By Dapo Akinrefon
IT is no longer news that some Fulani herdsmen are engaged in nefarious activities in the country. As a matter of fact, the activities of these suspected Fulani herdsmen especially in the South-West has reached alarming proportions with angry reactions trailing their deeds.
Their attacks on various communities have left tales of sorrow, tears and blood. Perhaps peeved by the recent attack on Oke-Ako community in Ikole local government area of Ekiti State by suspected Fulani herdsmen last week which left at least two persons dead, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State proscribed their activities.
Fair share of attacks
The Oke Ako attack left several villagers injured with many of them fleeing to neighbouring Irele, Ipao, Ikole in Ekiti State and Ponyan in Kogi State. Aside the Ekiti episode, the South-West has had its fair share of attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen in recent times.
One of such cases was the invasion and abduction of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Chief Olu Falae from his farmland. Others are the attacks on Lagun, Iyana Offa, Offa, Atagba, Lapata and their surrounding communities in Lagelu Local Council Area of Ibadan, Oyo State, where a group of Fulani armed men allegedly attacked their communities at night, injured a guard and carted away valuables.
Besides this, more than five farms and surrounding agrarian communities were allegedly visited during the attack, with eyewitnesses saying they also suspected that the attackers were Fulani herdsmen because of their mode of dressing. Also, the recent abduction of a former Minister of State for Education, Senator Iyabo Anisulowo by armed men alongside her security aide on Igbogila road in Yewa North local government area of Ogun State calls for worry.
The series of attacks carried out by suspected Fulani herdsmen has caused increased tension in the South-West. Though there has been proposal for the establishing of grazing areas for cattle rearers across the country, but divergent views have greeted the notion.
Fayose bans open grazing in Ekiti: With the recent attack in Ekiti State, Governor Fayose ordered the banning of open grazing and cattle rearing in the State, saying those interested in cattle farming should get their private ranches. He also hinted of a move to prohibit and criminalise movement of cattle from one location to another in the state. During his visit to Oke-Ako in Ikole Local Government Area of the State, which was invaded by Fulani herdsmen where two residents of the town were killed and others injured,
Fayose warned that government will henceforth confiscate any cattle seen anywhere in the State apart from ranches created for them by their owners. Lampooning the activities of the Fulani herdsmen that carried out the attacks on Oke-Ako and other communities in the country, he tagged them as “agents of the devil that must be fished out and punished accordingly.”
Fayose said: “We will not leave our lands for Fulani herdsmen and in a system where the leadership of the country looks the other way while our people are being killed, we will have no option than to defend ourselves by whatever means.”
As a means of assuring members of the community and by extension, the state that such attacks will not repeat itself, the governor directed that “cattle rearing and grazing should stop in Ekiti State and those interested in cattle farming should henceforth do so in their own ranches.” He was quick to warn that; “No more movement of cattle from one location to another in the state and any cattle seen anywhere in Ekiti State apart from the ranch created for them by their owners will be confiscated by the government and their owners will be prosecuted.”
Apparently irked by the attack, he said: “A bill to this effect will be sent to House of Assembly for passage into law to criminalise cattle owners whose animals are found moving from one location the other in the State.” He also took a swipe at President Muhammadu Buhari, who he described as the patron of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) for allegedly not taking necessary steps at curbing the menace.
Killing of Fulani herdsmen
Fayose, who has been a hard critic of the Buhari presidency, said “If President Mohammadu Buhari, who is the patron of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) has refused to call the herdsmen to order, we in Ekiti will no longer harbour herdsmen who go about killing our people, destroying our farmlands and raping our women.
“If the same President Buhari that was so concerned about the killing of Fulani herdsmen in Saki, Oke Ogun Area of Oyo State such that he, as a private citizen led Arewa to Ibadan on October 13, 2000, to confront the then Governor of Oyo State, late Alhaji Lam Adesina is now keeping silent when the same herdsmen are killing our people, we must rise and defend ourselves. “It is our duty to protect our people and we are going to do that without fear or favour,” he noted.
Afenifere backs Fayose: Reacting to the development, the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere threw its weight behind the governor saying it was a timely move. Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yinka Odumakin, in a statement said “our attention has been drawn to the courageous move by the Ekiti state Governor,Mr Ayodele Fayose to ban cattle grazing in the state.
The action of the governor is a timely move to strengthen the civilization that places higher premium on human lives above cows. We have sacrificed enough blood in the unending cycle of bloodletting by Fulani herdsmen the latest being those killed in Ekiiti two days ago.”
Afenifere noted that “the responsible action of the governor should jolt the Federal Government that has appeared largely indifferent to the murderous activities of the Fulani herdsmen to act responsibly over this matter. We fully endorse this action which is in conformity with the resolution of the 2014 National Conference that cattle breeders must embrace ranching as against grazing reserves being canvassed in certain quarters.”
Northern youths fire salvo: Not satisfied with the decision of the Ekiti State government to ban cattle rearers from moving around in the state, the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum said the governor was in a hurry to take the decision.
Banning ofcattle rearers
He, however, called on all and sundry to be tolerant of one another noting that banning of cattle rearers in the South may send the wrong signals to Northerners. President of the group, Alhaji Yerima Shetimma said “whatever good intentions he has, people from the north will assume he has ethnic bias.
The governor should not have taken such steps because we all know that the issue is before the president and there are plans in the offing to checkmate the exceesses of these evil minded people parading themselves as Fulani herdsmen to perpetuate evil. We should not restrict the movement of the cattle rearers but we should find ways of addressing the issues at hand.”
Yerima added: “But beyond that, I see the activities of the so called herdsmen carrying these attacks as politics. I think we should give the presidency a benefit of the doubt to tackle the activities of the suspected Fulani herdsmen before governments at the state level takes the decision of banning cattle rearers. If you ask people not to go about their buisnesses lawfully, it would send the wrong signals to the North. It may even lead to disunity and escalate the trouble. So, I think the governor was in a hurry to take such decision.”