We’re Protecting Your Interest, Ondo Tells Cocoa Farmers

Fidelis David in Akure

Ondo State Government yesterday expressed displeasure over the manner at which 10,000 cocoa farmers at Ofosu, in Idanre Local Government Area of the state have been handling their planned relocation for better output.

Briefing journalists in Akure, the state capital, the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu on Agriculture and Agro-business, Mr. Akin Olotu, said the government as well as his agency would not succumb to blackmail on the part of the farmers.

The farmers who had few weeks ago protested the alleged sale of their farmland to a Chinese company, petitioned Governor Akeredolu through their lawyer, Tope Temokun, to investigate the SSA over alleged levies being collected from them.

Expressing shock over the allegations in the petition, Olotu said all the money paid by the farmers were collected by the state Internal Revenue Service which he said were for the annual rent of the farm.

While emphasising that the action of the

state government as regards the farmland was in the interest of the farmers and the state, the SSA maintained that he is opened to probe over the spurious allegations.

He said: “The petition is pure blackmail and I’m shocked that such will come from the chamber of learned person. I’m saying emphatically that I don’t know anything about this idea of people collecting money from anybody. They said they paid N10,000 in 2019 to 2021 per farmer. Yes, the state government had a policy of not driving away farmers from the forest.

“They have been there for so long, and rather than drive them away, let see how we can gradually reorganised the forest, and that started with the idea of getting them registered. It is part of security measure to know those on the farm. So it is not a hidden that that was carried out by just an individual. The governor had also said herdsmen in the forest will equally be registered.

“So, it is not new, and the money was not paid into my purse. Everyone that paid that time paid N10, 000 for a year rent. In the petition, it was stated that the money was paid to Internal Revenue Service, not me. It was clearly stated that they remain a tenant on the land on annual basis and the government reserve the right to decide on the land at any time in the interest of the state.

Olotu further stated that: “I’m saying it openly that I have never issued any ID card for anybody-dead or alive. And this idea of somebody collecting N3,000 each for the issuance of ID card, they should point out that very person.

“Our own cocoa is 400 kg per hectare. Ghana’s land is not up to ours and they are producing more than us which means they are getting more cocoa from one hectare, about two to three times of what we are getting. For the farmers to have better and quality output, arrangement had been made to get them cocoa seedlings and to relocate to a better area.

“If I have a hand in anybody collecting N3000, I want to be penalised. Before God and man, I have never for once asked any farmer to give me one kobo. Even when they give me voluntarily, I reject it. All the money is being paid to the board of internal revenue.”

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