By Dayo Johnson
SIXTY Four year old father of seven, Linus Ogbeh, left home at about 6.00 am last Sunday to fetch cocoyam for his family members’ breakfast before going to church but he never returned as suspected herdsmen riddled his chest with bullets in his farm. The farm was located next to that of former Secretary to Government of the Federation, SGF, Chief Olu Falae, at the agrarian Ileyo community in lgbatoro, Akure North area of Ondo State.
Linus murder sparked off hours of protests by his kinsmen who are non indigenes that have been farming in the community for over 30 years. After waiting till 10.00am, the wife, Roseline, with two of their children, went searching for him only to discover his lifeless body in his farm with some tubers of coco-yam beside him. An alarm was raised and the entire community erupted in protest.
Both young, including primary school pupils and old non indegenes in the over 200 villages and camps around the community armed with cudgels took to the streets to condemn the murder of Linus. Displaying various placards and green leaves, the non indigenes of Ileyo community said that herdsmen searching for their stray cows resulting from the exchange of gunshots between them and policemen drafted to the farm of the former Secretary to the Government of Federation (SGF), Chief Olu Falae killed, Linus, a native of Ebonyi.
During the invasion of Chief Falae’s farm, the herdsmen engaged in a gun duel with policemen deployed to the farm to dislodge them and in the process many cows were killed. The killing of the farmer also provoked protest by wives and children of non-indigene and other stakeholders in the area, who also condemned the damage being caused by grazing of animals in the farms.
The 54 year old wife of the deceased, Roseline gave an account of how the late husband left home that Sunday morning to fetch coco-yam for their breakfast before going to church but never returned home alive.
She said her husband would not have headed for the farm that morning but because the children failed to inform him that the coco-yam he brought from the farm few days ago had been consumed by them.
Roseline pointed out that her husband’s desire that his family members shouldn’t attend church service with empty stomach, made him to rush to the farm that early morning only to meet his untimely death. According to her, “after we waited and did not see him, l asked two of my children to accompany me to the farm and when we got there one of them saw his father’s lifeless body on the ground and screamed.
“We ran to where he was and discovered that he was dead and very stiff. We saw some gun shot wounds all over his chest and we ran back to the village to inform the elders who asked other farmers to go and fetch him. Because it was late they asked the farmers to stay with his corpse overnight and bring him back to the village the following morning.”
Roseline appealed to government to help her out with the education of the children noting that only two of the seven children had finished secondary school. The deceased’s junior brother, Nicodemus, said that taking his corpse back to Ebonyi State and relating to their over 100-year-old father was a herculean task. Nicodemus appealed to security operatives to help bring to book the killers of his brother and the state government to assist in taking care of his family.
Also speaking with Vanguard, the Baale of the community, Chief Ogunleye Taiwo, said 95 per cent of people living in the area were mostly non-indigenes comprising the Ibos, Agatu, Ebira, Langtang farmers. “This man that was killed had been living here for over 30 years. Chief Falae’s farm is close to us here. Our people cannot go to farm again because of the fear that the herdsmen would attack them.
“This is the time we should be spraying our cocoa farm with chemicals, we cannot go to farm. This area is the food basket of Akure, the state capital but cattle enter our farms without restrain. We are tired of the menace of the herdsmen. The youths in the area had wanted to go and confront the herdsmen, we are the one that had been restraining them because we know what that can cause.”
The traditional ruler of lgbatoro, the Olu of lgbatoro, Oba Adanri Akinsehinde corroborated that that the herdsmen who last week invaded chief Falae farm invaded his community and killed one of his subjects. Oba Akinsehinde said that fear had gripped the people of the community as the herdsmen are still around thereby preventing them from accessing their farmlands.
He appealed to the security operatives to help flush out the herdsmen who have prevented the people from going to farm adding that their farms have equally been destroyed.
Also speaking, the President Coalition of Non Indigenes Associations and Chairman Agatu Farmers Association, Vincent Adonyi, said the menace of herdsmen would worsened the issue of food security if not promptly checked.
Adonyi said: “This is June, we do not have much maize. The cassava is not there and other food crops that we used to grow are not there because people were scared from their farms. Herdsmen drove some of us away from Benue and Plateau states and now that we are here, the herdsmen had come again, this is disturbing and should be of concern to the government.”
Adonyi appealed to the governors of Ebonyi, Enugu and Benue states to enter into a talk with their counterpart in Ondo State on the harrasment by herdsmen in the community and expressed hope that killers of Linus would be brought to book.
The state police spokesman Femi Joseph confirmed the death of the farmer. Joseph, however, said autopsy and investigations would reveal the actual cause of the man’s death
Meanwhile, the state police commissioner Hilda Harrison had deployed more policemen to the community to give them protection. No fewer than 20 policemen were seen on standby when this reporter visited the community after the killing.
Danger posed by the herdsmen
After kidnapping Chief Falae with some of them arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment by the court, some of the herdsmen invaded his farm again and killed one of his guard Ayodele lge who was a members of the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC. Ayodele was the coordinator of OPC in Akure North area of the state and was deployed with others to secure the farm of Chief Falae against another invasion after his kidnap.
The herdsmen kidnapped Ayodele and his corpse was found some days later in a pool of water far from the farm located at Ilado, in Akure North Area of Ondo State. A statement by its state coordinator, Comrade Ogunsanya Pius, issued in said, “The killing has once again brought to the fore the danger posed by the herdsmen to their peace-loving host communities.
Meanwhile. while the corpse of Linus still lies in the morgue for onward transportation to his home town for burial, the question being asked is that where and who is the next target and victim of the rampaging herdsmen who now kill innocent farmers at will after destroying and devouring their farms and raping their wives and daughters.
Their unchecked activities in the state is a worrisome development.