Farmers stormed the streets of Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital on Tuesday to protest the activities of herdsmen in Oke Ako, which they said have resulted in the destruction of crops worth N35 million.
Two persons were killed during a clash between herders and farmers in the same community in May last year, resulting in legislation by the government banning grazing in certain areas and hours of the day.
The protesters marched to the office of Governor Ayodele Fayose and the Commissioner for Agriculture, Kehinde Odebunmi, to make their grievances known.
According to the farmers, herdsmen leading their cattle for grazing in the area have destroyed their maize farms covering over 30 hectares and over 20 hectares of cassava.
The farmers said they were operating under a farming scheme known as the Ipao Youth
in Commercial Agriculture Cooperative in partnership with Matna Foods in Akure, Ondo State.
They also went to the Ekiti State House of Assembly where they addressed the Speaker of the House, Kola Oluwawole.
Speaking on behalf of the farmers, Rotimi Fapohunda told the speaker that the maize farming was started with N3 million in partnership with Matna; saying their hopes had been shattered by the destruction.
“Shortly after we started planting, we noticed that some herdsmen used to come for
grazing around that area at night,” he explained.
“Later, we started noticing the presence of cows on the farms at noon, but we didn’t see the owners.
“But last weekend, we went to farm and saw that all the cassava and maize that had grown up had been destroyed by cattle and efforts to get the owners were futile.
“We were even afraid to kill the cattle because the herdsmen used to go about with guns despite the law prohibiting that, because they can turn against us and start shooting.
“We are jobless graduates and this is what we do for survival. Our lives depend on this and the government of Ekiti State must save us.”
The Speaker, who condemned the destruction, said the action of the herdsmen could
dissuade young graduates from engaging in commercial farming as being encouraged by government.
Mr. Oluwawole added that the state government would bring to bear the anti-grazing law in curtailing the situation, saying the law is no respecter of anyone.
“The law is no respecter of anyone. We can’t fold our arms and allow people to be frustrating the efforts of our young generations,” he said.
“How can this happen at a time when government is making efforts to persuade the youth to go into farming.
“We are not unaware of the colossal damage these herdsmen are doing to our crops, but this has to stop.
“The government of Governor Fayose is making frantic efforts in this regard, and this led to the enactment of anti-grazing law; and the implementation I want to assure you won’t spare anyone.”