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Akufo Farmers allege takeover of farm settlement, government reacts
 
By: Abara Blessing Oluchi
Fri, 29 Mar 2024   ||   Nigeria,
 

One of the basic challenges faced by Nigeria today is hunger and food insecurity. In the 2023 Global Hunger Index, Nigeria ranks 109th out of 125 countries. Despite being the tenth-largest producer of crude oil in the world, around 84 million Nigerians, representing about 37 percent of the total population, live below the poverty line with 26.5 million people across the country projected to face acute hunger in the June-August 2024 lean season. Currently, basic food items like beans, tomatoes, etc. have seen over 100% price increase. Experts have also said the situation will worsen if food inflation continues to rise, and that vulnerable people will be most adversely affected.

A major part of the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Tinubu’s administration, is to increase agricultural production to ensure sufficient food in the country and guarantee food security. One of the President’s priority agendas for achieving food sufficiency and affordability is to cultivate 500,000 hectares of farmland across the country to produce maize, rice, wheat, and other crops. Tinubu also promised a new era in the country’s agricultural sector, vowing that it would no longer be business as usual as his administration seeks to boost food security as well as diversify the economy from over-reliance on petroleum. This has, therefore, formed a premise of the agenda of the administrations and governments of the thirty-six states.

In Oyo State, Governor Oluseyi Makinde also assured that his administration will see to the support of farmers in the state to the end of transforming agriculture and making life easy for citizens. One of the ways to improve food and agricultural production in the country is by guaranteeing support for farmers in the state. Conversely, Farmers of Akufo Farm Settlement in Ido Local Government area of Oyo State have on Wednesday, March 27, 2024 cried out, raising allegations on the taking-over of their farm settlement by estate agents and developers. The Akufo Farm Settlement Farmers Association took a protest to the Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency (OYSADA), Agodi, Ibadan, after they claimed the government did not respond to the several attempts to reach them. The estate agents and developers, without prior notice, the farmers said, only appeared and started erecting poles, and signals for possible imminent housing constructions.

Speaking to CEOAFRICA, the President of the Association, Mr. Akinsola Oludare, explained how they had written a letter to OYSADA which is their supervising agency for a meeting, but their letters were met with silence, driving them to visit the agency again with a protest. According to him, “we saw some people who came and said they came to make the place a housing estate. All we are saying is that this period of food insecurity is not when the government will make the lands available for developers. There are several other lands that can be used for development. There are housing estates that are only bearing names with nothing being done on them.” When interviewed by CEOAFRICA, the farmers assured their certainty that the earmarked sites are for housing estates, not farm estate. The aged farmers lamented that their only source of income are about to go down the drain, thereby calling for the intervention of Governor Seyi Makinde.

While the Chairman, Cattle Farmers Association of the settlement, Mr. Fabayo Rasaki, lamented that they were suddenly stopped from paying rents for the land without prior notice and official communication; an erstwhile President of the Association, Mr. Johnson Alapelode said since part of the Renewed Hope Agenda of the current president is food production, it is ironic to snatch their lands to build houses. He continued that, “Maize is expensive, soya is expensive, wheat is expensive. And the government is not even planning on how to give us necessary farming input such as tractors. The most painful part of it is that no matter what, you need to dialogue with us.” Mrs Sehinde traced that it was Chief Obafemi Awolowo who initiated the site as a farm settlement, crying that, “we have not received any help from the government we voted for. We have seen other housing estates that are only inhabited by goats. This is not the time to build farm settlements. The government should help us and not suffer us.”

When asked the economic importance of the farm settlement to Oyo State, one of the farmers said that the farm settlement produces over 20thousand crates of eggs daily, palm oil, different birds such as layers and broilers for livestock production. Professor Ola-Davies also added that, “if there is anything acceptable now in the country, it is food security. So many people are hungry now. Akufo farm settlement has been a major contributor in agriculture. To turn that kind of place to a housing estate as we are hearing is unacceptable. What happens to the food production from that place? What happens to the people working there? If food security will work, that farm has to continue, as a matter of fact, the government has to come in to encourage the settlers so that there will be increase in productivity.”

As farm settlement schemes are governments’ intervention to promote efficient utilization of land resources and dignity in farming by the provision of basic social needs, CEOAFRICA gathered that in 2019, Engr Seyi Makinde revealed plans to revive the nine farm settlements established by late Yoruba icon, Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the state. In 2020, he assured that his administration was ready to upgrade the Akufo Farm Settlement to an agricultural estate in line with one of the four cardinal points of his administration’s service agenda.

To verify the allegations that the government was privy to the taking over of the settlement, CEOFRICA contacted, the Special Adviser to the Governor of Oyo State on Agribusiness, Mr. Olasunkanmi Adebowale Akande who said he was outside of the country, told CEOAFRICA that OYSADA does not do housing estates and the government have not announced turning the farm settlement into housing estates.

Akande added that, “I think focus should rather be on why houses are being built illegally currently on the land and the volume of agricultural activities going on there.”

 

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