A group, known as the concerned Saki Indigenes, has written to the Oyo state governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde to investigate the circumstances surrounding the purported death of a migratory elephant that was evacuated by the University of Ibadan in Saki West Local Government Area of the state.
The group in a letter made available Oyomesioro.com on Friday, said despite its inquiries, no evidence was made available to show truly that the animal is dead as said by the management of the University of Ibadan Zoological garden.
It would be recalled that a migratory elephant was found near a farm by some farmers in Saki. It was later evacuated by the University of Ibadan. The Director of the University of Ibadan Zoological Garden, Dr Kabir Popoola, confirmed the death of the animal. He said the tusk had been kept in safe custody.
In the letter signed by Mr Moshood Yusuf, the convener of the group, Mr Adeolu Adedokun, co-convener, and Mr Adesope Habeeb, co-convener, the group urged Governor Seyi Makinde to investigate the matter and take the appropriate steps.
They alleged a conspiracy between the Chairman of the local government area, Engineer Sarafadeen Omirinde and the management of the University of Ibadan Zoological garden led by Dr. Kabir Popoola.
The letter reads in full: “We are the concerned youth of Saki. We express our sincere appreciation to you for all the giant strides your administration has been taking in Oke-Ogun, particularly in Saki. You are not only undertaking new developmental projects, but you are also completing your predecessor’s abandoned projects – the path not usually taken by many. All these strides have made you a proverbial elephant too giant even for your political enemies to deny sighting. We wish your administration continued success. We write this petition to officially acquaint you with the crude and cruel; illegal and unprofessional evacuation of a strayed elephant from Kobo, Onigbongbo, Saki by some supposedly stakeholders and the conspiracy that surrounded its purported death.
“Your Excellency Sir, On January 2022, Adesope Abeeb, a farmer and member of concerned Saki youth sighted an elephant in his farm at Kobo, Onigbongbo, Saki. He immediately alerted the people around and posted the information on his Facebook account for Public awareness. Soon afterward, the place literally turned into a tourist center as people from far and near started trooping into the farm to have a close-range sight of the elephant. Sir, it may interest you to know that throughout this period, the animal was harmless, calm, and friendly. Moving forward, the media houses, both print, and electronic media reported the news which attracted more people to the place.
“Sir, on the 9th February, 2022 the Oyo State Ministry of Agriculture headed by Honourable Niyi Adebisi sent a letter to the chairman, Saki West Local Government instructing the latter to take charge of the animal and should, on no account release it to any person or institution while the Ministry was working round the clock to take the appropriate steps. As part of the efforts, an inter-ministerial meeting was proposed involving the Ministries of Agriculture, Justice, Local Government Matters, and Environment with an agendum of how to handle the animal matters without violating any laws and constituting a threat to life and property. Unfortunately, however, the meeting could not hold because the elephant was mischievously evacuated before the meeting date.
“Your Excellency Sir, while the news on the animal was going round, the Forestry and Research Institute sent a letter to the Oyo State Ministry of Agriculture seeking the custody of the animal on a deal, but the Ministry did not yield. Then, the University of Ibadan wrote a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture seeking the evacuation and custody of the animal, but the Ministry declined. The University would not budge still as they came down to negotiate with the Okere of Sàkì, Oba Surveyor Khalid Olabisi on how they could have the custody of the animal. We have reliable information that the University offered the king a sum of #13,000,000, but the Oba rejected the offer and told the University he wields no such power. Committed to their selfish interest and hidden agenda, the University did not rest. They contacted Saki West Chairman, Engineer Sarafadeen Omirinde presenting to him the same request of having the custody of the strayed elephant on a deal. The chairman agreed with the University to the disregard for the earlier instruction of the Ministry of Agriculture. He then conspired with the Ministry of Environment to get predetermined permission from the same Ministry.
“Sir, after the trio of the University of Ibadan, the Saki West Chairman, and the Ministry of Environment perfected their connivance, conspiracy, and deal, the University came down to Saki on February 17, 2022 and evacuated the elephant. Of importance to mention is that the evacuation team was led by one Dr. Kabir Popoola from the zoology department of the University, not a wildlife biologist as one would expect. No wonder the evacuation process is a definition of cruelty to animals. The animal was wickedly tied and unprofessionally lifted to the truck as if it had no life in it. In fact, it was pathetic!
“Your Excellency Sir, we wish to inform you further that after the evacuation, the Saki West Chairman, Engineer Sarafadeen Omirinde transferred a sum of #180,000 to Okere of Saki, Oba Surveyor Khalid Olabisi as the latter’s share from the elephant’s deal. The king in his usual style rejected the money. We also have the evidence that the chairman gave some of his accomplices a sum of #200,000 as their own share from the deal.
“On 18th February, 2022, a day after the evacuation, we heard a sad rumour that the animal was dead. By implication, the animal did not survive the mistreatment. However, this remained a mere rumour until the said Dr. Kabir Popoola declared the animal dead in Punch newspaper. Our hearts have been heavy and our eyes filled with tears since this sad news of ‘murdering’ the harmless animal broke. Sir, the most surprising thing is that up till this moment, the University has not proved the death of the animal beyond mere declaration. All efforts to see the remains of the animal or the pictorial evidence of its death were truncated.
“Sir, the Endangered Species (Control of International Trade and Traffic) Act prohibits individuals to trade in wildlife. It also emphasizes that if such an animal should be transported, its safety and survival must be guaranteed. The questions begging for answers now are: did the Saki West Chairman sell the animal to the University? If he did not what was the money he was sharing meant for? Why did he go overboard to get the harmless animal evacuated against all instructions? Did the University of Ibadan purchase the animal? If they did not why did they explore all means – legal and illegal to have custody of the animal? Why did they keep people in darkness as to the remains of the animal and the circumstances surrounding its death? Why did they evacuate the animal when they could not guarantee its safety and survival? In whose interest are they keeping the purported tusks? The questions go on and on. Your Excellency, Sir, it may interest you to know that the elephant weighed 5 tonnes, and it is worth $1.7 million in the International market.
“Your Excellency, the sustained public records of your stewardship in the last two years have proved beyond any reason that you have zero tolerance for corruption. The fairest TESCOM appointment and establishment of Oyo State Anti-Corruption Agency (OYSACA) by your administration lend credence to this position. This is why we believe strongly that you would not allow this kind of conspiracy and corruption to slide. We are confident that you would use your good office to investigate the matters and take the appropriate steps. We await your actions, Sir. Attached with this letter are some exhibits. Thanks.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman of Saki West Local Government Area, Engineer Sarafadeen Omirinde, while reacting, denied the allegations leveled against him in the petition.
Omirinde while speaking with our correspondent in a telephone conversation said there’s no any conspiracy in the dealings, adding that a Memorandum of Understanding signed by parties involved in the deal is available.
He said anyone doubting the death of the animal should contact or visit the University of Ibadan Zoological garden to confirm.
He said aside the report by Dr Kabir Popoola, he didn’t see the remains of the elephant nor any pictorial evidence.
He reiterated the death of the elephant saying the tusk is now in the custody of a Federal Ministry in Abuja.
He also denied the allegation that he paid the Okere of Saki N180,000 as his own share of the money from the elephant deal.
Also, efforts to reach Dr Kabir Popoola of the University of Ibadan Zoological Garden proved abortive. As his phone number wasn’t reachable.