AS hullabaloo over the revocation of 26,000 hectares of land acquired by the immediate past Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi continues between him and his successor, Governor Seyi Makinde, the former governor has said that there was nothing he did during his tenure that did not follow due process.
He said since Governor Makinde now holds the ace as the incumbent governor, he reserves the prerogative to cancel any policy his administration made that he feels uncomfortable with.
Justifying his revocation order, Governor Makinde, through the Commissioner for Environment and Natural Resources, Mr. Kehinde Ayoola, said using the forest reserve land for agricultural purposes negates environmental laws because of dire consequences that could trail such action.
He further informed that the government is not resting on the revocation of that land alone, but other similar cases would be looked
into so as to pacify frayed nerves.
Ayoola, a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in the state, told Vanguard that he had just had a meeting with the Commissioner for Lands where he promised him to look into the chart in the ministry that details acquisition procedure.
Reacting, the former Governor who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media, Mr Tunji Bolaji said, “You know Ajimobi that he would never do anything without due process. Everybody who benefitted from the land acquisition went through the normal due process. There was nothing like short cut.”
“Since he is the governor, he has the prerogatives to cancel any policy the past administration did that he is not convenient with. May be that’s what led to the revocation of the land. He can change whatever policy he is not comfortable with. That’s why he is the governor”, he said.
Another 440 hectares of land at Idi Ishin
Apart from the 26,000-hectare land, the past administration is also enmeshed in over 440 hectares of land at Idi Ishin area where the villagers are crying foul, while the management of Christian School for the Deaf is pleading with Governor Makinde to return the part of its land forcefully taken by the past administration to the helpless students.
The land, which is located on Lagos -Ibadan expressway, is the new site of the deaf school which the management said it would be used for the construction of the first University for the Deaf in Africa.
While explaining why the land was revoked, Ayoola, alleged that the 6000 hectares of land at Gambari Forest Reserve and another 20,000 hectares at ÌÌpàrà Forest Reserve were forest reserves which were not meant for agricultural purposes.
But speaking through Mr. Bolaji Tunji, his Media Aide, Ajimobi said he and other government officials who got the land under a policy his government put in place, paid for the lands as required by law.
Tunji said: “The allocation of land that have been revoked, was done under the government’s policy called Agro Industrial Zones.
“The idea was to make land available to large agricultural investors. The government resorted to this option when it became difficult to access land directly from our communities. The land that was allocated then was the depleted portion of the forest reserves.”
“Depleted in the sense that they had been encroached upon and the trees had been felled, illegally without people planting replacements.
It was also grounds for people to plant illegal substances such as Indian hemp,” Ajimobi said.
How we discovered hectares of land —Ayoola
At a press briefing anchored by the Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Dr Wasiu Olatunbosun, Ayoola, said, on assumption of office on16th August, his directors told him about late government alleged pillage of our forest resources.
He listed the hectares of land allegedly acquired saying out of 9 Forest Reserves the state government has include the reserve at Gambari with 11,431 hectares, Osho with 3,704, Ijaiye with 28,491, Olokemeji with 7,511, Lanlate 7,507, Igangan 39,627, Olaseinde 686, Ooko/Iroo 2,300 and Opara 248,640.
He said: “I was told they took 6000 hectares for themselves at Gambari Forest Reserve. At ÌÌpàrà Forest Reserve, he sliced off 20,000 hectares.
“What makes these acquisitions reprehensible, and environmentalists and conservationists will agree, he noted, is that forests are very vital in the fight against global warming and its attendant problem of climate change.”
“Nations of the world are looking to not only preserve their forest resources but they are adding to it. But our man was trying to take away from our forest.”
Ajimobi defends policy
Senator Ajimobi said there was a huge benefit accrued to the state by the policy. Part of the benefits, he added, was a huge Agro Industrial Complex which now generates employment in the thousands.
Tunji said: “A condition was also attached to the allocation to the effect that allottees must plant trees to compensate for the agricultural sites.
It was a means of transforming the state’s agricultural landscape and moving the people away from peasant cutlass and hoes farming to modern agricultural practices. Like what Senator Ajimobi did then, it was not free. You have to pay whether as an appointee or member of the public.”
The State, under the watch of Senator Ajimobi, he added, embarked on a partnership with the IITA which led to the publication of a book entitled: Oyo State Agricultural Transformation Policy Framework. It was a 25-year agricultural policy goal.
“The State embarked on the construction of a strategic storage facility which birthed the 10,000 metric ton Silos for Strategic
storage in Oyo town. In order to create enough manpower for this agricultural revolution, the College of Agric Igboora was made autonomous”, he said.
Meanwhile, some residents in the state are calling on Governor Makinde to do the needful if he feels the law of the land has been infringed upon.”
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