Farmers in Ijaye Farm Settlement on Tuesday staged a protest to the Oyo State Governor’s Office to protest the recent upsurge in herders attack on their farms.
The protesters, mostly senior citizens carried placards and sang solidarity songs to express their pains and sufferings in the hands of the herders who they said have turned the Farm settlement to another ‘Sambisa Forest’.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards of the protesters read “If oppressor is compensated, the oppressed deserves compensation too”, “Farmers need government assistance”, “Our farms are no longer secured for farming”, “Fulani herders are destroying us”, “S.O.S! Enough is enough. We don’t want cattle on our farms again” and “All forests around the settlements now houses numerous cattles”, among others.
The protesting farmers under the aegis of Ijaye Farm Settlement Association said one of their members was recently amputated for daring to confront a herder who grazed his farm, adding that majority of the farmers are already leaving the farms for fear of attack.
They gathered at the entrance gate of the Governors office at about 10:30am and refused to be persuaded but insisted on speaking face to face with Governor Seyi Makinde.
The intervention of some security details and the Executive Assistance to Governor Makinde, CP Sunday Odukoya (rted.) initially proved abortive but persistent pleas and assurance that their protest letter would be delivered to the Governor saved the day.
While speaking, Chairman, Ijaye Farm Settlement Association, Dr Tairu Tajudeen said the rent pay rent on the allotted farmland with the herders not paying, yet they indiscriminately invade the farmlands and destroy their crops.
He said “Everybody you see here, we are all farmers at Ijaye Farm settlement that belongs to the Oyo state government. We pay rent every year to the government on this land. And Fulanis and their cattles have now invaded government-owned cropland. They have turned us into slaves on our own lands. You cannot even challenge them because they are armed with sophisticated weapons.
“They pointed guns at us at every challenge made by us. In fact, two days ago, one of our farmers (named Nuru) that challenged them on his own farm got his right arm amputated right in our presence there. Nobody to help us because they are more equipped than us.
“They have always been on the land for years but the situation became precarious now when they were dislodged from Ibarapaland and they have now found solace in the Ijaye Farm settlement.
“In fact, without mincing words, they have turned Ijaye Farm Settlement into another Sambisa forest.
“They keep raping our wives and daughters, kidnap and we are working on the farm with fears. For God’s sake, on the farm that belongs to our forefathers.
“We pay rent on the land and the Fulani and their cattles are not paying anything. They are sending us away from our farms and that is why we are appealing to our government. They should help us. Let the good people of Oyo state come to our aid. They are killing us at Ijaye Farm Settlement. The Fulani cattle rearers are killing us and we want the government to take precise action. We want a massive presence of security personnel.”
Also speaking the Secretary of the Association, Mr Yakub Olanrewaju said despite the government claim of an existing anti-open grazing taskforce, the government had done nothing to save the farmers despite numerous moves and letters to call attention to the destruction by the herders.
“They told us specifically that a farm settlement would be for cropping only. We were not allowed to rare our common goat on the land. Then, why should there be a concentration of cows there, it shouldn’t be, there would be problems. We are having a minimum of 25 acres as minimum holdings for each of our members and that is enough to produce nothing less than 200 tonnes of maize and if you multiply that, then you will see that it can feed thousands of people, why should they neglect us?
“As the case is, the northern part of the country is withholding their food resources and this is our own way of providing food security for the region. They should come to our aid.
“Its been there for years and we have a series of letters to call the attention of the authorities to the destruction of property, but for the past one week, it has transformed from mere destruction of properties now to the attempt of our lives.
“Now we have threat of attack on a daily basis. We have a member that was amputated recently as a result of an attack by the Fulanis herders. This is the survival of the fittest.
“The government said there is an anti-grazing task force committee comprising of MACBAN, DSS, and other security operatives, but so far, it has been zero action. We have written letters about every destruction of our farms and there has never been anything done.
“So, all we are now asking the government to do is to come and dislodge them from our lands. They are all over the land. They are always there day and night”, Olanrewaju said.
Lamenting the situation, the immediate Past Chairman of the Association, Pa Adewale Adeoye said about 10acres of his cassava farm was destroyed last year, adding that the herders who are strangers in the land are now taking over the entire farm settlement.
The 85year old farmer who said he had been on the settlement in about 20years described as a disaster the situation where food items are brought in from the northern part of the country.
He said “it is a disaster for us to be buying foodstuffs from the North. Back in those days, no one buys food from the North. They bring food from Oyo town, and there is no part of Ibadan city that don’t cultivate their land.
“Cassava, vegetables and all other things are planted and food production was there. Why will it now be that we will not be able to produce food for ourselves but only rely on food from the North?
“What we want the government to do is to help us. We don’t want the herders who graze our farmlands anymore. We need security for our lives and protection for our people. They engage in robbery in the areas. There are thousands of cows now in Ijaye Farm Settlement.
“We haven’t seen or heard anything from the Amotekun on our farmland. We have made several losses by the action of the herders. There are several cases that we have also filed at the magistrate courts in Moniya.
“Secondly, many of our people, after they have planted, the herders razed their farm and afterwards set it on fire so that it will look like a fire incident. When they see that someone has planted and the crops are coming up, all their plans are always on how to send such a person packing from the farm so that they can take over.
“We have held several security meetings in Akinyele, Moniya and even Eleyele police headquarters and it has been more than 15 occasions and during the time of the immediate past government, none of the meetings had been fruitful.
“When people like us in our 80s decide to go into farming yet we don’t have rest of mind. But what we desire is for us to farm and produce food for our people. We want them out of our farmlands and we want the government to take decisive action to protect the farmers and challenge us to produce food for the people, be assured that we will get it done. We have enough food that can feed the people on our farmlands but we must be in peace.”
While addressing the protesters, CP Odukoya said “We have collected and noted their grievances, their representations and I will ensure that the letter gets to the authority and I assure you that the government will look into it and the necessary steps and actions would be taken.”