Farmers Drag Ondo Govt To Court For Selling Farmlands To Foreign Firm

Some Cocoa farmers in the Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State have dragged the state government to court for selling their farmlands to a foreign firm.

The farmers in their suit before the state’s  high court, sitting in Akure, claimed that their farmlands located in the Oluwa Forest Reserves and measuring 2000.482 hectares were sold to a firm, identified as ACME Palms Limited.

They alleged that the action of the government had rendered thousands of farm owners in the area jobless.

In the suit filed by their counsel, Mr Tope Temokun, the farmers urged the court to declare the sale of the farmlands by the government as illegal, null and void.

Listed as defendants in the suit are the Ondo State Government, the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, the state Ministry of Agriculture, the state Commissioner for Agriculture, the former Chairman, Ondo State Agricbusiness and Empowerment Centre, Mr Akin Olotu, and ACME Palm Limited.

The claimants are Irewole Muse, Kenneth Osaai, Salami Rafiu, Felix Ayeleso, Adegboyega Sunday, Jimoh Yekini and Ojuade Funminiyi,

They said they filed the suit on behalf of themselves and other affected farmers.

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Addressing newsmen on Tuesday, the chairman of the Oluwa Forest Reserve Farmers, Abayomi Rotimi lsinleye, said that the farmer have been farming on the land for over 30 years.

He said: “The various settlements grouped into camps include, ljoba, Sete11, lpade, Ayeleso, lsero, Temidire, Adeleye ltamerin and their sub- camps, within Oluwa forest reserve ( 0A3A) Odigbo council area of Ondo state.

“They entered into the forest reserve to commence the process of grading and forceful taking over the forest reserve where about 10,000 farmers who are Ondo state government tenants, have cultivated over two million cocoa trees before the alleged sale of the land.

” While we know that the government can grant permission or license to people to log or farm in the forest reserve we did not know and believe government forest reserve land could be sold outrightly to private investors.

”Our findings have unearthed shady deals, potential conflicts of interest and compromise of public interest, the interest of the people of Ondo state and integrity of the entire process of this sale of government forest land to these private investors.

Also speaking with newsmen, their lawyer,  Temokun, alleged that some government officials are involved in the sales and purchase of the 2000.482 hectares of the Ondo state government forest reserve land and issuance of the certificate of occupancy.

He added that public officer holders” veiled under registered companies are the ones forming business alliances and buying up government forest reserve land under their control for their private business while using the instrumentality of their various public offices to protect this private interest arrangement.