With no social amenities, life is solitary, poor in Mariwo
Fifty years ago, the people of Mariwo community in Ifedore Local Government Area of Ondo State seemed close to being beneficiaries of development, having provided acres of land to the Old Western Region, used for farm settlements. HAKEEM GBADAMOSI, after a visit, reports that despite the efforts by the then government, the community cannot boast of social amenities.
When the people of Mariwo community voluntarily released their lands to the Obafemi Awolowo-led government of the Old Western Region to be used as farm settlement, it was to attract development and growth to their community through agriculture. It was this realisation that necessitated the voluntary release of about 1000 acres of land for farming.
Farm settlements were established by the Awolowo administration across the Western region, to provide a model for farmers to learn modern techniques and methods of scientific farming, and to serve as a source of employment generation for the teeming youths.
However, the motive of the people of Mariwo Kingdom in developing their community by embracing the scheme has remained a mirage, as the dream of developing the land was never realised, 50 years after releasing their land.
In Mariwo Kingdom, a community of well over 4,000 people, situated some three miles off Ilara-Mokin, also in Ifedore Local Government Area of the state, there is no single school in the community, no health centre, potable water, energy, improved sanitation, markets, drainage, waste management facilities, among others.
We have become beggars on our land –Traditional ruler
Speaking on the observed underdevelopment of the Mariwo community, the traditional head of the community, Oba Julius Adegoke Aluko, the Onimariwo of Mariwo land, said their days of underdevelopment dated back to the days of the old Western region, when the community embrace the idea of farm settlements in their domain.
He said: “The scheme started in 1964 and we gladly embraced it with the belief that the project would usher in positive development but we were proved wrong. We gave out about 648 acres of land for the establishment of the farm settlement. Our traditional heads then had an agreement with them that proceeds from the farms should be used to develop this community, and we were promised infrastructural facilities for our area.
The monarch explained that they found themselves in their present predicament after the Western government of Nigeria decided to hands off some 12 farms settlements across the region, one of which was Mariwo. He listed the farm settlements to include: Orin Ekiti, Igbogila, Iresadu, Lalupon, Ajegunle, and Imariwo. Others include, Erio, Okeigbo, Akufo, and Ago Iwoye.
According to him, these farm settlements were recommended to be returned to their local communities owners as findings of a study group put together by the government in 1974 revealed that most of the above listed farm settlements were either too small or not productive.
He, however, said eleven out of the 12 listed farm settlements had been returned to the original communities, except Mariwo, while the people of the community were prevented from operating on the land.
“Sadly, the farm settlement is now hardly in use. All the former occupants of the farms have either left the farm or are old and just live there without doing any serious business on the farm. The few we see around only come around to either lease lands to some new farmers and who are reaping where they did not sow, as they are collecting huge money on lease from the lands.
He said when the community noticed that the farm settlement had contributed to the underdevelopment of the land, they opted to clear the bush and encourage the young undergraduates in the area to embrace agriculture and to open up the community, officials of the Ministry of Agriculture stormed the area, inviting the community leaders to a meeting on June 27, 2017.
“We are ready to take possession of our lands to develop our people; we are backward in terms of development. We have made several attempts to construct a direct road to link the expressway for easy access to Mariwo, but all these efforts were thwarted by the farm settlers.”
According to him, some groups of youths in the area who showed interest in agriculture were discouraged by the action of “fake settlers” who left the practice of agriculture and who had refused to allow others to make use of the land, even if it belonged to their forefathers.
The traditional ruler lamented the failure of subsequent governments to give priority to the establishment of schools and health centres in the area. He commended Mimiko’s adminstration for the establishment of health centre, which he said was provided with no facilities and had been overtaken by bushes, while the roads linking the community with Ilara-Mokin were nothing to write home about.
“Our children, on daily basis, trek about five kilometres to schools in neighbouring towns and villages. Despite our population, subsequent governments have failed to establish schools here; there’s no clinic and we lack other basic necessities of life.
“Armed men frequently visit us here without any hindrance. I have been attacked by these hoodlums several times, who carted away my properties and cash. We are helpless and many of my subjects have relocated to other areas over fear of attack by hoodlums and armed robbers,” the monarch stated.
He also called for the security of lives and properties in the area, but noted that the activities of the farm settlers seemed to be aiding criminal activities. He said: “The idle and inactive settlers, who failed to work on farms, turning our community to forest, are encouraging criminally-minded people to use here to perpetrate their nefarious acts.”
Also speaking, the youth leader of the community, Ariyo Daramola, said the need to clear the farm settlement became imperative because it had become home to kidnappers and other criminals. According to him, kidnappers usually keep their victims in the settlement.
He said: “Just a few days ago, an okada rider was attacked and killed and the hoodlums left with his motorcycle. Many people have been attacked that way here, while most people are leaving the community over fear of attacks and losing their lives.
“We now sleep with our eyes open and we have written series of letters to the local government chairman and police authorities to save our souls from these criminals. During the last campaign for governorship election in the state, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu was here and promised to look into our plight if elected. He promised to build schools for us and we are waiting to see this fulfilled.”
In his response to the allegation, the caretaker chairman of Ifedore Local Government Area, Hon. Ajibola Oladipupo, alleged that the leaders of the community were carrying out illegal sales of government land. He confirmed that the community used to be the seat of the local government before the creation of more local governments in 1991, while the headquarters was transferred to Ilara mokin and now Igbaraoke.
Oladipupo denied importing hoodlums to the community but said he was in Mariwo community to assess some certain development. He also lamented over the level of backwardness in the area and expressed the commitment of the present administration in state to bringing life to the community.