Says majority of Nigerian refugees in Benin Republic have returned home
Farmers\herders clashes occur every year in neighbouring communities
By James Ogunnaike, just back from Benin Republic
The Ologunba of Ogunba Kingdom, Egelu in Benin Republic, Oba Adul Wahab Adio Ogunji has appealed to the Nigerian government to end the killings in resulting from famers-herders clashes by emulating Benin Republic by banning open grazing.
Their communities border Nigeria. Recently, some Nigerian farmers in Ogun State were forced to flee into Benin Republic communities for safety when herdsmen attacked their communities. The Oba however disclosed that majority of Nigerians who went to Egelu, and Igana in the Republic of Benin in the wake of the Fulani herders’ attack on some communities in Yewa North and Imeko-Afon local government areas of Ogun State had gone back to their communities
Oba Ogunji, who said this, when Saturday Vanguard visited the two communities in anticipation of meeting those in refugee camps, said since the Nigerian people were able to bring the ugly incident under control, the people had to relocate back to their ancestral homes to continue their lives.
He disclosed that in the wake of this year’s attack, 500 people went to Igana, while 300 stayed in Egelu.
He noted that the few ones left in Egelu and Igana are those who lost their houses and all other means of livelihood during the attack
Oba Ogunji while recalling that the clashes between farmers and herdsmen in Yewa communities did not start this year, said the crisis started about twenty years ago.
He said, 16 years ago, some communities in (Yewa) Nigeria and Benin Republic jointly filed a suit to challenge open grazing and put a stop to it, but due to power play, the case was thrown out, but the government of Benin Republic had to outlaw open grazing. I don’t know what is happening in Nigeria.
Speaking on the status of the ‘migrants’ who left Asa to seek refuge in Benin Republic, Oba Ogunji described their migration as ‘home coming’ claiming that all people living in Asa are from Egelu in Benin Republic.
He said, “though, Asa is in Nigeria on the map, but traditionally, it is a part of Egelu. Asa was once a market where farmers from Egelu used to sell their farm produce, but it was due to incessant attacks by Fulanis in the past that made all the farmers relocate from their different farm settlements to Asa and settle there”.
He recalled that the farmers/herders clashes normally occur between October and March, which is dry season.
He said this was because the herders would want to feed their cattle by all means, not minding the cost and negative effects on farmers.
The traditional ruler then appealed to Nigerian government to find lasting solution to the incessant and senseless killings of innocent people, as well as destruction of farms and farm produce by herders and their cattle.
He said, Nigerian government should emulate the government of Benin Republic by banning open grazing, stressing that the system is outdated.
Also speaking, the Delege (traditional head) of Igana in Benin Republic, Henri Tankpinou Achogou, said though, some people from Asa and other communities in Yewa North local government area of Ogun State in Nigeria came to his community (Igana) and two other communities in Benin Republic in the wake of attack by Fulani herders, they had gone back to their communities because normalcy has returned to the affected communities.
He said: “In the night of February 14, 2021, villagers in neigbouring Asa, Ibeku, Agbon-Ojodu, Igbooro, Seke Aje, Moro, Iselu and Isuku were attacked by herdsmen who shot sporadically and killed some persons and set some houses ablaze. Therefore, the villagers ran across the border to my domain for safety, and this community was flooded that night by the displaced Nigerians.
”When they came on that fateful day, the entire community was thrown into confusion; I reported the matter to the Police in Benin Republic and the local government chairman who came to see them”.
“When the people told me what happened, I invited our local hunters and they came to Asa, they met the herders still operating, but they said they couldn’t confront them because the herders were holding more sophisticated weapons.
“They said, there were three females among the Fulanis who attacked the villages.
We‘re ready to go back to Nigeria if,…
During the visit of our Correspondent to Egelu and Igana, he discovered that truly, majority of those claimed to be in refugee camps had gone back to Nigeria.
But few ones who spoke with Saturday Vanguard, expressed their readiness to come back to their ancestral home if the federal and Ogun State governments could guarantee their safety from herders attack.
They equally appealed to the President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State to do everything within their powers to find lasting solution to the senseless attacks by the herders in the area.
They said, “there is no place like home”.
Speaking with our Correspondent, Madam Elizabeth Tombi said she lived in Oja-Odan before the attack.
She said, I had to leave Oja-Odan around 1.30 am and fled to Igana with two of my grandchildren.
Tombi said, “the clash between farmers and herders in Yewa area was not something that just started in 2021, but was an annual thing, especially during the dry season, when herders would want to feed their cattle by all means”.
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She appealed to the federal government to put an end to open grazing, saying that this would be the only solution to the recurring problem.
In Egelu, Madam Ruth Ogunjobi, from Asa, said, though she was able to escape with her children, her house was set ablaze by the herders.
She said, ‘my house and barn were set ablaze by the Fulani herders, but I thank God that myself and my children were able to escape unhurt’.
She added that all her children had gone back to Oja-Odan to continue their farming.
She appealed to both the state and federal governments to stop Fulani herders from coming to the South West to graze.
“If we want lasting solution the clashes between farmers and herders, the herders should stop coming to the South West for grazing. They should stay in the North and whoever needs their cow, will find means of getting them. They should stop coming to destroy our means of livelihood and kill innocent people because of cow”.
On her part, Mrs. Taye Osagbuyi from Igoi-Ileti, said she was ready to go back to her community if peace returned. She said her barns were totally burnt down by the herdsmen
She equally called for ban on open grazing.
They appealed to the state and federal for compensation for those whose property and means of livelihood were destroyed during the attack.
“I want to appeal to Governor Abiodun to send more palliatives to us. This will cushion the effect of the attack. He should assist us in rebuilding our houses that were burnt”