10,000 Cash Crop Farmers Evicted from Ondo Forest Reserve Farmland 

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More than 10,000 cash crop farmers were forcibly evicted from the Oluwa Forest Reserve in the Odigbo Local Government in Ondo State, according to a news report. The evicted farmers mainly grew cocoa, cashew, banana, yam, and cassava. They claimed to have been using the land for over 20 years before their forced eviction.

The eviction exercise was allegedly carried out by a joint task force of Nigerian soldiers, armed members of the Amotekun Corps, and members of the Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC`), as claimed in a letter that the farmers’ lawyer, Tope Temokun, allegedly sent to the state government.

Part of the letter named SAO Agro-Allied Services LTD as a private company which acquired the land from the government. Hence, the backing of armed men in scaring off any resistance. It also mentioned that the company had attempted to take over the land in March 2023 but a peaceful protest by unclad female farmers deterred them. Their second attempt, launched on April 15, 2023, succeeded because they came with more armed men and the threat to shoot anyone that resisted. The company had also come with bulldozers to destroy the crops.

Rent paying tenants

The situation is made even more complicated when you consider that the farmers have been paying rent to the state government since 2018. As the lawyer’s letter claimed, this gave his clients ‘claimants possessory rights’. Each of the 10,000 member-farmers had been paying ₦‎10,000 annually since then.

However, the farmers conceded that they had been informed of the acquisition of a portion of the land by the company sometime in February 2023. Their reluctance to let the company build roads to access the land was because they feared that it was a trick to destroy their crops and eventually push them out of the land.

Government activities like this is another major problem of agriculture in Nigeria. With this large group of farmers displaced and crops allegedly destroyed, millions of Naira has likely gone to waste. Not just that, but the fact that these are cash crops, which contribute a chunk of the country’s export, is also a cause for concern.

The company named in this conflict has a branch in Abuja. Not much else is known about its activities but the ‘agro-allied’ term in its name indicates that it processes raw agricultural produce into finished products. Its acquisition of the land may be a backward integration move to give it more control over its production processes. Although, this could mean less reliance on its suppliers, who may be local Nigerian farmers.

Obinna Onwuasoanya
Obinna Onwuasoanya
Obinna Onwuasoanya is a tech reporter of over five years, fiction writer, SEO expert and an editor. He is based in Lagos, Nigeria, and was previously shortlisted for the Writivism Short Story Prize 2018.

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