By Ikhili Ebalu, Benin City
The People of Illushi Community in Esan South East Local Government Area of Edo State, has send a Save Our Soul, ((SOS), message to Edo State government to urgently prevail on the Management and Staff of Skaff International Agro Farms Limited to vacate their lands in the interest of peace, alleging that they we’re illegally acquired.
Spokesperson for the community, Mr. Francis Okolo Abamu made the allegation while speaking to Journalists in Illushi.
He alleged that the management of Skaff International Agro Farms Limited connived with the executive chairman of the local government and some few individuals in the community to acquire the parcels of land without their knowledge and as a result, they have no place to carry out their farming activities.
He also alleged that 65 percent of their lands have been leased out to the company for 99 years by some fraudsters in the community and these lands in question, are the only uplands in the community.
“This very land in question, before the sales or the lease of this land, the elders are not aware. They did it on their own illegally.
” When the news reached the elders forum, they now called and asked, before the sales or the lease of this land, the elders of this land are not aware and where is it done and how can this be? They did it without their knowledge. The signing and the sales was done in the bush.
“In the ancient times, the agriculturalist who came to this land, they came here, called the elders before they commenced their work.
“Nowhere in this country where you will go and take land without the community’s elders knowledge, no agreement, no survey, no lawyer and whatsoever and they now did it on their own even in the bush.
“This has been a pain and we are all crying. With what you are seeing, erosion has taken over the land we have. The only hope we have if the erosion continues, where we will relocate to is sold or lease to this very Lebanese man and now, the pain is now very deep in us.
“Now, the youth, the elders, we now resolved that if the Lebanese wants to kill everybody in the land, let him go ahead if he can”, he said.
Pa Richard said there is an urgent need for the state government to wade in and salvage the situation before it snowballs into a major crisis that could lead to the loss of lives and property in the community adding that the youths might be tempted to result to self-help just to get their lands back.
“We beg you that you should help us tell the government, the only hope we have, the Lebanese has taken it away from us and now the erosion is eating the land. We don’t have where to go and now we are frustrated. And may God not allow us get frustrated.
Reacting to the allegation, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Skaff International Agro Farms Limited Engr. Samir Anthony Skaff, denied acquiring the land illegally saying that he did everything he needed to do to get the land in the community.
“When I intended to go into agriculture for Rice farming and Rubber plantation. At the early stage, first I wrote to the Agricultural Development Authority (ADP) to seek for their approval and advise who in return write me back and well come the idea.
“After my findings I met with the community, their Highness and over 200 youths from the community and 14 elderly chiefs who then gave their consent and approved with a lot of incentives such as Borehole, Hospital, Schools, Scholarship etc before I finally met with the government approval”, he said.
Also in a swift reaction, the local government chairman, Peter Aguele said their allegations of him conniving with the management of Skaff International Agro Farms Limited to take over their lands was baseless, stressing that the chairman of a council does not have the right to cede land to anybody neither has he also teamed up with the state government to do so.
“It is always good to have two sides of a story. If I am to answer you directly, they have been economical with the truth.
“It is totally untrue. If you see the land documentation of the sales of the land, you will