COCOA farmers in Ondo State have accused the state government of selling their farmlands to a Chinese company without their consent.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) the farmers were from Ofosu in Idanre Local Government Area of the state.
The farmers barricaded the Lagos-Benin Expressway to protest the alleged sale on Monday.
Armed with various placards, the farmers called on the state government to “respect their rights to livelihood”.
Other inscriptions on their placards read: “Don’t Give Our Land to Mindless Capitalists’’ and “We Want to Remain Farmers and not Armed Robbers’’.
The Sasere of Ofosu Kazeem Akinrimisi, a community leader, told journalists that he had been farming on the land for more than 20 years.
He also noted more than 25,000 farmers registered by the state government had been paying their dues to the government.
Akinrimisi said he paid N6 million as dues for farming on the land to the state government in 2021 and pleaded that government should allow the farmers to acquire the land instead of imposing foreigners on the indigenes.
According to him, the farmers occupy 74 camps in the community spread over 20,000 acres of land.
Another protester, Ezekiel Olatunji pleaded with the government to consider the lands as the farmers’ means of livelihood.
Olatunji also said that he had been farming on the land for more than 20 years and that he paid N1.2 million as his dues to the state government in 2021.
He stated that he was surprised that the government decided to sell the land to foreigners, saying that cocoa is a major foreign exchange earner for Nigeria.
Olatunji asked Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to allow the farmers to continue farming on the land, adding that they are willing to pay higher dues if desired by the government.
In a similar vein, Samuel Awolola, who said that he had been on the land for 27 years, asked the government to show mercy to the farmers since they were willing to pay their dues.
He said that Obada Camp in the community where he belonged paid N9 million out of N10 million as farming dues to the government in 2021.
Georginah Ose, another protester, said that taking the land away from the farmers could increase crime in the society, saying that more than 25,000 farmers would be rendered jobless.
Henry Olumakaye, the Olu of Ofosu, appealed to the farmers to be calm and avoid violence.
The traditional ruler asked the farmers to be peaceful, promising that the palace would hold a meeting with the state government on Tuesday.
Calls to the Special Adviser to the Governor on Agriculture and Agribusiness, Akin Olotu, were not answered just as he did not respond to text messages sent to him.