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Farmers protest destruction of farmland on order of Ohen of Okhuoromi, Edo community

Farmers along Aruogba/Egbirhe Road, close to Okhuoromi in Oredo Local Government of Edo State, have protested the destruction of their palm produce 11-hectare farm and their belongings, including vehicles and working tools.

They accused the Ohen (Chief Priest) of Okhuoromi, Ovbokhan Igbinovia, of ordering the destruction of their farm and property, while allegedly threatening to kill them if they returned to the farm.

The aggrieved people yesterday moved round Benin and ended the protest at the Press Centre of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Edo Council, at the Government Reservation Area (GRA), Benin.

The protesters carried placards with inscriptions such as: “Ohen, stop disturbing us on our farm”, “Police must not sweep our complaint under the carpet”, “Ohen, leave our land alone” and “Ohen of Okhuoromi must be arrested.”

One of the protesters, Faith Alfa, said: “We have been farming in the area in the last 14 years, but in May this year, they came to our farm and destroyed the materials we were using in working, destroyed our vehicles and went with their batteries. They threatened to beat us up and kill us. We need help from the government and the police.”

The Operations Manager of Shalom Jare Ventures, Efosa Aguebor, said Okhuoromi claimed that he and other invaders got a victory in court, thereby chasing away their workers and destroying their property.

Aguebor disclosed that the protesters earlier wrote to Edo Governor Godwin Obaseki, accusing Igbinovia of taking the law into his hands.

Spokesman for Zone 5 of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Benin, Tijani Momoh, confirmed that there was a petition on the issue, which he said was being investigated.

Igbinovia said the land belonged to Okhuoromi people, in line with the court’s judgment, stressing that he was not aware of the destruction of any farm.

The Ohen said: “We don’t have any banga (oil palm) farm at Okhuoromi. Although, they have at Aruogba, we do not have any issue with Aruogba. The matter is in court.”

“The company took Okhuoromi to court, after we got judgment against the people that sold our land. Are the farmers the owners of the land? We are in court.

“We have a court judgment covering the area. We also have judgment from the palace of Oba of Benin covering the area. We have the High Court judgment and a survey plan showing that the area is our own.”

Igbinovia asked the aggrieved persons to go to court.

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