Army denies beating up cocoa farmers in Cross River

The Nigerian Army has denied authorizing some soldiers to harass and manhandle cocoa farmers last Saturday in their farms in Etung LGA of Cross River State.

The information officer at the 13 Brigade of Nigerian Army army Càlabar, Cross River State, Capt Jemila Jimoh denied drafting any soldiers to accompany one Mr Mbu Liku, a cocoa merchant, to harass cocoa allottees at Abonita Cocoa estate.

The information officer insisted, “Let the person come to us so that we can identify the soldiers.”

Ten cocoa farmers operating in Etung LGA under the aegis of Njor and Cocoa Allottees, led by Mr Asu Njor made the allegation to journalists, disclosing that some armed soldiers had stormed the estate on Saturday and harassed many cocoa farmers.

“Some farmers who went to spray black pod chemicals in plot 77 (Block 7B) were harassed by three armed soldiers in the company of one Mr Mbu Liku, his wife, and another Mr Abolika. The farmers later escaped and took to their heels for fear of their lives.

“The unknown soldiers were parading the area which was legitimately allocated to us by the state government at the Abonita cocoa estate, alleged Mr Njor.

“This is not the first time they are doing that to me, some time ago, I and my workers were chased out by this same group of individuals.”

According to him, Mbu usually does that whenever the cocoa harvest approaches, maintaining that he uses soldiers to chase farmers to enable him to harvest the fruits alone.

“Nobody is above the law. The military should re-direct their efforts to the protection of the common man instead of allowing themselves to be used by certain persons selfishly against law-abiding citizens in civil matters.

“I do not think that there is war at Abonita Cocoa estate to warrant military men coming to chase farmers away.”

The group has requested a thorough investigation on the legality of the soldiers providing security to the said Mr. Mbu Liku who is reported to equally own cocoa plots in the estate.

The aggrieved farmers called on the authorities to caution their personnel not to allow themselves be used by civilian elements to intimidate and harass fellow farmers.

They recalled that three different courts in Etung, Odukpani LGAs as well as Appeal Court Càlabar had cautioned Mbu Liku to steer clear of the cocoa plots, unfortunately, Liku has reportedly refused to heed.

The estate has been in contention with the Cross River State government in suit Nos: HM/73/2020, HC/MSC/24/204, and CA/C/117/2023.

It is learnt that these matters are still pending at the Cross River State High Court Odukpani and the Appeal Court Càlabar.

Reacting to the allegations in a telephone conversation, Mr Mbu Liku denied that he used armed soldiers to intimidate farmers.

He insisted that the allegations against him were false.

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