Hoodlums brutalise Ogun farmers for refusing to take oath

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Farmers in Gerald Village, located in the Ìjèbú Ode area of Ogun, say they are facing significant losses after hoodlums invaded their community, violently attacked them, set their homes ablaze, and ravaged their plantations.

In separate interviews with PUNCH Metro on Wednesday, the farmers expressed their anguish, lamenting that their ordeal began days after they refused to participate in an oath-taking organised by the village head, Chief Abiodun Akinbowale.

 

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Afam Osigwe

Chukwuemeka Mbamala

Chukwuemeka Mbamala

However, Akinbowale denied the farmers’ allegations in an interview with our correspondent on THursday. But, one of the injured farmers, Talabi Daniel, who suffered a machete wound to the head, insisted that the chief led the thugs who attacked his home with various weapons.

 

In various short videos watched by our correspondent, Talabi and another villager were seen with multiple cuts on their bodies while others could be heard screaming for help. Additionally, parts of the videos showed a few buildings that appeared to have been demolished and burnt.

“The day they came to attack me at home, it was about 10 p.m. I was sitting in front of my compound. They lied that they were policemen and that I was under arrest. I was surprised because I hadn’t committed any offence. So, I asked for their identification number and arrest warrant.

 

“They started beating and stabbing me as soon as I attempted to use my phone to record them. They hit my forehead with some weapons. They took away my phone. It was my screaming that alerted other villagers, who then came to my rescue. There were about nine of them. My only offence was refusing to be forced to take an oath,” Daniel told PUNCH Metro.

 

A 65-year-old farmer, Kehinde Akinolu, told our correspondent that his house was allegedly burnt by the hoodlums. He also said his family was chased out of a church last Sunday where they had sought refuge after losing their property in the arson.

He said, “They seized our motorcycles that we used to ride to the farm. This Baale refused to release them. He brought the caterpillar to the village. The people he sent to torment us were the ones who cut down our cocoa plantation—about three acres of plantation. When we heard what was happening, we rushed down to the farm. Before we returned to the village, another group of the same thugs had razed down our houses. There was nowhere to sleep.

 

“We decided then to move to a nearby church for the time being. These same people stormed the church, threatening us to move out of it. They said our offence was because we refused to obey the Baale. How can he force us to take an oath when we have not done anything?

“I’ve been living and farming in that village for over 20 years, even before he became the Baale in 2017. We started the farm as far back as 2004. Where do we want to go at our age? What I had on that farm was not less than N6m in farm produce. They have sold all my plantations.”

Recounting his ordeal, a grieving farmer who said he had lost his plantation and home, Mr. Anthony Michael, appealed to the authorities for assistance. He told our correspondent that all his lifelong possessions, including his cocoa plantation, had been destroyed and taken away by the chief.

 

He said, “We didn’t do anything wrong. Two villagers had a quarrel over some money the people contributed. They accused each other of mismanaging community money. One of them mentioned the name of the Baale as also being responsible for the missing money. And then a few days later, he called us for a meeting, where he settled the matter between the two men.

“After that, he told us to wait for him, and he returned with a calabash that was filled with water, forcing us to drink the water. And some of us said if anyone should take the water or the oath, it had to be those fighting, not those of us who know nothing about it. He then threatened us that he would take our farm from us and banish us from our farmland.”

 

However, Akinbowale dismissed the accusations by the distraught farmers, stating that he had no knowledge of the incident and would not comment on a matter he knew nothing about.

He further asserted that the accusation of taking over the plantation was a matter between the farmers and the state government, which had instructed them to vacate the farm.

 

He said, “If you’re calling me from PUNCH, before anything, you will have to go to the Ministry of Forestry Reserve in Abeokuta. It is the governor who put the commissioner in charge. The governor announced it on the radio. I don’t know about their farm.

 

“I don’t know what they did to the Ministry of Forestry. They should go and settle whatever is between them. I’m not involved. I am the Baale of Gerald. I was at home, not on the farm. They fought me and even took me to court.”

 

When our correspondent inquired about the allegation of forcing residents to take an oath, the Baale redirected PUNCH Metro to speak with a king in the area, stating that he would not comment on the matter.

He said, “I am not involved. Go and ask the king and the commissioner. The governor is already aware of this matter. I don’t know what is between them. I was only trying to settle the matter before they decided to fight me. I cannot talk about the oathtaking because I don’t know what is between them and the King. It is the government that demolished their house, not me.”

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