The Ondo State Government has denied the accusations made by the farmers from Ilua Community in Ondo West Local Government Area.
The government stated that they have not sold any cocoa plantations or farmlands to foreign companies.
During a protest held by the farmers on Saturday, they expressed their concerns by carrying placards with various messages such as ‘This is another slavery,’ ‘We say no to the destruction of our cocoa farms,’ ‘No farmers, no nation,’ ‘We don’t want to steal, farming is our job,’ ‘Aketi should not sell our lands to Chinese,’ and ‘They should leave us here to farm, we have nowhere to go.’
According to the allegations, the state government has reportedly served a notice to all farmers in the 20 villages in the area, ordering them to leave their farms. The protesters further claim that government officials have already made threats of forced eviction if the farmers do not relocate by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Oba Olalani Ibidapo, the esteemed leader of the Ilua Community, mentioned that there have been reports of individuals entering their villages and setting up signposts claiming that the state government had sold their farmlands and villages to Chinese and Indian companies.
His words, “They said the government has issued a notice that we should quit our farms and villages because the companies wanted to move in and take over our farms and villages.
“We have been here for over 100 years and we are here farming, no other things. I have more than 19 villages under me here, Ilua, Laoso, Adejori, Logunofe, Keseomi, Obadore, Obakele, Ilua 2, Kangidi, Oloruntedo, Abayemisi and Magbaralewon just to mention a few.
The traditional ruler of the Ilua Community, Oba Olalani Ibidapo, said some people had gone to their villages and started erecting signposts that the state government had sold their farmlands and villages to Chinese and Indian companies.
“We heard suddenly that we should move out unexpectedly. Where are we going to go? Look at our people, no work. We have graduates among us here, but since there’s no job, they ventured into farming. We are protesting against this policy and we also appeal to our Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu to please consider our situation here.”
Also in his comment, the Chairman of Youths of Laje community, Laoso District, Ondo West, Akinbami Philip appealed to the government to rescind the policy and order.
“We have graduates who have farms here, we want the government to leave us so that we can continue working on our farms. This is where we feed our families. The government asked us to pay money and we are faithful to it. Every year, the government gave us payment advice, sometimes N3 million and we did pay.
However, Mr. Akin Olotu, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Agriculture and Agric-business, clarified that the government has no intention of displacing villagers, especially those residing in free areas within the state.
He emphasized that a sensible government would never displace anyone in any free area.
Olotu in a statement said, “We want to look into the matter, I will invite their representatives, we will sit down together and look at a win-win situation and see how we can accommodate their interests in what we are doing.
“Governance is about the people. So when we see what is on the ground, we will know what to do. Our little investigation shows that where they are is even out of where those people are coming to work.
“So maybe it’s anticipatory action, that may be. We will send government surveyors there to confirm the precise location. If anybody is affected, we will look at whether it’s a government reserve because nobody came to us in the office and I think that should be the first thing to do, to inform us about what is going on there.”