A lawyer to over 10,000 farmers of Ofosu Onisere Axis of Idanre Forest Reserve (OA5) in Ondo State, Tope Temokun, has called on the state Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), to investigate the role played by his aide, Mr. Akin Olotu, over the 30,000 hectares of the state government forest reserve allegedly sold to a foreign consortium.
Olotu is the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Governor on Agriculture and Agricbusiness.
Temokun made the call in a petition to Akeredolu, a copy which was made available to journalists in Akure yesterday, saying the farmland had been occupied by the over 10,000 farmers mainly in cocoa farming in commercial quantity for 20 years under their various camps and farmers’ association.
The legal practitioner alleged that the SSA had been collecting various levies from the farmers through the Ondo State Agricbusiness Empowerment Centre (OSAEC), which was chaired and headed by him on the assurance that they would retain their farmlands.
According to him, the farmers are camped at Akinkuowo, Olugbolo, Prince, Teniola, Omikelekele, Yellow and Bolade along Omifunfun road in Ofosu Onisere OA5 axis of Idanre Forest Reserve in Idanre Local Government Area of the state.
He said the farmers also had a co-operative society known as Ofosun (Idanre) Owode Cooperative Multi-purpose Society registered under Section 7(1) of the Co-operative Societies Law Cap 35 Laws of Ondo State of Nigeria, 2006.
The lawyer noted that each of 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 internal revenue, which they paid.
According to Temokun, “In 2021, when OSAEC took over the management of allocation of land in the forest reserve to farmers, Olotu, through the Ondo State Agricbusiness Empowerment Centre(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 state government visitation team at the expenses of the farmers.”
The petition read further: “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 to where they occupied for their lease assessment purposes.
“Rumours started filtering in that the state 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 them 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 ID cards have not been issued.
“Olotu also demanded that all the farmers should make 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.”
Temokun, therefore, urged Akeredolu to cause a dispassionate investigation to be carried out on the various roles of Akin Olotu under OSAEC, “whose false assurances and false representations made the farmers to 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, 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.”