By Daud Olatunji, Abeokuta
…As residents recount horrifying moments with assailants
For allegedly refusing some herdsmen the usage of their farmlands to graze their herds, no fewer than 21 people of Ketuland in Yewa North local government area of Ogun State were slaughtered while women, young and old, including a bride, were allegedly raped. Among those allegedly killed were five members of a family.
Some Ketuland residents stated these while narrating their ordeal in the hands of the herdsmen who, according to them, always lurked at the border areas close to their community at the approach of the dry season. They feared the same thing might happen this year unless urgent steps were taken to stop the herdsmen. Their spokesmen accused the state government of ignoring their cries for help, saying, in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital, that government seemed to value the herds more than human lives.
The spokesman told the story of a bride who was raped about 24 hours after she wedded on her way to fetch water from a river in the community.
The spokesman, Lasisi Adewole, who represented the leadership of socio-cultural groups, which included Ketu Advancement Front, Ketu Alliance and Ketu People’s Assembly, claimed that no fewer than 21 people have been killed since 2000 when the herdsmen first invaded their farmlands.
Adewole and three farmers in the area: Phillip Akanan from Owode-Ketu, Amosu Olofinjin and Akinola Tunde from Agbon-Ojodu, said they were fed up with the annual killings of their people by the marauding herdsmen.
They insisted that unless Ogun State government and security agencies took urgent steps, more lives would be wasted this dry season.
“Many of our sons and daughters have been gruesomely murdered in a manner that appears as if we don’t have government. Our brilliant ones including our wives have been raped, assaulted. How would you feel if I mention your wife’s name as one of those that have been raped by the cattle rearers? Many of our wives and daughters who have been raped were taken to hospital in Abeokuta, the state capital,” they said.
“We are losing people as well as being prevented from doing what we know how to do best because of the grazing of our farms by the herdsmen’s cattle. With the terrible experience of the raping of our daughters and ones, including the bride, our communities are no longer safe.
“In a matter of days, they will enter the country through our communities and destroy our farmlands with the indiscriminate grazing of their cattle. We are helpless and that’s why we are appealing to the state government to urgently checkmate them.”
Displaying the gory pictures of some of the victims, Adewole alleged that Ogun State government and the police had been footdragging on the killings and rape and even took sides with the herdsmen whenever they attempted to protect themselves against their onslaught”. According to Adewole, recently, they received calls from some of the herdsmen who threatened to enter their communities from Republic of Benin.
“It is against this backdrop that we want to draw the attention of the world to the failure of our government to guarantee our security as demanded of her by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The herdsmen may make good their threat having been receiving protection from our government,” he added.
“The result of this will be a repeat of what we have been experiencing in the past eleven years: murder of innocent people, robbery at gun point, raping of both young and old, especially children of school age, attack on our villages in the dead of the night, arson, destruction of farm produce and forced closure of schools.
“We have taken time to once again chronicle our plight and anguish to further underscore the fact that it is the Ketu people who bear the brunt of the avoidable Ketu/ herdsmen crisis and not any other people.”
The people demanded the execution of a 2007 Ilaro High Court judgment which barred the herdsmen from grazing their cattle in the area and the payment of compensation to the victims of past attacks by Ogun State government and the Yewa North Local Government.
They also called for investigation of the alleged extra-judicial killing of a Junior Secondary School 3 student of Area Community High School, Ibeku by the police. Reacting to the incident, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Muyiwa Adejobi, said the Ketu people were only crying wolf.
He said: “The police could only ensure that there was no breakdown of law and order rather than stopping the herdsmen from coming into the area. They should not drag the police into the matter. “The state government and the House of Assembly have set up a committee on the matter. We are only waiting for the outcome of the exercise”. Also, the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Taiwo Adeoluwa, said the problem between the Ketu people and the herdsmen had been a recurrent one since the past 15 years.
Adeoluwa said the state government had set up a committee comprising the Ketu people, the herdsmen and government officials to tackle the problem. “These are unfair allegations. Recently, I held a meeting with them. The 30 villages in Ketu and the herdsmen too were represented. We’ve told the herdsmen to hold on, that we have set minimum standards for them.”