The Ondo State Government has denied allegation by some Cocoa farmers at Ofosu in Idanre Local Government Area that the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Governor, Pastor Akin Olotu is collecting illegal levies from the farmers, describing the allegation as an attempt to blackmail him.
The state government also expressed displeasure over the manner at which Cocoa farmers in Ofosu, Idanre Local Government Area are handling their planned relocation.
Speaking with newsmen in Akure, the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Governor on Agriculture and Agricbusiness, Pastor Akin Olotu, said the government as well as his agency would not succumb to blackmail from any quarter.
The farmers who had written a petition through their lawyer Tope Temokun to protest the alleged relocation of their cocoa farmland and sought the investigation of the SSA over alleged levies being collected from them.
Olotu said all monies paid by the farmers were collected by the state Internal Revenue Service (ODIRS) which he said were for the annual rent of the farm which expired in 2021.
While emphasising that the action of the state government as regards the farmland was in the interest of the farmers and the state, the SSA maintained that he is opened to probe over the spurious allegations.
Olotu said “The petition is pure blackmail and I’m shocked that such will come from the chamber of learned person. I’m saying emphatically that I don’t know anything about this idea of people collecting money from anybody.
“They said they paid N10,000 in 2019/2021 per farmer. Yes, the state government had a policy of not driving away farmers from forest.
“They have been there for so long, rather than driving them away, let see how we can gradually reorganised the forest and that started with the idea of getting them registered.
“It is part of security measure to know those on the farm. So it is not a hidden that was carried out by just an individual. The governor had also said herdsmen in the forest will equally be registered.
“So, it is not new and money was not paid into my purse. Everyone that paid that time paid N10000 for a year rent. In the petition it was stated that the money was paid to Internal Revenue Services not me.
“It was clearly stated that they remain a tenant on the land on annual basis and government reserve the right to decide on the land at any time in the interest of the state.
Olotu further stated that “I’m saying it openly that I have never issue ID card for anybody, dead or alive. And this idea of somebody collecting N3,000 each for issuance of ID card, they should come and point out that very person.
“Our own of cocoa is 400 kg per hectare. Ghana’s land is not up to ours and they are producing more than us which means they are getting more cocoa from one hectare, about two to three times of what we are getting.
“For the farmers to have better and quality output, arrangement had been made to get them cocoa seedlings and to relocated to better area.
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