…Herdsmen attacks sweep through South-West
By Dayo Johnson – Regional Editor, South-West, Gbenga Olarinoye – Oshogbo, Ola Ajayi – lbadan, Daud Olatunji – Abeokuta, Rotimi Ojomoyela – Ado-Ekiti
THE rapacious activities of herdsmen in the South-West have left tales of woes and many persons, including aged farmers, hacked to death on their farms while their wives and female children are not only raped but also butchered and vital body parts carted away.
Annoyingly, the families of those murdered on their farms were left to bury their dismembered bodies and made to live with such a bad memory.
Also destroyed in the geo-political zone are hundreds of hectares of farmlands and in many cases cash and food crops burnt.
Herdsmen are also accused of rampant kidnapping of residents.
Farmers are abandoning their farms in droves because of the unending activities of herdsmen who lead their cattle to graze on the farmlands.
Notable personalities such as a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Chief Olu Falae, had suffered untold hardship in the hands of suspected herdsmen.
His massive farm, located at Ilado in Akure North, Ondo State, has been set ablaze by the assailants many times.
He was equally kidnapped in broad daylight while on his farm and spent days in captivity only to be released 96 hours after a ransom of N5million was paid. Whereas seven of his abductors were caught, prosecuted and sentenced to life imprisonment, most of those who attacked other victims were never apprehended not to talk of being brought to justice.
On the recent attack of his farm, Falae had said, “They burn my farm every year so that fresh grass can grow for their cattle to eat. This is the third time they’ll be setting my farm ablaze”.
In another act of impunity linked to herdsman in Ondo State, a 28-year-old mother of two, Florence Godday, was attacked by machete wielding herdsman who she claimed nearly raped her on her farm in Igbo Abo, near Osi community in Akure North.
Speaking on her ordeal, the woman explained that she was working alone on her farm on the fateful day when the herdsman attacked, gagged her and tore her clothes preparatory to raping her.
She narrated that the gag miraculously slipped from her mouth following which she raised the alarm to attract nearby villagers. The attacker fled but not before dealing her machete blows.
“I can’t really explain the motive behind the attack by the herdsman, maybe to kill me or to rape me, but he had removed my wrapper and blouse before I could raise the alarm and he dealt machete blows on me”, Florence said.
The husband, a member of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Thomas Godday, mobilised and got the suspect arrested but he was later set free by the state Police Command which described him as a scavenger who attempted to sexually abuse the woman and injured her in the process. The police denied that he was a herdsman but a northerner.
A suspected herdsman, who allegedly stabbed a driver, Victor Ajisafe, at Road Block area of Ibadan Garage in Akure South, has not been apprehended almost a month after the incident.
Ajisafe was said to have met his untimely death after a minor disagreement between him and the herdsman.
The wife of the deceased, Oluwatoyin, said, “We appeal to government and the police to arrest the Fulani herdsman who killed my husband in his prime. He must face the consequences of his action.”
Last December, some farmers in Arodoye community in Akure South took time off their farming activities to celebrate Christmas and New Year with their families only to return to discover that their over 200 hectares of farmlands had been attacked by herdsmen whose cattle fed freely on the crops.
A 65-year-old woman, Patience Salami, who was met on one of the farmlands by the rampaging herdsmen, was murdered; her body dismembered and parts like the tongue, breasts and private part carted away.
The victims petitioned the state government, security agencies, the state House of Assembly and the state Ministry of Agriculture on the development.
They listed some of the farm produce destroyed by the herdsmen to include cassava, cocoa, cocoyam, yam, vegetables while some part of the cocoa farms were set on fire.
Speaking on behalf of the farmers, a victim, who is also a judge of the Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Michael Owoyemi, traced the genesis of the invasion to December 2016 when some herdsmen harvested most of the farm produce in the community while they were away for Christmas /New Year.
He noted that the 2016 attack was small compared to the latest assault.
Owoyemi explained that the herdsmen returned last December destroying over 5,000 heaps of cassava in his 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.
“The herdsmen are determined to send us farmers out of business in the South-West and unless steps are taken by the authorities, the situation may degenerate to ethnic clashes. What they have destroyed in a twinkle of an eye is worth millions of Naira”
Another victim, Gabriel Ikoja, 68, who claimed to have started farming in the area in 1985, said he never experienced the kind of the latest destruction.
