Farmers seek Gov’s intervention over seizure of plantations by land-grabbers

By Chinyere Anyanwu, neveralonewitu@gmail.com

Farmers in Ijebu-Igbo Oke-agbo area J1 Etemi Gerald Village in Ogun State have urged Governor Dapo Abiodun to come to their rescue as their homes and sources of livelihood are being threatened.

They expressed displeasure over the worsening insecurity in the state, stressing that they have been consistently attacked by hired thugs.

One of the injured farmers from a recent attack, Talabi Daniel, who suffered a machete wound to the head, fingered one Chief Abiodun Akinbowale, one of the village heads, as the perpetrator, alleging that he led thugs to attack his home for refusal to partake in oath-taking. Akinbowale, however, denied the allegation.

Recounting the ordeal, Daniel said, “the day they came to attack me at home, it was about 10pm. I was sitting in front of my compound. They lied that they were policemen and that I was under arrest. I was surprised because I hadn’t committed any offence. So, I asked for their identification number and arrest warrant.

“They started beating me, and as soon as I attempted to use my phone to record them. They hit my forehead with some weapons. They took away my phone. It was my screaming that alerted other villagers, who then came to my rescue. There were about nine of them. My only offence was refusal to be forced to take an oath. I have lost about six acres of cocoa plantation valued at N12 million.”

Another farmer, 65-year-old Kehinde Akinolu, said his house was allegedly burnt by the hoodlums, adding that his family was chased out of a church last Sunday where they had sought refuge after losing their property in the arson.

He said: “They seized our motorcycles that we used to ride to the farm. This Baale refused to release them. He brought the caterpillar to the village. The people he sent to torment us were the ones who cut down our cocoa plantation – about three acres of plantation. When we heard what was happening, we rushed down to the farm. Before we returned to the village, another group of the same thugs had razed down our houses. There was nowhere to sleep.

“We decided then to move to a nearby church for the time being. These same people stormed the church, threatening us to move out of it. They said our offence was because we refused to obey the Baale. How can he force us to take an oath when we have not done anything?

“I have been living and farming in that village for over 20 years, even before he became the Baale in 2017. We started the farm as far back as 2004. Where do we go at our age? What I had on that farm was not less than N6 million in farm produce. They have sold all my plantations.”

Oyewole Jamiu, another affected cocoa farmer narrated how he was attacked in his house by the same hoodlums who were suspected to have been led by the local chief. 

“I was inside sleeping around 1pm, when I was attacked by some thugs who came with Chief Abiodun Akinbowale, who happens to be the Baale of the village. I was attacked with cutlass on different parts of my body and dragged from my room down to the Baale’s house. 

“I was brutalised in the process. When they noticed I wasn’t moving anymore, they left me, thinking I was already dead.”

Dismissing the accusations by the distraught farmers, Akinbowale stated that he had no knowledge of the incident and would not comment on a matter he knew nothing about.

He also said the accusation of taking over the plantation was a matter between the farmers and the state government, which had instructed them to vacate the farm.

He said: “Before anything, you will have to go to the Ministry of Forestry Reserve in Abeokuta. It is the governor who puts the commissioner in charge. The governor announced it on the radio. I don’t know about their farm. I don’t know what they did to the Ministry of Forestry. They should go and settle whatever is between them. I’m not involved. I am the Baale of Gerald. I was at home, not on the farm. They fought me and even took me to court.”

On the allegation of forcing residents to take an oath, the Baale said: “I am not involved. Go and ask the king and the commissioner. The governor is already aware of this matter. I don’t know what is between them. I was only trying to settle the matter before they decided to fight me. I cannot talk about the oath-taking because I don’t know what is between them and the king. It is the government that demolished their houses, not me.”

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