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Ondo cocoa farmers lose farmlands, allege threat to lives

Scores of cocoa farmers in Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State have alleged attacks on their lives by armed guards working under the instruction…

Scores of cocoa farmers in Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State have alleged attacks on their lives by armed guards working under the instruction of a private firm, SAO Agro-Allied Services Limited in the area.

Daily Trust had reported that the farmers were dislodged from their farmland by the firm in May in collaboration with the state government.

The farmers who also deal in other plants such as yam, cassava, plantain, bitter cola and maize were settlers at Temidire, Adeleye, Itamerin, Ikawo, Ijoba, Ayeleso, Isero and other sub-camps within the Oluwa Forest Reserve in Odigbo.

Speaking on Wednesday, the aggrieved farmers said about five armed security men in local vigilante group uniform stormed the settlements in motorbikes and shot at them on the farm.

Mr Rotimi Isinleye, the chairman of the farmers, told reporters in Akure that the shooting occurred after the private firm resumed on the farm with graders destroying their plantation despite a court order stopping their activities on the farmland.

Isinleye recalled that there had been a court injunction from the Ore Division of the State High Court stopping SAO Agro-Allied Services Limited and the Ondo State government from further destroying and evicting the farmers from the land.

“It was surprising when they brought in their graders and armed security men from the vigilante group to continue their destruction of our plantations without any substituting court order to ours. They were shooting directly at us and destroying our camps and farms in flagrant violation of the court order.

“They came in vigilante uniform telling us that they were working under the instruction of SAO Agro-Allied Services Limited but we were able to repel them. We seized two guns from them and their motorbike too.

“We have taken the seized guns to the police area commander and we are crying out loud to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to save us from this. We have been farming here for a long time and there is nowhere for us to go now,” he said.

Olugbemi Omolewa, the Secretary of the farmers, who also spoke, decried the continued destruction of their farmlands by the private firm.

Omolewa alleged that SAO Agro-Allied Services Limited has not relented in its desperation to dislodge the aggrieved farmers from the farmlands at all costs.

Meanwhile, the farmers have written a petition to the Commissioner of Police in the state and Governor Rotimi Akeredolu over the attacks on them by the armed security guard on the farm.

The farmers filed the petition through their solicitor, Tope Temokun, asking the police and the governor to save them from the hands of the private firm.

The spokesperson to the state Police Command, Funmilayo Odunlami-Omisanya, confirmed the submission of the farmers, adding that the seized guns and bullets were taken to the Police Area Command, Ore, Odigbo Local Government Area of the state.

Mrs Odunlami-Omisanya noted that one of the security guard nabbed by the farmers was also taken to the area command, stressing that the SAO Agro-Allied Services Limited claimed that he was its staff in the security department.

“The farmers brought the seized barrel guns and bullets to the Police Area command including one of the suspects they caught, during the shooting at the farm,” she said.

She, however, said investigation is ongoing on the issue.

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