Exclusive Interview:

Dr Akinyemi Fadiyimu is the Provost of the Federal College of Agriculture, Akure (FECA). He speaks with the PATH NEWS on the College challenges with land grabbers, stakeholder’s intervention, litigations among others.

Can you give a background into the challenges the institution is facing in regard to the activities of land grabbers?

It all started around 2014 when an individual/family took the college to court and got a judgement of taking over substantial portions of the College’s land. We appealed the judgment at the Court of Appeal. You know the slow pace of our judiciary system, the appeal has been foot dragging since then. Meanwhile, the family has been sponsoring thugs and miscreants to forcefully take over the land in question.

When exactly did the College acquired the land?

The Land occupied by the Federal College of Agriculture Akure was acquired by the Federal Government through Gazette. The first one is Gazette No 73 Volume 36 of 29th December, 1949 and second Gazette is No 22 Volume 9 of 19th May, 1960. These two Gazettes covered around 1,120 acres of land which the college has been occupying since 1957 when the college was established, all acquired by the Federal Government.

Has the College demarcated the land by fencing it to prevent the activities of land encroachers?

It is true that the college has not been able to complete the perimeter fencing across the land but we were able to plant Ticks along the entire borders of the land especially the areas being claimed by this family. That is along Agbogbo-Benin Garage Axis and inwards towards Oba-ile Axis, that is the entire stretch. All these stretches, the college planted Ticks and these Ticks are more than 30 years old.

Another information about the land is that, originally the land even extended beyond Akure-Owo Express, extended to the other side of the road, but it was the Express Road that cut part of the College land. Up till today, the Ticks planted by the college in the 70’s and 80’s were still standing on the other side of the Express. So, that is to tell you that the college has been in possession of the land for the past six decades and the family that is now laying claim came in 2014. The question is where are the family before now? This is a land no family approach the college to lay claim to in the last 60 years. So, they just woken up and started claiming ownership of the land. We are at the Court of Appeal, waiting for the ruling of the Court over the land.

For how long has the College been struggling to claim its land as against the judgement being paraded by the family in question?

We have been on this since 2016 and we are very optimistic of getting judgment from the Court of Appeal. Recently, there’s positive development in the case heard at the Court of Appeal. On the 9th of February, the court eventually sat and heard the case; the judges agreed to fix a date for the judgement. Without mincing words, we are hopeful and confidence of victory at the Court of Appeal.

Why is the family not being patient and wait for the outcome of the Court of Appeal judgement?

It is because they want to defraud innocent people. Once a case is in Court, one would expect the family to wait for the outcome of the judgement. If it might interest you, they don’t have anything to back up their claim accept the judgement gotten from the Lower Court. What the law stipulate on land matter is that, if you get a judgement on a land matter and you are not the one in possession before the judgement, such person or family must not rush to the land but get “Deal of Possession” from the Court, get the Court Bailee together with the Police to go to the land. It is the Court Bailee that will determine the boundary of the land before you can do anything on the land.All these procedures stated could only be effective if other party that the judgement didn’t favour did not Appeal the judgement and if otherwise, the lower court won’t give you Writ of Possession in the first instance.
The lower court will wait until the Appeal is dispose off. This family did not obtain Writ of Possession nor follow due process and again, the College Appealed the matter of which judgement has not been given. They don’t have any locus standi to near the land let alone doing anything until the Appeal is dispose off.

What you are saying is that, they ignore what the law says about acquisition?

Even if the Appeal goes in their favour, they must pass through the normal procedure set by the law before they could lay claim to the land but as we are speaking, the Appeal Court is yet to made any pronouncement on the case. Despite that, they are encroaching the land with intent to defraud people. To deceive the public, they are saying the College has not appeal the judgement just to defraud them. Secondly, they are also saying the College has ceded the land to them, that is what they have been telling people buying the land from them. They are cutting the land into plots and selling to buyers. As College, we are less concern about people buying land from the family because to us, they have just been defrauded. If a land that has pending litigation were being sold to the gullible buyers, it is at their own risk. All we won’t allow with the help of police authority is to prevent any structure being erected on the land pending the ruling of the Judges at the Court of Appeal.

Aside approaching the Court, has the leadership of the College taken other measures to resolve the matters?

We are also engaging the community Leaders, traditional rulers, state government and Federal Authority. We are doing more of advocacy especially with Akure and Oba-ile communities to curb the activities of the land grabbers by calling them to order. Also, the Community Leaders are in the best position to warn members of their community from transacting business with these land grabbers. Also, we are also engaging the Media to enlighten the public on the need to be wary of these people laying claim to the College’s land.

FECA is a federal government institution, what is the federal authority doing as regard this Land matter?

The College is owned by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security. The Ministry is very much aware of the matter even to the highest authority. They are following closely and Counsels from Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Land and Housing are always around to be part of the court process.

What is the negative effects of the activities of the land grabbers and court litigation on the college?

The Management, Staff and Students of the college feel concern about the activities of this family. To let the world know what we are facing, our students came out to protest the threat to their safety by the activities of these land grabbers. Not only did they come to destroy our plantations but also pulled down our fence and allow free entrance and exit of kidnappers, criminals into the College. Again, the damages they are doing to our plantations, coming to the College with Chainsaws to cut our Ticks, they are just uncontrolled set of criminals feeding fat on the College Ticks but very soon, they will meet their waterloo when the Court of Appeal rules.

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What is your appeal to Government, Traditional rulers, Community Leaders, Staff of the college and students as you await Appeal Court ruling?

To my students and staff, they should be calm as stakeholders in the state are looking seriously into the matters. The Security Agency and government are assuring them of safety and whoever is bend in truncating the peace of the college will be brought to book. To the community and traditional leaders, I want to appeal passionately to their conscience, in the sense that, this is the first higher institution in Ondo State. The College is older than FUTA, AAUA, RUGIPO and other institutions in the state. FECA is a legacy institution for Ondo State which must not be allowed to go into extinction because if these land grabbers succeed, it may lead to the extinction of the College.

Could it be that, the land grabbers thought the College is not using the expanse land which led to the encroachment?

Probably they are doing this is because they believe the land the college is occupying is too large and lying fallow, not knowing that we are College of Agriculture, there’s a specific portion or expanse of land we must have, whether we are using it now or not, lying fallow or not, it does not matter because for NBTE to accredit us, there’s a specific land we must possess. If we have less than the stipulated land, we will lose accreditation for all our programmes. What this means is that, if we lack require portions of land, the Federal Government might have no choice than to relocate the College to another state. The State Government, Traditional Rulers and all stakeholders should know the implications of what the family is pursuing with the college. Probably, we are not utilizing the land now, it serves as one of the minimum requirement for accreditation as College of Agriculture.

Who knows in the future, the Federal Government could decide to upgrade the College into Federal University of Agriculture and one of the basic criteria is the land the land grabbers want to take by force. Our stakeholders must think deeply and consider the future of the college and future opportunities rather than self centre interest at the detriment of the state.

Your appeal to the security agencies?

Currently, we are getting necessary support from the security agencies but we are appealing to them to do more, secure the lives of the students and staff of the college from the activities of the land grabbers and also help us to curb their incursion. I want to use this medium to thank the Police, Amotekun Security Network and other Security Outfits in the state for their support and cooperation but intensifying more efforts will definitely silence the Land grabbers from our College.

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