Land grabbers on the prowl

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By Lukman Olabiyi

Agbowa Graduate Farmers Scheme (GFS)/National Directorate of Employment (NDE) Farm Estate, Ikorodu, Lagos, is among many farm estates established in the 80s by the Federal Government in collaboration with the state government. It was to address unemployment, scarcity of foods and raw materials for local industries.

Despite the state having limited landmass, lacking the large tracts of land available to other states for cultivation of crops and other produce, there were then many farm estates/settlements in Ikeja, Badagry, Ikorodu, Lagos (Eko) and Epe, which formed the acronym, IBILE. The farm settlements were viable and serving the purpose they were established.Sanwo Olu 2

Today, many of these farm settlements have become extinct. This was made possible as a result of inconsistent government’s policies on agriculture and job creations, encroachment and unchecked activities of land grabbers, also known as “Omo Onile/Ajagungbale”.

At the moment, Agbowa GFS/NDE Farm Estate, which is still in existence, has become a shadow of itself. The once busy settlement is fast becoming a residential area due to construction activities going on there.

Recent visit to this farm confirmed this development. Instead of farmers being busy on their farms, construction workers were busy converting farmlands to construction sites allegedly with Omo-Onile positioning themselves in strategic locations.

A commercial motorcyclist, Musa, took the reporter on the tour of the estate. He lamented the activities of the land gabbers who he said turned the estate to become a no-go-area for farmers and other stakeholders. He said many plantations had been destroyed by the land grabbers.

President, Agbowa GFS/NDE, Tajudeen Malik, called on Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to come to their rescue to prevent government’s initiative on agriculture from going into extinction.

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He told Daily Sun: “Ominous signals now loom in the horizon as Okada riders, wearing masks and holding guns, have continued to invade the area, threatening to take over the whole place and dislodge the legitimate owners and occupants.

“The ugly development in this regard is that this invading army of occupation or ‘Ajagungbale’, as they are popularly known in the local parlance, have started to erect structures in violation of the statutory prerogative of the law, which duly conferred the ownership on the farmers.

“The farmers are dumb-founded that such a thing could be happening to them, yet the criminals are to be dislodged and apprehended. This is unfortunate in view of the strategic role and crucial efforts of members and residents of the Agbowa-Ikosi farming settlement towards fulfilling the vision of successive governments of Lagos State for agricultural self–sufficiency.

“Beyond the nitty-gritty act of growing and planting, we are now set to embark on a higher phase of agro-allied endeavour. To this end, our area has been connected to the national grid, to ensure adequate power supply. Our roads are being upgraded to meet with the higher challenges.

“Already, we have commenced with large scale production of palm oil. I can assure you that much more are bound to follow in the shortest possible time. Just come here within the next few weeks and you will be surprised at what you will see.

“This is why we are all shocked that when we at our end here are busy working hard in tandem with government’s vision to banish poverty, hunger and diversify from the mono-cultural dependency on petroleum, with the attainment of agricultural self-sufficiency, this band of hoodlums will emerge overnight from nowhere with a phoney claim to a land which in anyway does not belong to them.

“It is against this background that we call on the constituted authorities to act with due dispatch in disbanding this band of brigand and irresponsible and shameless criminals and opportunists without delay.

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“The genesis of the land we occupy today, could be traced back to 1984, when the regime of Governor Gbolahan Mudashiru launched the scheme, in an ambitious and visionary drive to launch Lagos State on the path of agricultural self-sufficiency.

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“The Olagunsoye Oyinlola administration, which succeeded the Mudashiru and indeed the incoming administrations since that time, had continued to keep faith with the programme by giving us good support.

“In fact in 2014, the Raji Fashola administration went further by granting us the certificate of occupancy. So, the land is fully registered and documented. All the necessary documents are available at our disposal. This is to signify without any shred of equivocation that the land fully belongs to us.

“By virtue of the documents at our disposal duly issued by the constituted governmental authority, we affirm without any doubt that the land fully belongs to us and is of course fully owned by us.

“There are no two ways to it. It’s either you are the owner of the land, or you are not the owner.

“If they say they own it, which C of O do they have to tender to show for it? None of course! But on our own part, all the necessary documents are in our possession, including the C of O, which we are ready to produce, anywhere, anytime and when necessary.

“It is highly unfortunate that this ugly development would be surfacing particularly at this point in time, when virtually every part of the country is ravaged by hunger and food scarcity, while the government, particularly the Sanwo-Olu administration is bringing all efforts to bear in reversing the ugly trend.

“Imagine for instance, the havoc which the unmitigated wave of banditry has unleashed on the agricultural sector, just for the fact that farmers are scared to go to the farm, for fear that they might fall victims of kidnappers. Can you imagine how today, the entire nation, particularly the poor, are the very ones bearing the brunt?”

All efforts to get reaction of the state Ministry of Agriculture proved abortive. Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the ministry, Mrs Nike Sodipo, was called on yesterday’s morning, said the reporter should call back in an hour’s time. But when the reporter called her again, in afternoon, she did not pick her call.

The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr Benjamin Hundeyin, was also contacted, but his telephone line was not reachable at 2:33 pm yesterday.

25 suspected robbers, kidnappers nabbed in Lagos Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 2 Lagos, covering Lagos and Ogun states, Mr Adeyinka Bode Adeleke, has said that 25 suspected armed robbers, kidnappers and fraudsters were arrested in different locations in Lagos State.

He said: “Officers in the zone are doing brilliantly. They have done well in fighting crime both in Ogun and Lagos states. Some kidnappers were recently arrested on the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway, Berger, Yaba in Lagos.”

“Police recovered some items from them. Operatives in the zone arrested some fraudsters who duped innocent people in Lagos.

“We have checkmated criminals from some neighbouring states who robbed people and escaped from the scenes of robbery. We have redeployed some officers to the flashpoints in the zone.

“I have directed the two commissioners of police in my zone to make sure their states are safe. They should be ready to fight hoodlums.

The suspects will soon be charged to court after concluding investigation.”

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