•We’ve lost over 60 members — Farmers’ association
By Dayo Johnson, Dapo Akinrefon, Ola Ajayi, Rotimi Ojomoyela, Shina Abubakar & James Ogunnaike
THE clash between farmers and herders across the coun-try has led to sorrow, tears and blood.
Already, tongues are wagging over the rising conflict between herders and farmers in Nigeria especially in the South-West which is taking a dangerous dimension if not urgently nipped in the bud.
There have been repeated calls on governments, at all levels, to wade in and calm frayed nerves by finding a lasting solution before it degenerates to a level that can no longer be salvaged.
Unfortunately, the violence between herders and farmers has escalated, killing more than 1,300 people since January 2018.
Also, it has been discovered that three factors have been identified to aggravate the decades-long conflict.
They include the environmental degradation in the far north and encroachment upon grazing grounds in the Middle Belt: militia attacks; the poor government response to distress calls and failure to punish past perpetrators; and new laws banning open grazing in some states.
With the incursion of killer herdsmen into the South-West, stakeholders are no longer at ease with these pastoralists, who have seen the region as a haven to unleash terror on their hosts.
S-West govs should enforce anti-open grazing law
The Director-General of Development Agenda for Western Nigeria, DAWN, Mr. Seye Oyeleye, proposed the enforcing of open grazing law in the region saying it will solve the problem of incessant herders/farmers clashes.
Oyelele said: “Our governor should use the police and Amotekun to enforce the ban on open grazing. You can’t make a law and go to bed expecting that it would be complied with. Former Governor Ayo Fayose enforced the law when he was there.
Our governors are serious but to be seen as serious, they must enforce the anti-open grazing law.
“Open grazing has been banned by states in the South-West and we, at the DAWN Commission, believe this is the first step towards ensuring security in our forests.
“Everybody must comply, we don’t want open grazing. It is the way of life of some people to graze cows but that way of life is harmful to our own way of life which is agriculture and it must stop.”
But the Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE; the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere; the Agbekoya Farmers’ Society, and the Soludero Hunters’ Association, share different views to the farmers/herders’ clashes.
There’s no clash but terror from herders — Afenifere
On his part, Yinka Odumakin, National Publicity Secretary of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, insisted that there is no clash between herders and farmers but terror from herders.
Odumakin said: “There is no clash but terror from herders. The way out is for government to become governmental or for the people to fight back as the Minister of Defence has advised. But enough is enough!”
Govs must ensure enforcement of the law — Agbekoya
While proffering solution to the conflicts, the Agbekoya Farmers’ Society, who spoke through its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olatunji Bandele said: “The South-West governors should enact a law banning open grazing of cattle and ensure the enforcement of the law.
“Nigeria’s porous land borders should be properly manned to prevent illegal foreign Fulani herdsmen from entering Nigeria and the South-West.
Also, erring criminal herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers should be prosecuted. The federal and state governments should conduct farmers and herdsmen enumeration and issue identity cards to them.”
Herdsmen should stop destroying farmlands — Hunters Association
While speaking with Vanguard in a telephone interview, the National President of Soludero Hunters’ Association, Oba Wahab Anabi expressed worry over the pains inflicted on farmers and their families in the region.
Anabi said: “In this year alone, they have killed over 40 people across the state. People keep calling me to inform me about the atrocities of these herders. I don’t know how many women they have raped. They are too many.
“We are not out to kill Fulani because they are our brothers. We are ready to live in peace with them. But, any Fulani herder caught with dangerous weapons will be arrested and handed over to the police.
“Also, those Fulani herders whose intention is to kill, rape, maim our people and destroy our farms will be arrested. Now, we Soludero Hunters’ Association, are in Oke-Ogun area of Oyo State. We are here to ensure that all those bad eggs among Fulani herders are fished out.
“We promise our people that by the time we are able to fish out these bandits, they will experience a great relief.”
When asked how the issue could be resolved, he simply said the violent Fulani herders must stop kidnapping, raping women and destroying their farmlands.
He said: “The only way out is for Fulani herders to stop disturbing the peace of our zone. When they stop kidnapping people, raping our women and destroying our means of livelihood which is farming, there will be peace. But, you don’t expect us to fold our arms while our promising men and women are being hacked down.
“We are ready to live in peace with those Fulani who are not violent or armed with dangerous weapons.”
