Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state, has moved to end what looked like modern day serfdom in Nigeria, after listening to the complaints by some farmers that they pay rent to a powerful ‘landlord’, who claims to own the land.
Yoruba farmers in Okada, Ovia North East Local government told the governor during a visit that they pay a yearly rent of N40 million to the ‘landlord’.
An obviously angry Oshiomhole, a former labour leader told the farmers to stop further payment to the individual.
Oshiomhole said the land in question is the property of the government.
“Under no circumstance should you pay taxes to an individual and I warn that if you do, we will evict you from the land,” Oshiomhole said having been told by the farmers that they were constantly under threats to pay.
Comrade Oshiomhole said the land which the individual sublet out does not belong to him, adding “as far as I know, there are only two custodians of land in Edo State. First, is that all land is vested in the state government; the second is the Oba of Benin by virtue of the fact of being the Oba of Benin and the history behind that institution as regards traditional ownership of land.
“As far as I know government policy across the country is that Nigerians cannot be tenant farmers particularly on government-owned lands, because the land in question is government-owned that was reserved for an individual for the purpose of farming by himself, not to sublet to actual farmers who then pay royalties to him. The only person who can collect royalties in Edo State is the Oba of Benin, no other person as far as I know.”
Oshiomhole noted that there were no second class citizens in the state, and that the state government treats all Nigerians equally.
“What you are expected is to pay your personal income tax. You are an Hausa man, you are an Ibo man, you are Itsekiri man, you are Ijaw and you live in the land area called Edo, you are not a second class citizen. Where you live you have the right to farm. And the money you make from you farming is your money, the only think that the law requires of you is to pay your personal income tax.
“So if you make as much as N10 million in income, we will assess your income tax on the basis of your earning but you cannot pay tax to individuals, no matter how highly placed. I as the Governor I cannot ask you to pay tax to me if I give you land to farm. That land is government land, and when I exercise my privileges as a Governor, it doesn’t make me a governor, it doesn’t make me a landlord.
“Under no circumstances should you pay taxes to an individual and I warn that if you do, then we will evict you from that land. All those lands you are talking about have been recovered by the government of Edo State. That land is reserved, you are entitled to farm on it within the agreed rules and if any dues are to be paid, they will paid directly to the treasury of Edo State Government,” Oshiomhole said.
Earlier in his speech, spokesman of the Yoruba community in Okada, Mr. Opajobi Semiu, told the Governor that the five camps of Yoruba community in Okada pay N40 million per annum to an individual who says he is owner of the government land and that they stopped the payment in June last year, when the Governor said the land actually belonged to Government during a visit.
They however said the said individual has been harassing them to pay up or get evicted from the land.
Mr. Semiu said they have no schools, healthcare centre or water despite the huge sums collected from them from the individual. He urged Governor Oshiomhole to quickly come to their aid and provide the necessary amenities to their communities.