Twenty hectares of cassava and rice plantations owned by Lehin Investment Farms, have allegedly been burnt by a herdsman previously employed as a security guard by the company.
The consultant of the company, Mr. Daramola Josiah, said the suspect, Hammed Gaa-Alakuko, was employed alongside two other herdsmen to help prevent the destruction of their farm by marauding herdsmen.
Gaa-Alakuko, who was employed in March 2017 and disengaged nine months later, had returned to the business of tending to cattle.
Since Gaa-Alakuko allegedly set the farm ablaze, he has been on the run, while the police are on his trail.
Josiah said since the arson, Gaa Alakuko had been sending emissaries to the company’s management to beg for forgiveness.
Conducting journalists round the affected farm at Idofian/Igberiin in Ifelodun Local Government Area of Kwara State, Josiah estimated the destruction to be about N20m.
According to him, the destruction has negatively affected the efforts of the company to contribute positively towards increasing food production in Kwara State.
He called on the Federal Government and the Kwara State to come to the aid of the company to cushion the effect of the loss.
Josiah said, “We started this plantation last year and planted cassava and maize. I was on the farm working with 11 workers when we discovered the fire coming from the other side of the farmland. It was a hot afternoon and the fire became intense. It took 11 of us three hours to put out the fire.
“About 20 hectares of our cassava farm and two hectares of rice farm that were due to be harvested were destroyed. We were supposed to harvest the cassava this year, while we also lost some economic trees like cashew.”
Meanwhile, the police say that about 20 armed men have attacked a farm camp in Woro village, 30 kilometres from Kaiama in Kaiama Local Government Area of the state and stolen N150,000.
The Kwara State Commissioner of Police, Mr, Lawan Ado, said on Thursday that the suspects were armed with locally made pistols and single barrelled guns.
The CP said in a statement issued by the state Police Public Relations Officer, Okasanmi Ajayi, that statements made by the victims at the camp showed that the bandits also robbed them of food items and clothing.
He said, “On the strength of the report by the victims, men were deployed to trace and arrest the hoodlums. They were traced to a vast game reserve in the area.
“Meanwhile, the local vigilance group and the policemen on the trail of the hoodlums were ambushed. In an exchange of gunfire which ensued, one of the local security men was killed while two are still missing.”
Ado said he had dispatched a detachment of riot policemen and operatives of the State Anti-Robbery Squad to the area to find and arrest the hoodlums.
He also stated that the state government had ordered the redeployment of soldiers to join the police for effective security of lives and property of the citizens.
Ado said, “It was an armed robbery operation by hoodlums who took advantage of the vast game reserve in Kaiama leading to Borgu Local Government Area of Niger State to perpetrate their evil acts. Efforts are ongoing to fish them out and rid the area of criminals.”
But the Chairman of the Kaiama Local Government Area, Abdullahi Abubakar, said the gunmen seemed to have set up a camp around the national park and moved from one community to another to terrorise residents.
According to him, the park covers about 50 kilometres of land between Kaiama in Kwara State and Borgu in Niger state.
He said the attackers would rob residents of cows, food items, and goats and then return to their hideout.
Abubakar said when the complaints of victims became too much, the council deployed members of its local vigilante for surveillance.
He said, “Unfortunately, when the vigilance group approached them in their camp, the criminals killed one of them and three of the vigilance group members went missing in the process.
“We don’t know their whereabouts for now and nobody can go into the bush and start searching for the dead body,” he said.
According to him, at least 50 soldiers had been deployed from the 222 battalion to comb the bush.
The spokesperson for the Kwara State Police Command, Mr. Ajayi Okasanmi, who confirmed the story, said the police had commenced an investigation into the incident.