Farmers in Sasa Forest Reserve, Ile-Ife, Osun state, South west Nigeria, have called on government to move swiftly to prevent the possibility of another Ife-Modakeke crisis.
The Chairman of the farmers’ union, Mr Sikiru Ajibola gave this warning in Osogbo while addressing newsmen.
About three hundred farmers had last week, stormed the Osun state House of Assembly over the alleged invasion of their farmlands by some indigenes of Ile-Ife.
They claimed that the indigenes had already taken over their farmlands with the tacit approval of the concerned traditional rulers.
The protesters carrying placards with various inscriptions said they were compelled to take to the streets after several efforts to claim their farmlands had failed.
They called on the Speaker of the House, Honorable Najeem Salaam, to intervene and persuade the state government to issue the promised white paper on the outcome of the panel of enquiry that look into the imbroglio.
In a letter signed by the Chairman and Secretary, Sasa Oke Owena Forest Reserve Farmers Association, Ile-Ife, Sikiru Ajibola and Usman Aderemi respectively, the farmers urged the government to direct those, who they claim, took possession of their farms to vacate, pending the release of the white paper.
“At the inception and for over seven years of our existence in the Forest Reserve, our relationship with our self-acclaimed landlords and timber contractors was perfect and cordial, until the timber contractors alleged that our farming activities in the Reserve were having adverse effect on their work.
It was through this timber contractors that we came to know that the areas of our operation were actually within the Forest Reserve owned by the Osun State Government.”
According to the farmers, “we got to know that our farms and plantations were being cut into plots for allocation to Ife indigenes and we cried to the state government over our dilemma.”
They explained that since the government had asked everyone to vacate the land after the recommendation of a panel of enquiry, the alleged land grabbers had refused to do so.
The spokesperson for the farmers, Sikiru Ajibola who said the development had posed serious economic threat to farm owners in the area called for the urgent intervention of the house assembly.
“We will not hesitate to protect our means of livelihood with whatever means at our disposal should government and traditional rulers fail to protect our right and our interests,” he threatened.
Responding, Honourable Ajibola Akinloye, who spoke on behalf of Speaker Salaam urged the farmers to maintain calm, assuring that the House would look into the matter and ensure justice was done.