Cocoa farmers in the Oluwa Forest Reserve in Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State are pleading for police protection as they face alleged attacks by suspected hoodlums.
The farmers’ distress began following a court order that restrained the state government and other defendants from taking any action on their land.
The conflict revolves around an agro-allied company’s claim to the cocoa farmlands, asserting that they were leased to them by the state government.
However, the farmers maintain that a court injunction, issued in May this year, bars the company from any activity on the land.
In a press conference held on Wednesday in Akure, the state capital, the chairman of the cocoa farmers in the community, Mr. Abayomi Isinleye, stated that the suspected hoodlums have been relentlessly attacking them in an attempt to eject them from their farmlands.
A formal protest letter has been submitted to the office of the state’s Commissioner of Police, Asabi Abiodun, through their lawyer, Mr. Tope Temokun.
Isinleye revealed, “Our camp was attacked by gunmen believed to be sponsored, and in the course of the encounter, we pursued the attackers, who shot at us.
We managed to recover two guns and some motorcycles from them, as well as bullets and caps, which we have submitted to the police area command in Ore to officially register our complaint.”
The ongoing dispute and attacks have had severe consequences for the farmers and their families. “Many of the farmers’ relatives have tragically lost their lives, and numerous children have been forced to withdraw from school due to their inability to work on the farmlands since the crisis began,” lamented Mr. Odugemi Omolewa, the group’s secretary.
The farmers are appealing to the state government to intervene and safeguard their means of livelihood, as their cocoa plantations are their sole source of survival. The conflict is escalating, and the farmers are determined to protect their land and livelihoods.
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