Displaced Ebira farmers in Ekiti State have appealed to President Mohammed Buhari, Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello and well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on Governor Kayode Fayemi to have a rethink over their exclusion from those to be compensated following the acquisition of their lands for the Ekiti airport project.
The Kogi farmers of Ebira descent, who, for generations, have lived in neighbouring Ekiti State, made the appeal following the alleged demolition of their residences and destruction of the farms by the company handling the airport project.
While the Ekiti airport project predates the current government, the Dr Kayode Fayemi-led administration in 2020 commenced with the fencing of the land acquired for the project.
One of the aggrieved Ebira farmers and Youth Leader in Bolorunduro, Ado-Ekiti Local Government Area Isa Sa’ed claimed that their farmlands formed part of the 40,000 acres acquired by the government for the airport project.
He said: “The government acquired over 40,000 acres of land and our farmlands were within the area the government acquired for the project.
“When they started fencing the land last year, we asked them what will be the fate of farmers using the land and they told us that there will be no problem and that whenever it is time to commence work on the construction of the airport, the farmers will be given prior notice and we stood by that assurance and started cultivating our portion of the land, and we have planted yams, cassava, cocoa yam and even pepper.
“But, to our surprise, just last month, the company handling the project rolled out their earth moving equipment, and started demolishing our houses and destroying our crops.
“The Ebira people farming in this community have lived here for over 100 years. Our great grandfathers settled in this community to earn a living through farming, and many of us were born and brought up in this community.
“We are aware that if the government is embarking on such project, the occupants of the land will be compensated and relocated, and to that effect, we heard over the radio that the state government has released N500 million for compensation to the affected farmers in the community.
“But to our surprise, when the Ekiti State Deputy Governor came to the community a few months ago to inspect the location of the airport, we tried to tender our complaint but he did not give us attention, because the compensation was limited to economic trees such as cocoa, palm trees, banana, kola nut and orange farmers.
“The Ebira people who farm yam, cassava, cocoyam and other cash crops were not part of the compensation and relocation.
“Some of our houses have been demolished without compensation. Already, we are in a state of confusion because we have families to cater for and our means of livelihood have been destroyed, while we watch helplessly because we don’t have anybody to assist us to talk to the state government.
“As farmers, we contribute to the economic growth of the state. We pay tax regularly and we give an honorarium to the traditional institutions in the state yearly.
“Therefore, we are appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, to prevail on Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi to compensate us for what we have lost as a result of the construction of the airport at Bolorunduro community where we have lived for many decades, to contribute our quota to food availability in the country.
“I met the traditional rulers in the local government, but nothing good resulted from the meeting.
“Many of our people affected by the construction work are now in precarious situations, as we don’t know where to go and what to do. That is why we are pleading and appealing to appropriate authorities to come to our aid.”