Farmers Threaten Ooni
There is palpable tension in the ancient city of Ile Ife in Osun State
A section of the community is angry with the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi over some of his actions.
According to investigations, the furore is already gathering momentum with many of the aggrieved persons threatening fire and brimstone to make the ancient city ungovernable if the royal father does not retrace his steps.
The aggrieved, who are mostly farmers, are angry over their forceful ejection from their farms by the Gov Rauf Aregbesola led Osun State government.
The decision of the government to eject the farmers was to put an end to deforestation caused by activities of people the government called illegal occupants in the Government Reservation Area in Shasha area of Ife land.
According to one of the farmers, Babtunde Ayeni, the whole matter started during the reign of the Late Ooni ,Okunade Sijuade when the government opened up the reservation called Area 4 and divided it into three portions among the Ife people, the non Ifes and the state government.
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The Ifes were said to have received the largest share of the land because of their ancestral claim to the ownership of the land.
The late Ooni Sijuade was said to have divided the Ife portion among interested Ife indigenes with some individuals receiving as much as 500 Hectares for agriculture purpose.
The arrangement was said to have suited all concerned as everyone went on with their farming activities and businesses peacefully until recently, the hitherto arrangement was overturned by the present Ooni
Oba Ogunwusi's decision, according to Ayeni ,rendered thousands of people without means of livelihood.
Another affected person, Adekunle Moshood recalled that the first set of people to be displaced by the new Ooni Ogunwusi were the non Ifes as their land, which many of them had cultivated and were at the process of harvesting their proceeds, was snatched from them and sold to some expatriates.
The expatriates were said to have quickly cleared the land and cultivated cocoa on it to the chagrin of the original owners who watched helplessly.
Moshood said, the Oba not satisfied with snatching the land allocated to the non indigenes, went ahead to revoke the ownership of land allocated to the Ifes, and started selling to individuals at the rate of N40,000 to N55,000 per hectare.
This decision did not go well with the affected people who lost their means of livelihood as they were prevented from returning back to their farms as their lands were now being heavily guarded by thugs and other minions in the employment of the Ooni.
Moshhod added that the Ooni went ahead to sell some of the portions belonging to the government. The Oba according to him made several millions from the sale of the lands.
This last move by the Ooni was said to have pitched the government against the Ooni and the frosty situation was said to have degenerated into the issuance of several ultimatums to the farmers to vacate the plantation by the office of Forestry, Mineral and Natural Resource saddled with the responsibility of ensuring normalcy in the area.
It was gathered that at the expiration of the last ultimatum some weeks back, a special operation was launched by the government to forcibly eject the farmers which led to the demolition and burning down of several structures located within the area in contention.
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Buildings demolished or burnt include: Obalufon Ogbogbodirin Palace which is within Teak Plantation,, Ologidan Village and Ologudu Palace which have over 600 Acres Cocoa Trees within Reserve plantation and KS Town also located within Forestry plantation.
While speaking to an assemblage of the people of Oranmiyan town recently, the Special Adviser to Governor Rauf Aregbesola on Forestry, Mineral and Natural Resources, Tunde Ajilore affirmed the government's resolution to dislodge all occupants within the Shasha Forest Reserve land irrespective of status, noting that the operation only commenced firstly with those on plantation land.
Ajilore stressed that even genuine farmers within the 30 square miles erroneously approved to the Late Oba Sijuade would only be considered for their farms pending their resettlement while advising them to move all other valuable items including their structures from the area.
Ajilore maintained that the assignment given to his office would be done thoroughly without fear or favour, adding that any attempt to turn a deaf ear to warning will incur the full wrath of the law.
Ajilore further disclosed that Shasha Forest Reserve has been designated for Eco -Tourism project by the National Conservation Foundation (NCF) which will be another source of income generation to the government of Osun.
He warned that hence forth killing of animals and burning of trees within the area is a criminal offence that attracts severe punishment.
It was however gathered that while some of the farmers have complied and vacated the reserve area, others who have no other means of livelihood stayed stuck.
One of the affected persons; Oladele Elutide who spoke with our correspondent lamented that since he paid N80,000 for 2 hectares of land, he has not been allowed to even step on the farm he sold all his belongings to buy.
It was gathered that the individuals affected have given the Ooni an ultimatum to return their money as they have started mobilizing for an uprising which may leave the city on its knees.
One of the leaders of the group who spoke under the condition of anonymity wondered how the foremost traditional ruler could be going around Nigeria preaching peace when there is no peace in his domain, recanting that the short reign of the Ooni has been bedeviled with one form of scandal or the other.
Meanwhile, all efforts to get the response of the palace on the matter proved abortive as many of the palace sources contacted refused to comment on the matter.