“We want to call on the state government to emulate Ekiti by enacting a law to control grazing activities because there is no question about the fact that this is becoming a monster, it is getting dangerous while the audacity is very disturbing.”
“They have turned us to perpetual debtors because some of the tools we use in the farms were procured with bank loans. The herdsmen will just get there and destroy our farmlands. The state government should rise up to help us.”
The community head, the Olu of Arodoye, Chief Idowu Ajetumobi Fasuyi, said apart from the destruction of farms, most people had fled the community while those that remained had been living in fear.
The Senior Special Assistant to the state governor on Agriculture, Mr. Akin Olotu, at a meeting with stakeholders, said there should be a form of identification for cattle rearers and their cattle to distinguish the erring ones in the state.
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu also disclosed the determination of the state government to end clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Ondo, saying plans were underway to resuscitate the ranch established by the Chief Obafemi Awolowo administration in Akunnu-Akoko area of the state.
Last week however, some herdsman, said to have been led by an 8-year-old herder, sacked Akure South LGA secretariat.
The lad had reportedly led his cattle to feed on a vegetable farm at the back of the council secretariat and, when challenged, he drew out a dagger and stabbed the farm manager.
A fight reportedly ensued and the boy wounded but, moments later, several herdsmen emerged with dangerous weapons, invaded the council secretariat, forcing workers to flee in different directions.
Some brides and their grooms, who had come to the council’s registry for the solemnisation of the holy matrimony, also fled on seeing the herdsmen, said to be numbering over 30 and brandishing dangerous weapons.
The council boss, Margaret Atere, it was learnt, was ferried out of the council premises by her aides during the incident.
For three days thereafter, the workers, out of fear of a reprisal attack, stayed away from work.
The state Commissioner of Police, Gbenga Adeyemi, who led his men and the governor’s Special Adviser on Security to the LGA secretariat to assess the situation, tried to play down the incident which he described as a minor disagreement.
Ogun: Death on farmland
The situation in Ogun State is not entirely different from Ondo’s. In January, some suspected herdsmen invaded a farm and destroyed N6.8 million worth of produce. The farm is located in Likosi-Alabata village in Papalanto area of Obafemi-Owode local government area of the state and belonging to one Roseline Ogege. Same month, another group of suspected herdsmen reportedly attacked two female primary school teachers in Onigbedu area of Ewekoro LGA while a farmer was killed on his farmland at Afon in Imeko-Afon LGA in an incident blamed on herdsmen.
Both incidents occurred after the state government took measures to prevent clashes between herdsmen and farmers and to ensure safety of lives and property and the state Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Iliyasu, convened a stakeholders’ meeting to discuss the clashes. The government said the herdsmen attacks affected Yewa North,Obafemi-Owode,Odeda and Ijebu-Ode LGA among others. The Secretary to the State Government, Taiwo Adeoluwa, who spoke on behalf of the state government, said Yewa North was hardest hit. He, however, vowed that government will invoke the recently passed anti-land grabbing law in Ogun to curtail herdsmen/farmers clashes.
Oyo: One killed, hunters deployed
Since the latest killing of a farmer in Iseyin by suspected herdsmen, the Yoruba farmers group, Agbekoya, has deployed hunters to areas that appear to be flashpoints. The strained relationship between herders in the state and farmers dates back to many years ago.
According to a chieftain of Agbekoya, the influx of herders into Yorubaland was not considered a threat due to the hospitable nature of the people. But as the number of herders grew, trouble started as their cattle increased in number and needed more grazing fields.
This informed their movement away from their grazing routes to destroy farmlands.
The people of Oke Ogun area of Oyo State are worst-hit. There is hardly a week that there is no issue between Saki residents and herders. It was gathered that the population of herdsmen has now surpassed that of natives.
In a meeting convened by the Oyo State Commissioner of Police, Mr Abiodun Odude, he appealed to both parties to live together in peace.
Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s representative at the meeting, Mr Segun Abolarinwa, said the peace enjoyed in the state was as a result of the collective efforts of government and security agencies.
He said, “We don’t want a repeat of attacks that engulfed states like Taraba, Benue, Enugu and Yobe here in Oyo. We have been living together in peace for several years. Robbery attacks and violent activities of members of NURTW have stopped and we don’t want anything to rupture the peace. If there is trouble in Nigeria, with the population of about 170 million, where do we run to?
