By Aderemi Ojekunle
A FRAGILE-LOOKING Pa Lamidi Amosun sits in front of an uncompleted semi-detached apartment, staring at nothing in particular. Sitting on the veranda of his house for hours has become a daily routine since the time Oyo State government took over the land where he and other residents of Amosun community farm.
Before the government came to bulldoze the farmland, the old man, who is the head of the Amosun family in Akinyele local government in Oyo State, was a successful farmer. Like other farmers in the agrarian community, Pa Amosun could boast of a large plantation of cocoa, kola nut, palm, cassava and other crops.
But all these vanished as soon as the state government acquired the land to build the controversial Ibadan Central Abattoir market, now occupied by butchers and livestock traders from different places.
The Executive Secretary, Oyo State Bureau of Investment Promotions and Public-Private Partnership, Yinka Fatoki, had said the decision to move all abattoirs in Ibadan to one central location was hinged on the sanitary and health welfare of the people of Oyo State.
He added that the central abattoir was created on account of unsanitary circumstances of the major slaughter slabs at Bodija, Aleshinloye and Gege areas among others.
But Fatoki failed to comment on how the host community would be adequately compensated for releasing their ancestral land for public use.
On Monday, June 4, 2018, the butchers were moved to the central abattoir in Amosun Village, Akinyele Local government area, on the order of the state government.
The relocation order generated controversy that resulted in a clash between butchers and security operatives. At least five people were killed.
Amosun is one of the wards under Akinyele Local Government, Oyo State. The local government is one of the eleven local authorities that make up the Ibadan metropolis with a population of about 3 million people, according to the 2011 population estimate of the National Population Commission.
Previously, in 1999, the state government had taken another part of the land from Amosun village to build the present Kara market, now occupied by cattle sellers.
Ibadan Central Abattoir, a multi-billion naira project built on a-10 hectare of land in Amosun village, was conceived and initiated by the former governor, Adebayo Alao-Akala in 2009 as a build-operate-transfer (BOT) project for 30 years. The development was continued by his successor, Governor Abiola Ajimobi, with a minor tweak in the build-operate-transfer structure.
During the official opening, Governor Abiola Ajimobi said that the abattoir offers both modern and traditional slaughtering methods, rapid turn-around time and excellent hygienic conditions in comparison to the informal structure that leaves room for unhygienic slaughtering and meat distribution in the state.
But since the Oyo State government’s bulldozer ravaged the farmlands, destroying residents’ cash crops to make way for the modern abattoir, the people of Amosun have lost their means of earning an income, and many have been living from hand to mouth since.
Investigations revealed that the Oyo State government acquired Amosun’s land in return for a paltry compensation package, an ancestral farmland that traverses hectares of space has now been reduced to five plots of farming area.
As part of the compensation for acquiring the land, Oyo State government promised to provide amenities such as pipe-borne water system, electricity and tarred roads for the people of the community, but that promise has not been fulfilled several years after. And since there is no longer enough farmland to cultivate, many locals have been forced to relocate to Ibadan, Oyo town and Lagos, in search of greener pastures.
A once rich farmer now lives in penury, the story of Pa Lamidi Amosun’s family
“A life without our usual farming activities is incomplete,” says Amosun, who now lives in an uncompleted building with his wife, children and grandchildren.
While speaking with Business Insider, Amosun covers his nose as the foul smell of cow dung filled the air.
“That’s the least of our problem here. The air we breathe in every day is filled with the smell coming from the decomposing carcass of cows and dung emptied into the bush by the abattoir people,” he says with a sorrowful smile.
Before the demolition of the farmland for Ibadan Central abattoir, he says his own farmland occupied four hectares of land with Kolanut, Cocoa and cassava flourishing on it.
“We were some of the richest farmers in the community; our fathers are well-to-do and showed us this farming as a means of livelihood. Today all the fame, land and farm produce are gone,” he says.
He cast a glance on children playing nearby. “Look at my grandchildren there, they are all playing when they are supposed to be in school.
During my father’s time, parents took their children along to the farm if they could not go to school. We learned to be hunters or farmers, but look at them, we have nothing to hand over to them.”
One of his children, Ojo Amosun, who is in his 40s, corroborates his father’s story.
Every morning, Ojo says he takes his wife and first son to neighbouring towns and villages to assist people with farming and get paid after the day or a week to take care of the house and his old man. “Many times, we return home with nothing,” he adds.
Another resident, Olayiwola Adio’s family has since left Amosun for another community in Ibadan. He says he couldn’t cope with the pathetic situation of the community. “How can I live in a community with no lives?”
“Many of our families have left for nearby areas where life is meaningful. I am now a yam seller in Ibadan, I cannot cope with the community any longer.”
How our land was taken – residents
A young man who declined to reveal his identity because of his closeness to the local government authority says the establishment of abattoir has offered no benefit for the people since its commissioning.
“No single shop or assistance was allocated to our people,” he said.
The people of Amosun thought things would be better as the government promised, but their hope was dashed as soon as the abattoir project kicked off.
After several visits, it was observed that none of the indigenes of Amosun works at the facility and no shop was allocated to any of them, despite their interests to establish businesses.
No health centre, pipe-borne water, electricity in Amosun
Amosun is close to Ibadan, the capital city of Oyo State, but the community is bereft of basic amenity. Kazeem Alao, an Okada rider agonises over the poor condition of living in the village, a situation worsened by the presence of the abattoir. He describes it as a dying community.
“If you look at our community you will see it is dying. We don’t have electricity, no water to drink, no motorable road or good walkway.
“We practically do not have the presence of any tier of government around us. The one that is closer to us (Akinyele LG) hardly attracts any development to our community,” he laments.
