LIMITED of displacing them from their farmland of over 2000 hectares rented out by the state government.

The farmers, numbering about 10,000, claimed they had been farming in the Oluwa forest reserve in various settlements grouped into camps of Ijoba, Sete II, Ipade, Ayeleso, Isero, Temidire, Adeleye Itamerin in Odigbo Local Government before the forceful invasion of the private firm.

According to the chairman of the Ijoba camp, Abayomi Isinleye, who spoke on behalf of farmers, the land was rented to the farmers by the state government over 30 years ago for farming.

Mr Isinleye further affirmed that farmers had also been paying their dues to the government, but they were surprised when the company officials invaded their farmland and said it had been sold.

He accused the company of destroying their crops worth millions of Naira, noting that the combined efforts of the security agencies rebuked farmers’ attempts to stop the destruction.

In his words: “Over 2000.482 hectares of the Ondo State government forest reserve land, the private company, ACME PALMS LIMITED, purportedly bought from the Ondo State government, has entered into the forest reserve under the full protection of local officers of the army, police and Amotekun Corps.

“They are commencing the process of grading and forceful taking over of the forest reserve where about ten thousand farmers, who are tenants of the state government, have cultivated over two million cocoa trees and plantations prior to this alleged sale.”

Odungbemi Omolewa, Secretary of the Ijoba camp, also accused the private company of bringing in tractors and trucks to destroy their crops.

“The company has brought their tractors destroying other food crops in the farmland. This is going to cause a food crisis in the state because this is mostly where other farmers get their food crops to sell in the state.

“While we know that the government can grant permission or licence to people to log or farm in the forest reserve, we did not believe the government forest reserve land could be sold outright to private investors.

“Our findings have unearthed shady deals and potential conflicts of interest in the entire process of this sale of government forest land to these private investors,” Mr Omolewa said.

Meanwhile, the farmers have dragged the state government to the State High Court over the alleged sales of the farmland to a private firm.

In a writ of summon prepared by their counsel, Barrister Tope Temokun, the aggrieved farmers joined the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ministry of Agriculture, Commissioner for Agriculture; Akin Olotu, former chairman, Ondo State Agribusiness Empowerment Centre, and ACME PALMS LIMITED as defendants.

They asked the court to restrain the private company from further exercising ownership or possessory rights over the hectares of land and forcefully evicting them or their crops on the farmland.

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