Ondo farmers petition governor over alleged sale of forest reserve farmland to private consortium

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From Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure

A legal practitioner, Mr Tope Temokun, has called on Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State to investigate the roles played by one of his aides, Pastor Akin Olotu, over the 30,000 hectares of Ondo State Government Forest Reserve farmland sold to SAO group, a private consortium in the state.

Acting on behalf of over 10,000 farmers of Ofosu Onisere axis of Idanre Forest Reserve, Temokun alleged that Olotu who is the Special Adviser to the Governor on Agriculture and Agribusiness sold the farmland to the private company without the consent of his clients.

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In a petition addressed to Governor Akeredolu, a copy of which was made available to Daily Sun Temokun said the farmland had been occupied by over 10,000 farmers for 20 years under their various camps and farmers’ Association.

The lawyer said that the SSA had been collecting various levies from the farmers through the Ondo State Agribusiness Empowerment Centre(OSAEC) which was chaired and headed by him on the assurance that they would retain their farmlands.

According to him, the farmers’ camps are at Akinkuowo, Olugbolo, Prince, Teniola, Omikelekele, Yellow and Bolade along Omifunfun road in Ofosu Onisere OAS axis of Idanre Forest Reserve in Idanre Local Government Area of Ondo State.

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He said that farmers also had a cooperative society known as Ofosun(Idanre) Owode Cooperative Multi-purpose society registered under section 7(1) of the cooperative societies law cap 35 Laws of Ondo State of Nigeria, 2006.

He said that the 10,000 farmers were asked to make payment of an annual rent of N10,000 between 2019 and 2021 to the state government through the state Board of Internally Generated Revenue which they paid.

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Temokun stated that in 2021 when OSAEC took over the management of the allocation of land in the forest reserve to farmers, Olotu, through the OSAEC offered to lease the land measuring about 2,412 hectares of farmland to the farmers.


He said the farmers accepted the offer with joy while the assessment of the land was carried out by the government visitation team at the expense of the farmers.

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“Our clients were asked to pay and they paid an aggregate sum of N700,000 as cost for surveying the land to ascertain the extent of where they occupied for their lease assessment purposes.

“Rumours started filtering in that the government had sold or leased about 30,000 hectares of the Idanre Forest Reserve to a private consortium.

“In order to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of the rumours, our clients under the various camps approached the office of SSA for clarification.

On the day our clients visited the SSA, Olotu, allayed the fear of our clients and also gave assurances.

“Again, in order to further allay their fears, Olotu demanded that each of the farmers should pay N3,000 each for the issuance of identity cards as the recognised tenants of the government but till now the I.D cards were not issued.

“Olotu again demanded that all the farmers make a payment of N6,000 each for recapturing which was duly paid for. Curiously we observed that the receipts issues showed the payment of N5,000 against the N6,000 asked to pay.

“In a rather shocking twist, our clients were invited by Olotu to a meeting where he revealed to them that Ofosu Onisere(OA5) forest reserve had been sold to SAO group headed by one Ayo Sotinrin,” the lawyer said.

Temokun, therefore, urged Akeredolu to cause a dispassionate investigation to be carried out on the various roles of Olotu under OSAEC, whose false assurances and false representations, made the farmers invest their hard-earned resources to process retaining their farmlands on lease.

“But only for their hopes to be dashed in the most unjust and unfair manners like this and to swiftly take steps that will meet the requirement of justice for the over 10,000 people in Ofosu Onisere axis of the OA5 Idanre Forest Reserve,” he added.