Alao says the only time the community gets any attention is when state officials visit, with security operatives, to grab another portion of land.
This reporter visited the community three times in September 2018 and found that cow dung and bones litter the bush paths, as there were no passable roads. At night, the entire village is pitch dark.
“People from the abattoir dump bones and cow dung in the bush and when it rains, the floods wash it down to our doorsteps. And nobody cares. Our community is left with nothing and our people rely on other communities for almost everything,” Ojo Amosun, who was once a farmer, now jobless, says.
“Our water is bad. The last time we had pipe-borne water in the community was in 1999 and they destroyed it when they came to take over some piece of land,” he says pointing in the direction of a broken borehole.
Ojo says most of the youth in the community have left for greener pastures in other cities.
“They don’t bother to come home regularly and when they do, they stay with friends and relatives in other areas like Ojoo or Moniya,” he says.
No jobs for Amosun residents at the abattoir
From security guards to cleaners and construction works, indigenes of Amosun and the adjoining villages of Olooya and Odeke are not considered for jobs at the abattoir, the locals say.
Some of the residents tell Business Insider that the management has placed an embargo on the employment of anyone from the community at the abattoir, an allegation which the government does not expressly deny.
The people say they are not allowed to work at the abattoir and are also denied the allocation of shops even though some locals showed interest to rent a shop.
I visited abattoir in September and was received by security guards, many of who could only speak Hausa.
The only person who could speak Yoruba among them confirmed that he was not from the village.
“I cannot say much about the employment, what I know is that those people at the gate are Hausa people and most of us here came from Bodija, and other markets,” one of the butchers says, then declining to speak further.
“Go and check, go and ask them why they don’t recruit people from our side, and the two communities surrounding Amosun (Odeke and Olooya) to work in that abattoir,” Shola Idejo, one of the jobless youths and a father of two, tells Business Insider.
“We find it hard to sustain ourselves and our children are dying of hunger since they have shortchanged our fathers,” Shola adds.
He explains that some of the youths were employed to work during the completion of the project in 2013 but when they frowned at increasing land encroachment, they were dismissed.
Idowu Oladejo, a widow and mother of two, says her family’s suffering started when the government renege on its promises to employ people from the host community and provide basic amenities in the community. Oladejo says she lost her husband to a road accident.
Modasiru Adio, the Mogaji of Amosun (a local chief), says he has been preventing possible conflict between his people and abattoir workers. He is, however, unhappy that, despite having graduates and agricultural experts as children and among the family, the government looked elsewhere to employ officials working in the abattoir.
Mogaji says the people of Amosun had called on the government attention to their plight but their requests always fall on deaf ears.
“No single indigene is working there at the moment. No local content at all. They refused to employ anybody from the community.
“We wrote the government in 2013 over the trespass of our land and shabby treatment of the abattoir managers. They just ignored us completely and acted as if we were nobody,” Mogaji says, showing a copy of the letter.
“We want a motorable road, pipe-borne water, electricity and employment, this will give my people a sense of belonging that an abattoir is located in our community,” Mogaji adds.
The people said they want to be treated like an indigene, if they can no longer own their land, the government should stop acquiring more land for the abattoir and provide infrastructural facilities for the community.
Ibadan Central Abattoir management reacts to allegations
Abiodun Kehinde Ahmadu, developer and chairman of Ibadan Central abattoir debunked some of the allegations made by the people of Amosun. He, however, said the abattoir management cannot provide everything for the people of the community because the management is still struggling with operations.
The market is still developing. Most shops have not yet been allotted. On the job, he said no resident of Amosun will apply for a job and get turned down, he added though that the job is not automatic.
“We cannot be running after them. We don’t even know the people we employ, they just come and we employ them.”
Ahmadu promised that when the abattoir stabilises and they have electricity, the centre would extend the facility to the community.
“Presently, we are running things on our own, electricity, water, building our own dam and until we are fully stable, we cannot provide some of the things they are asking for,” he declared.
Oyo State government reacts
Yinka Fatoki, the Executive Secretary of the Bureau of Investment Promotion and Public-Private Partnerships, Governor’s Office; Oyo State described the allegations raised by the community as “frivolous” and “unfounded”.
Fatoki said the primary responsibility of providing basic amenities and infrastructure fall on the shoulders of the local government and not the state government.
The abattoir is a public-private—partnership arrangement owned by a consortium of the state government and the 11 local government areas in Ibadan, he said.
On the allegation that the locals were denied job opportunity, the director said the government engages professionals, such as veterinary, technicians and doctors. “If you are talking of people working at the abattoir, those are the people you will find there.
“What I can say is, there are handlers and cleaners that are being engaged and I know as a matter of policy, the state government has insisted that where such people are available locally, people who can do the work will be engaged locally.”
He said proper management is being put in place to run the abattoir fully. He also dismissed allegations of land encroachment and uncompensated promises by the state government and asked whoever is aggrieved to approach the ministry of land.
Akinleye local council chairman could not be bothered
When approached on what the state government official said about the negligence of the local authority in providing basic amenities in Amosun, Chairman of Akinleye local government area, Abiola Ambali, said it is not the business of anybody to question his government.
“Go and publish whatever you want to publish, what is your own concern if the community doesn’t have pipe borne water. Go and publish it,” Mr Ambali yelled at this reporter on phone.
He declined to speak further.
Yet the people of Amosun believe that it is only the government that can improve the condition of their living in the community.
“A little help from the government would have changed the story of our people,” Ojo said.
He pleaded with the state and local government to help them out. “They should come to our aid, we are hardworking and ready to work.
“Providing shops or any menial job for us at the abattoir will help us and stop our people from going to the neighbouring villages to find our daily bread.”
This investigation is supported by the Ford Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).