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OLUYOLE FREE TRADE ZONE: OYO BEGINS PAYMENT OF COMPENSATION TO FARMERS

By NBF News

The controversy over the non-payment of  N74 million compensation to over 1,255 farmers, whose farmlands were yesterday acquired by Oyo State government has been resolved. Some of the farmers from Ori-Odo and Elebolo villages were issued with cheques by the state government as an indication that government was ready to honour the agreement reached with the farmers.

Earlier in the day at the House of Chiefs, Venue of the exercise, the farmers and their leaders had staged a peaceful protest to express their displeasure with the state government over its failure to recognize their agent (Seyi Ojo & Co) in the payment exercise.

Spokesman of the farmers, who is also the Secretary of the 11-man committee set up to represent the farmers, Chief Ola Folarin, said government's stance seemed to them, double tragedy, having lost their farmlands in the first instance.

He said they were surprised that the government did not want to recognize their agent, saying 'it was the same government that advised them to appoint an agent that would collect all the compensation on our behalf.'

'We have donated our power of attorney to Seyi Ojo & Co to oversee any legal relationship between the croppers and the Oyo State government in relation to our compensation, we don't know why the government does not want to recognize our agent again. But we are aware that the general position of our law is that whatever a person can do himself, he may do through the means of an agent.'

But the Chief of Staff to the State Governor, Alhaji Saka Balogun, who represented Governor Adebayo Alao Akala at the exercise allayed fears of the farmers, saying government was only being careful in the payment and to ensure that the money did not go into wrong hands.

His words: 'Government was anxious to ensure that genuine crop farmers were paid and to also ensure that there was no collaboration between fake farmers and government officials and that nothing extra was added. That was why we have to go through the rigorous process before the payment of the compensation.'

He disclosed that a total of N 73, 292, 688.68 would be paid to 1,255 tree crop farmers in 24 different villages that had so far been cleared by government and that it was untrue that the state government wanted to deny them their rights as claimed. He added that the perceived silence of government on the matter should not be misunderstood for insensitivity.

He added that the compensation being paid by the government was only for the crops on the farmlands, saying government did not pay compensation for any land acquired.

The state government had promised the payment of compensation to over 1,255 crop farmers whose farmlands were acquired in 2005 in preparation for its Oluyole Free Trade Zone project  along the Lagos/Ibadan expressway.

However, controversy brewed following delay in the payment of compensation as promised by the government. This made the farmers, mostly aged men and women, to protest some few weeks ago over what they described as insensitivity on the part of government.