Protest In Ekiti Over Fayose’s Airport Project

Land owners and farmers displaced by the airport project in Ekiti State yesterday protested against what they called “illegal acquisition of their farmlands and unlawful destruction of economic trees and crops”.

They claimed that 10 farmers, including three women, have died of shock from what they called “huge economic loss”, resulting from the destruction of their farms.

The farmers, from Igbemo, Igbogun, Aso, Iwajo and Ijan spanning three local governments -Ado, Gbonyin and Irepodun/Ifelodun-,  urged Governor Ayo Fayose to stop work on the project because of the suit they had filed in court.

They described the acquisition of their land as “fraudulent, wicked, callous and illegal”, alleging that government surveyors and other officials visit their land occasionally to steal their produce, including cocoa, cocoyam, yam and banana.

The placard-carrying protesters claimed that they did not receive any valid notice before government bulldozers moved in to destroy their farms.

The farmers said they don’t need any compensation but restoration of their land.

Some of their placards read: “Gov Fayose, Please Relocate Your Airport to Government Forest”; “We All Say No To Illegal Airport Project”; “Please Leave Us Alone, Don’t Damage Our Life”; “This Land Is The Major Cocoa Plantation, Please No Trespass”; “Igbogun Cries Over Illegal Destruction of Our Property” and “Iwajo, Aso Say No To Illegal Airport”.

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They urged the Federal Government through the Ministry of Agriculture to save them from being thrown into the labour market.

Their leader, Ojo Awe, said: “We are here to protest the bulldozing of our farms without any prior legal notice and we are here to invite the Federal Government to help us talk to Fayose to leave our farms alone.

“We have not received any compensation as being claimed by the government, nothing of such happened.

“This step is illegal although they may say the land belongs to them but if you want to take over my land you must tell me because my ancestors owned the land before government came.

“The other area where government also erred was when we heard the rumour that the land might be acquired, we went to court and court papers were duly served.

“When the process was going on, government invited the monarchs of the affected communities and served them papers, indicating that the land had been taken over, despite the pending court action. This is illegal and unacceptable.

“This government wants to defraud us. Nobody was contacted before our land was bulldozed. The government in Ekiti does not respect the rule of law and when officials come to our farms, they steal our cocoa, cocoyam, yam and banana.

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“The effect of their action on our land cannot be quantified because since they destroyed our land and crops, we have not made anything and 10 persons have died of shock, including three women.”

But Commissioner for Information Lanre Ogunsuyi maintained that the land belongs to the government.

He urged the farmers to channel their grievances to the right quarters rather than protesting.

Ogunsuyi said: “The project was conceived a long time ago. That land belongs to the government. Some people are just willing to clog the wheel of progress, but we would ensure the project is a success.

“The aggrieved people have means of avenues of channeling their grievances. We don’t have to hold meeting and turn anyone into a tin god in the process. If anybody wants to speak with the government, there are 14 ministries they can go to.

“We have a tradition of paying compensation and we would do that. But there is no way government would surrender its power to some people. The land belongs to government.”