By Dayo Johnson, Akure
RESIDENTS of Arodoye in Akure South local council area of Ondo State would live to remember the day some rapacious herdsmen invaded their community leaving a tale of woes.
Aside the destruction of over 200 hectares of farmlands by the herdsmen’s cattle, of concern was the cold blooded murder of one female farmer Patience Salami said to be about 67 years old.
After killing her, the herdsmen reportedly cut her body into pieces. They then carted away her tongue, heart, private part and breasts.
The incident, it was learnt, took place after most of the residents had travelled to celebrate the yuletide outside the community.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that the herdsmen’s cows not only had a field day eating up the crops and destroying the farmlands, the herders also settled to operate on the hapless old woman.
Worse still, the rampaging herders destroyed 5,000 heaps of cassava belonging to a judge of the Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Michael Owoyemi. He said the herders took advantage of the break, brought their cattle and uprooted all the cassava in his farm to feed their cows.
Speaking with Sunday Vanguard, a friend of the deceased, Madam Bolanle Raheem, 65, said the victim was gruesomely murdered and vital parts of her body taken away by the herdsmen.
“I usually leave the community on Thursday for Akure, the state capital, so that I can attend mosque on Friday”, the friend narrated.
“One of the farmers called me on Saturday to say my friend had been murdered. “I rushed back to the community to behold the dismembered body of my friend. “The activities of the herdsmen in the community are worrisome. We appeal to government and security operatives to come to our aid”.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that farmers, who resumed for work on the first week of January, were devastated by the level of destruction in their farms.
They subsequently raised the alarm and reported the case to the community leaders and state police command while a petition was forwarded to the state government, security agencies, the state House of Assembly and the state Ministry of Agriculture on the incident.
They lamented the incessant invasion of their farms by herdsmen, saying millions of Naira worth of agricultural produce had been lost. The farmers said the herdsmen struck during the Christmas and New Year break when most of them had travelled outside the community to celebrate with their families.
They listed the farm produce destroyed to include cassava, cocoa, cocoyam, yam, vegetables while some cocoa farms were set on fire. Justice Owoyemi, who is the spokesperson for the farmers, traced the genesis of the invasion to December 2016.
Owoyemi, who noted that the 2016 destruction was small, lamented that the latest attack was disastrous.
“The herdsmen returned last December, destroying over 5,000 heaps of cassava in my farm. They took the advantage of the break and brought their cattle and uprooted all the cassava in my farm to feed their cows”, he said. “We have reported the herdsmen to security agents and also to the Deji of Akureland, Oba Aladelusi Aladetoyinbo, who promised to wade into the matter”.
Speaking on the implications of the development, Owoyemi said with the incessant invasion of farms by herdsmen, “people will be sent out of the farm and this will affect food production in the South west.
“Some people depend on farming while some people are destroying these farms, this will not encourage farming. Most of these people here depend on the farm produce to cater for their families and send their children to school.”
One of the farmers, Gabriel Ikoja, 68, who claimed to have started farming in the area 33 years ago, said he never experienced such destruction.
“The December 2016 destruction was a child’s play compared to the havoc they wreaked on our farms last December. After destroying my farm, they set it on fire”, he lamented.
“This is the source of our livelihood. I am using the proceeds from the farm to train my children. I have two undergraduates in the university and three others in secondary school, we all depend on this farm. We just want to appeal to the state and federal governments to find lasting solution to the herdsmen’s menace before it escalates to ethnic war.”
Another farmer, Florence Adedipe, who said she lost her cassava and cocoa farms, stated in tears, “These herdsmen must be called to order”.
“The state government should rise to help us before they turn us to debtors”
The community head, the Olu of Arodoye, Chief Idowu Ajetumobi Fasuyi, said apart from the destruction of their farms, most residents had fled the community while those remaining were living in fear.
“We are calling on the state government to rescue us from these herders”, he said.
Meanwhile, the murder of the woman and destruction of the farmlands led to an emergency stakeholders’ meeting called by the state government.
The police, the military, the Department of State Security, Fulani settlers, Miyetti Allah, herdsmen, farmers, the state Ministry of Agriculture, traditional rulers and community leaders attended the meeting.
The Senior Special Assistant to the state governor on Agriculture, Akin Olotu, said there should be a form of identification for cattle rearers and their cattle to know the erring ones.
The meeting resolved that a committee, which will be composed of security agents, farmers, herdsmen, Miyetti Allah and the Hausa community, be put in place in all the 18 local government of the state to stem attacks on residents and destruction of farmlands while communities across the state should be sensitised on the need for peaceful co-existence among Fulani herdsmen, the Hausa and farmers.
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu said his administration was determined to end clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
Akeredolu pointed out that plans were underway to resuscitate the ranch established by the Chief Obafemi Awolowo adminstration in Akunnu-Akoko in Akoko North East local government area of the state. He said this will go a long way to curb the activities of herdsmen on farms and also ensure food security in the state.
“Our state has had her share of the crisis but not on the horrendous scale whose odious effect continues to reverberate throughout the country. Our administration is taking proactive steps to ensure that this obnoxious phenomenon is nipped in the bud”, the governor stated.
“While we encourage all those with legitimate intentions to visit our space, we intend to clear the doubt of anyone who may wish to perpetrate crime under nebulous guises.
“We will not tolerate any act of brigandage. We will defend the right of our people to engage in farming without let or hindrance of any sort. We will sanction with impassioned severity any acts which seek to tilt the balance of harmonious coexistence in the state towards anarchy. The full weight of the law will be brought to bear on criminal elements.
The state police command was yet to make any arrest in connection with the murder of the woman and the destroyed farmlands in the community at press time.
But the spokesperson for the command, Femi Joseph, said the police had intensified efforts to curtail the activities of herdsmen. Joseph noted that surveillance across the state had been beefed up.