Cocoa farmers from the Oluwa Forest Reserve in Odigbo Local Government Area, Ondo State, have made an urgent appeal to the state’s Commissioner of Police, Asabi Abiodun, seeking protection from persistent attacks by suspected hoodlums. The farmers’ plight began following a state High Court order in Ore that restrained the state government and others from any activities on the land in question.
Despite a court injunction served in May to an agro-allied company, which claims the state government leased the cocoa farmlands to it, the farmers have faced increasing hostility. The chairman of the cocoa farmers, Mr. Abayomi Isinleye, reported that their camp was violently targeted to force them off the land. During one such attack, the farmers managed to retrieve two guns and several motorcycles from the assailants.
A formal complaint, including evidence of the recovered items, was lodged at the police area command in Ore. The farmers have also taken legal action against the invasion and destructive grading of their cocoa farms, resulting in a court-granted interim injunction against further damage.
The secretary of the group, Mr Odugemi Omolewa, has called on the state government to intervene and prevent the farmers from being displaced from their primary source of income. The ongoing conflict has already had severe consequences, with fatalities among the farmers’ families and children being forced to leave school due to the unrest.
The distressing situation faced by cocoa farmers in Ondo State is a stark reminder of the vulnerabilities that small-scale farmers endure. The attacks they have reported are not just assaults on their property but on their livelihoods and heritage. The farmers’ appeal for police protection is a plea for justice and the right to work in peace.
The rule of law must prevail, and the court injunction should be respected and enforced. It is the responsibility of the state to ensure that its citizens are protected, especially when they are pursuing their lawful business. The government’s intervention is crucial in safeguarding the farmers’ rights and ensuring that their means of livelihood are not unjustly taken away.
The cocoa sector is a significant contributor to Nigeria’s economy, and the farmers are the backbone of this industry. Their welfare is paramount, and any threat to their security is a threat to the sector’s stability and growth. The state must act swiftly to provide the necessary protection and resolve the dispute in a manner that respects the farmers’ legal rights and the court’s ruling.
Did You Know?
- Cocoa is one of the main cash crops in Nigeria and plays a vital role in the economy, with Ondo State being one of the largest producers.
- The Oluwa Forest Reserve, where the farmers operate, is part of Nigeria’s efforts to preserve biodiversity while also supporting agricultural activities.
- Land disputes are a common issue in rural areas of Nigeria, often leading to conflicts that can disrupt local economies and communities.
- The legal framework in Nigeria allows for the protection of farmers’ rights, including through court injunctions that aim to prevent unlawful evictions and land grabs.
- The cocoa industry not only supports farmers but also contributes to the livelihoods of traders, exporters, and manufacturers, making it a critical sector for national development.