Protest Rocks Owo Over Destruction of Cocoa Plantation by Government

Farmers and indigenes from some communities in Owo local government area of Ondo State have protested destruction of their means of likelihood.

The aggrieved protesters said the state government  failed to pay compensation to them for the land used for the siting of the state-owned Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, RUGIPO.

They  therefore called on Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, and the State Commissioner for Infrastructure, Land and Housing, Engr Raimi Aminu, to urgently intervene before it will lead to crisis.

Some of the communities affected by the ongoing destruction of cocoa farms and other farmland include; Ulura, Amurin, Oronaiye, Bobakanle, Opopogboro, Ago Adafin, Umoodun and others in Owo.

In an interview with newsmen, two of the community leaders, Chief Yahaya Oranaye of Owo Kingdom and Adewale Owolabi Olura, said the State Government acquired about 1,950 Hectares of land from the people in 1978 for the establishment of the Polytechnic, upon the mutual understanding that they would not only be paid adequate compensation but would also be assisted by the Government with alternative Town Planning arrangements for future community expansions, but till today no compensation and part of the land were not returned to the original owners.

The Community leaders said, “Following the letter, the Hon. Commissioner had a meeting with the community on 1/11/2022, promising to address thier complaints. They (Govt’s officials) equally promised to call another meeting within two weeks from that date. They have failed to call the meeting. Now bulldozers are on the site destroying the peoples’ houses, farms and means of livelihood. The government should kill all of us instead.

“We are in a difficult position on this matter. I can bet anything that the Government never paid compensation to us (land owners). The government only did enumeration, which even confirmed that we are even the owners of the land used for the polytechnic’s site.

“If we don’t handle this matter very well and urgently, it may lead to serious avoidable crises. Our lands were taken, we have no other place to go, we are not paid compensation, the 25% release of acquired land extant policy of the Government has not been applied in our case, and now the same government is destroying our means of livelihood for the purpose of cattle business,” the community’s spokespersons lamented.

The communities had earlier in September, 2022 written a protest to the Governor through the Commissioner, when they pleaded with Mr Akeredolu to urgently order the release of part of the massive land acquired for Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo in lieu of compensation in order to enhance the expansion of the affected communities that were the original owners.

The letter signed by their Lawyer, Barrister Femi Emmanuel Emodamori, the people said, “Although the successive Governments in the State have failed to fulfill the promises made to Our Clients in terms of payment of compensation and community expansion plans, they have been fully cooperating with the State Government and peacefully channeling their grievances in this regard.

“However, based on the general rapid population growth over the past 44 years when the land was acquired from Our Clients, their growth, expansion and/or development is now completely hindered by non-availability of land.

“The greater portion of the massive land acquired from Our Clients is completely unused and may never be needed for the purpose of its acquisition, based on statistical comparison of lands prescribed for the establishment of Universities and Polytechnics by the relevant regulatory agencies and lands acquired in other parts of the State for the establishment of other public higher institutions like Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA), Ondo State College of Medicine, Adeyemi University of Education and Olusegun Agagu University of Science and Technology (OAUSTECH), and/or Ondo State Government agencies, which can be verified from the relevant Ministries land acquired for Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo is more than three times the size of the land acquired for Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko; it is 18 times the size of the land of OAUSTECH, Okitipupa, and 19 times the size of the land of UNIMED, Ondo.

In fact, Rufus Giwa Polytechnic’s land is more than twice the size of the land of all the other above public higher institutions combined.

“The 1,955 Hectares acquired from Our Clients for the establishment of the Polytechnic would therefore appear to be completely excessive in the first place.

“EXTANT ONDO STATE GOVERNMENT’S POLICY ON THE RELEASE OF ACQUIRED LANDS: Your Excellency, from our brief, the Ondo State Government had as far back as 2007, developed a comprehensive policy on the release of parts of the lands acquired from communities and families back to them for expansion and developments, especially where compensations were not paid.

“From the facts made available to us, the State Government has implemented this policy by releasing 25% of some acquired lands to their original owners, while in some cases, the Government even released 100% of such acquired lands, to enhance community growth and development.

“It is on this premise that Our Clients are passionately appealing to Your Excellency, as the custodian of all lands in the State by virtue of S.1 of the Land Use Act, for at least 25% of the acquired land to be released to them in line with the extant policy of the State Government,” the lawyer said.