EKITI: Despite law, pregnant woman, one other killed
In Ekiti State, the anti- open grazing law enacted by the Governor Ayodele Fayose-led government, which initially curtailed the nefarious activities of herdsmen in the state, now appears dormant, especially in the face of current killings allegedly perpetrated by herdsmen.
The law, titled, “Prohibition of Cattle and Other Ruminants Grazing in Ekiti, 2016,” criminalises grazing in some places within the state and outside certain period in the day. It also prohibited carriage of any kind of weapon by herdsmen.
Aside the legal measures against killer herdsmen, local hunters of border communities across the state have been mobilised and empowered with vehicles and funds by Governor Fayose to tackle them.
However, in the last two months, several killings and destruction of farmlands have been recorded across Ekiti.
In January, a pregnant Tiv woman was hacked to death in a farm settlement located in Orin-Ekiti in Ido/Osi LGA by people referred to as “Bororo herdsmen”. A former Chairman of the LGA, Prince Sanmi Olubummo, who confirmed the incident, disclosed that another victim of the attack was receiving treatment in hospital.
It was gathered that the incident was a reprisal attack. A particular herdsman was said to have been attacked by a group of Tiv natives who were enraged at the damaged done to their farmlands by the cattle of some herdsmen and immediately launched an attack on the cattle.
Some weeks ago, another group of suspected herdsmen struck again, hacking to death a father of two, Olayemi Tunde, in Ipao area of Ikole LGA. Olayemi, a motorcyclist, was reportedly killed while returning from his farm.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that the deceased had gone to his farm to harvest cassava when he met his untimely death.
Following the killings, a security meeting was called by Fayose who proposed that the Ekiti anti-grazing law should be amended in such a way to earn the confidence of herdsmen.
The governor said the amendment would provide one year jail term for anyone who kills herdsmen’s cattle, as well as provision of compensation for affected herdsmen.
He promised to set up a panel to investigate the root cause of the Ipao attack.
OSUN: 100 acres of farmlands, crops worth hundreds of millions lost
In Osun State, there are claims that herdsmen recently attacked two villages and destroyed farmlands worth hundreds of millions of naira.
The villages were identified as Oki and Uro in Obokun East LGA.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that the attacks occurred on January 20.
One of the affected farmers, Prince Patrick Olaniyan, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Business Administration of The Polytechnic, Imesi- Ile, confirmed that he lost over three hundred thousand worth of crops to the attack.
Another victim, Prince Samuel Ajiboye, said his plantain farm was destroyed. The farm, sited on five acres of land, was, according to him, cleared of the plantain by the cows of the herders before day break. He claimed to have spent over one million naira on the enterprise before the incident.
In the case of Pa Joseph Osundare, another staff of the polytechnic, the cassava planted on his two acres of land in Uro and estimated at about five hundred thousand naira was eaten up by the herdsmen’s cattle
About 100 acres of mangoes, pineapple, plantain plantations and cassava farms were also reportedly set ablaze in Esa Oke area of Obokun East LCDA) by suspected herdsmen.
Some of the farmers, who spoke to our correspondent, put the cost of their economic crops at hundreds of millions of Naira.
They called on the state government, which leased the farmlands to them at Esa Oke Farm Settlement, to come to their rescue.
One of the victims, Mr Sola Obembe, said, “On January 26, our farms were set ablaze by herdsmen and over 100 acres of farmland were burnt with economic trees valued at hundreds of millions of Naira.
“Also in Ikoyi town, we had a trial farm of tomato and cucumber of about 200 acres which was also set ablaze. The fire started around 5.30 pm and spread quickly as we have plastic mulch and drop lines all over. Fortunately, some of our workers who live close were still around and they tackled the blaze”.
Osun State Commissioner for Special Duties, who doubles as the Chairman of the Peaceful Co-Existence between herders and farmers in the state, Mr Oguntola Mudsiru Toogun, confirmed the attacks but said about 29 farmers affected at Esa Oke had been paid compensation by the erring herders.
He said government was taking proactive measure to foster peace and harmony in the state, assuring that efforts were on-going to sustain peace and avert any clash between farmers and herders.