We’ve lost many members — Farmers’ association
The Chairman, Ondo State Agricultural Commodities Association, OSACA, Gbenga Obawoya expressed worry that no fewer than 10 farmers have been gruesomely murdered since January this year by the herders adding that the herders have destroyed farmlands worth over N500m since January this year.
Obawoya said: “Because of the stigma, those who have been raped kept it to themselves without reporting to the association. But many wives and daughters of farmers have been raped in their presence on their farms. It is really a pitiable experience.”
On his part, the Chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, in Ogun State, Chief Segun Dasaolu said: “The State government has set up a Conflicts Resolution Committee, which I am the chairman. The committee will, among other things, uncover the root cause of the problem and the number of casualties.”
Investigation by Vanguard revealed that no fewer than 15 persons had been killed by Fulani herdsmen in different parts of Ogun State between January and now.
Also, a farmer identified as Ridwan was killed on his farm at Boole village via Ijabe in Osun State after a fight ensued between the deceased and herdsmen, following the destruction of his farm by the latter’s herd.
The secretary of farmers association in the state, Adewale Wahab said the deceased was killed on January 12, 2021 at a village in Ijabe, Odo-Otin Local Government Area of the state.
Our morale is low in Oyo — Amotekun official
One of the coordinators of Amotekun in Oyo State, who is not authorised to speak, confided in Vanguard that from January to date, Fulani herders have killed several people.
The operative said: “I can confirm that they have killed a lot of people. I have lost count of their number.”
The official used the opportunity to tell Vanguard that the morale of his colleagues is down now because of one Amotekun operative the police arrested for the past 35 days over the death of a Fulani herder.
The official said: “There was a distress call and the officer was there to help but the Fulani herder opened fire on him, used machete but all these didn’t have effect on the Amotekun operative. It was then somebody shot the herder in the thigh. He started bleeding and was rushed to the hospital where he was confirmed dead.”
“Despite the fact that it was not the operative that shot the herder, he was arrested and taken to Iyaganku. For over 35 days now, he is still being held by the police. His wife has been extorted many times to the extent that the grocery store she has went under.
“The Amotekun operative has now been transferred to Oyo town. So, this has lowered the morale of other operatives. If such a thing could happen to a colleague, then it means we, too are at great risk.”
Amotekun’ll ensure safe forest in Osun — Brig-Gen Adewinmbi
When contacted, the Amotekun Corps Commandant in Osun State, Brig. Gen. Bashir Adewinmbi, retd, disclosed that though herders-farmers’ clash is minimal in the state but the corps is not relenting in ensuring the forests are safe for farmers.
According to him, the state has mechanism in place with which it is settling crisis between farmers and herdsmen and avoid escalation. But the corps is not overlooking the possibility of any eventualities.
Adewinmbi said: “Although the issue of violent clash between farmers and herdsmen is minimal here, possibly because of the peace committee on farmers-herdsmen relation put in place by the state government to resolve disputes before it escalates into crisis, however, the corps is not relenting to ensure measures are put in place to tackle any eventualities that may arise as a result of displacement of herdsmen from other states in the region.
“We are also exploiting area of common interests with our partners in a bid to ensure our forests, along border lines, are also secured.”
Herders must be law abiding — Ondo Amotekun Commander
For the Amotekun Commander in Ondo State, Chief Adetunji Adesina, the “only way out is for herders to stop destroying farmers’ crops, the farmers are doing their business, the herders are doing their business, both of them are doing their businesses, they should respect each other’s position. You don’t expect the farmers to sit idle when their crops are destroyed by the herders.
“Tactically, they are destroying the farmers’ economic base and that of the herders are growing and that’s not fair. That’s why the government is not too happy about it.
“You’ve the right to do your business and they also have the right to do theirs.
“The herders should respect the law, once everybody is law abiding, there would not be clashes.
“The herders can do their businesses anywhere in the country and the farmers can do theirs too.
“If the herders are law-abiding and respect the right of others, there wouldn’t be any skirmishes.”
Amotekun established to serve our people, — Ogun Amotekun Commandant
On his part, the Commander of Amotekun Corps in Ogun State, Mr. David Akinremi, said that the corps is established to serve the people of the state
He said all states in the South- West region of the country need to work and collaborate to guarantee security of lives and property that will allow indigenes and residents of the region to sleep with their two eyes closed.
