Ondo farmers protest alleged farmlands takeover by Chinese firm

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Farmers from different communities in the Ondo West Local Government Area of Ondo State, on Monday, took to the streets in protest against the alleged decision of the state government to take over their farmlands for leasing to a Chinese company.

The farmers, who trooped out in their large numbers from their different farm settlements, said they had sighted many bulldozers in the areas to clear away their cocoa farms, pleading with the government to reverse the decision.

The farmers said the agrarian communities, which include Laosho, Ulugba, Adejori, Kabiyesi, Lafa, Oloruntedo, Obadore Yinka, Keseomi, Lomofe, Gbekelu, Langbodo,  Abuja, Lopaun, Sahara, Aba Cocoa, Topeu, Bolorunduro, Iyolope and Yemisi, were known for the production of cocoa, palm oil, cashew and other cash crops.

The protesters were armed placards with different inscriptions, such as: ‘We are Dying,’ ‘Help our Children’, ‘Chinese wants to kill us’, ‘Aiyedatiwa, Jeki Aye Datiwa, Save our Souls’, among others.

Chanting solidarity songs, the farmers appealed to the state government to allow them to be paying a special due if desired to allow them to retain the farmlands.

Speaking during the protest, a leader in one of the protesting communities, Mr Akibamijo Olarewaju, said the villagers heard that the last administration had sold all the farmlands in the area to a foreign company.

“We heard that the Akeredolu-led government had sold all the land we use to plant cocoa and just a few weeks ago, we saw about eight bulldozers in various places on our cocoa farms and they told us that every farmer should vacate because they would clear the farmlands.

“That is why we are crying to the government of Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa to salvage our means of livelihood from being terminated. He should not allow us to be taken away from our farmlands; we have been living in this area, making our living, the government should have mercy on us.”

Another community leader, Alhaji Oluwole Bashiru, explained that the protest was to appeal to the state governor to come to the aid of the farmers in the concerned communities.

“We appeal to Mr Governor to see us as his own and rescue our community, Laoso. Our appeal is that he should leave us here to farm. All these farm settlements have been existing for over 200 years. Therefore, where are they going to send us to? See all these children; see all these old women and men.  If it’s money, we will pay.”

In his remarks, the Baale of Adejori Community, Chief Olorunyomi Adegunloye, pleaded for mercy, asking the state government to leave the settlers on their farmlands.

The Baale said the farm settlements had been in existence since 1918, pleading that ejecting the settlers, who were fully engaged in farming activities,  from the land would endanger society and the state.

“We have been here for many years and I cannot go anywhere with my children. I’m old. We are just asking the government to have mercy and leave us alone here.”

When contacted, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr Ebenezer Adeniyan, said the government would look into the matter.

He said, “The state government will not deliberately take the people’s means of livelihood away from them even while we strive to enhance the economy of the state by encouraging investments.

“The government has taken note of the agitations of the communities and will look into finding an acceptable solution to the issue.”

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