By Abiodun OBA
Farmers at Oluwa Forest Reserve in Odigbo, located in the Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State, said that one of the armed men usually firing shots into the air in an attempt to intimidate them has been apprehended and handed over to the Police Area Command in Ore.
Mr Abayomi Rotimi Isinleye, Chairman of the farmers, who made this known also alleged that the gunmen were associated with SAO Agro-Allied Services Limited, the company to which the state government had allocated their cocoa farm adding that the company had been clearing their plantations and oil palm.
The distressed farmers on Wednesday raised alarm over the invasion and destruction of their cocoa plantations by armed individuals in Temidire.
Isinleye complained that despite a court order restraining the Agro-Allied company from taking over the land until the resolution of the farmers’ lawsuit, the firm persisted in clearing the plantations.
He emphasised that an interim injunction, granted by Justice Aderemi Adegoroye of the Ondo State High Court, had prohibited all respondents in the suit, including SAO Agro-Allied Services Limited, from bulldozing the farmers’ cocoa plantations.
He recounted that when confronted by the farmers, the bulldozer operator demanded to see the court ruling and insisted they contact the management of SAO Agro-Allied Services before leaving the farmlands.
Isinleye revealed that the farmers had gathered to discuss their next course of action when the armed men stormed the meeting venue and began firing shots into the air. Bullets from their guns punctured the tent’s roof.
The chairman of the farmers stated that they had to confront the gunmen, leading to the seizure of two firearms, including a pump-action shotgun and an air rifle. One of the armed individuals was apprehended and taken to the police station.
He said, “In flagrant disregard for the court order in Suit No. HOR/14/2023, Abayomi Rotimi Isinleye and Others vs Ondo State Government and Others, SAO Agro-Allied Services Limited mobilized armed security personnel into our farmlands on October 30, 2023, to resume grading under heavy security presence, despite an interim injunction prohibiting the Ondo State Government and SAO Agro-Allied Services Limited from further grading.”
He further added, “In the course of the encounter, we pursued the attackers, who were firing, and we recovered two guns, motorcycles, bullets, and a cap belonging to members of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria. These items were taken to the Police Area Command to file a formal complaint.”
The farmers’ attorney, Tope Temokun, called on Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, to intervene and address the actions of SAO Agro-Allied Services Limited to prevent further disruptions and to uphold the court order and ongoing legal proceedings.
The Ondo State Police Command confirmed the incident and the arrest of one of the suspected armed individuals. The State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Funmi Odunlami, stated that both parties had been summoned by the Area Commander in Ore to provide their accounts, as the investigation into the matter is still ongoing.