He said: “We are prepared, we are taking our time to ensure that we get the best available grassroots men who will be able to function adequately well towards achieving the vision and purpose of establishing the agency. We have been given the go-ahead to commence recruitment by His Excellency and we are working out modalities to ensure that we have quality men in line with the Ogun Standard of excellence.
“The state has been known for producing fantastic men and women. We want to leverage on that and ensure that we have an effective take-off. On the issue of fear being expressed by our people, I want to assure them that we have come to work. We have come to serve them.
“Our people have no cause to fear, we are on top of the situation. Notwithstanding that operatives have not taken off, we are doing some strategic work underground on the security situation on hand, not just within the state but in the South-West as a whole.
“I had cause to meet with my colleagues from other states trying to tap from their experiences to build up the security architecture that would meet our security challenges.
“Criminals are everywhere! I hate it when people begin to profile some set of people. Criminals abound everywhere.
“All that is important is to make it clear to people that it is either you are law-abiding or you are not.
If you are law-abiding, you have a peaceful enjoyment of the facilities but where you decide to run afoul of the law, of course, the long arm of the law will catch up with you. We are willing and ready and we are capable of providing protection to their lives and property.
There is no security without human beings and no human beings without security. It is a symbiotic relationship. The work of security agencies at whatever level cannot be done without the support of the people.
That is why we want to build a people-oriented organisation.”
YCE on way out of farmers/herders clash
Secretary-General, Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, Dr Kunle Olajide, who spoke on the way out of the farmers/herders clashes in the South-West said: “Honestly, I don’t know where the Federal Government stands on the matter, because Mr President hasn’t addressed the nation on this issue. Unfortunately, our unitary constitution has put all the powers over the security agencies in the hands of the Federal Government and the Federal Government’s body language appears to support the invasion of forests anywhere and in fact, a state governor was quoted to have said that anybody can go into any forest, it is as if we are in a lawless society.”
Besides, the YCE scribe said: “Personally, I would think state governors ought to take up the responsibility of protecting their states and find whatever means possible to flush out criminal herders in their forests. I know about South-West, I know that there are no free forests in the South-West. The forests are either forest reserve or forest owned by family and you will have to go through certain processes to be able to go to the forest. The Chairman of Governors’ Forum reminded us a few days ago that in the days of yore, we had forest guards employed to secure the forests so that no invaders go into the forests.
“Forest reserves are treasures for the people of the states. I think that the way out is number one… the governor of Kano State has made very cogent point, that he had land that he was prepared to surrender for ranches. I think we should encourage that. On top of it all, those who are interested in the genuine unity and progress of this country must push for a new constitution that would give powers over security to the governors of the states and then will devolve powers to the states and local governments where the citizens of this country reside.
“The citizens of this country reside in the states and local governments, not in Abuja but this constitution has reversed the order, it gives the power to Abuja, whereas few of the citizens reside in Abuja.
“The final solution to this recurring crisis is for us to have a new constitution that will empower each of the states to take responsibility for its security, protection and welfare of its citizens and their property.”
Ban open grazing — Ekiti Farmers’ Association
When contacted on telephone, the chairman, Rice Farmers Association who doubles as the Secretary, All Farmers Association of Nigeria Ekiti State branch, Mr. Kolawole Rotimi affirmed that there had been many cases of herders killing farmers and destroying farms in the state.
Mr Rotimi said: “There was a recent case of Mr Ilori, a rice farmer and a hunter; he was killed by herdsmen. I led a protest to the Government house but to my surprise, nothing concrete has been done to put a stop to this dastardly act.
On its part, the Ekiti State Security Network Agency codenamed Amotekun Corps has revealed that the decisions of governors in the South-West to ban open grazing would go a long way to address the lingering farmers-herders clashes.
The Amotekun Corps commander, Brig. Gen. Joe Komolafe (retd) noted that the herders must be made to adhere strictly to the new directives, saying his personnel would be out to enforce the directive.
He said: “As for us we believe the decision of the governors to ban open grazing will help in no small measure to end the problems at hand.
“We are up to the task to ensure peace in our land and we will always advise farmers and of course, these herders, to remain peaceful as they go about their activities.”
Komolafe revealed that the government has commenced the registration of herders and the farmers to have reliable database and help flush out criminal elements masquerading as herdsmen from the state.