Killer Herdsmen Unleash Terror On Oyo Communities
FOR the people in Ibarapa in Oke Ogun Area, Oyo State, it is one day one trouble. A day hardly passes without a story of someone being killed or attacked. Such is the situation in the area that the people now sleep with one eye closed. Sadly, the female population is most vulnerable. It is as if there is no end in sight to the plight of the residents of the villages in that part of Oyo State.
Some weeks back, the murder of Dr. Fatai Aborode, the CEO of of Kunfayakun Green Treasure Limited and former House of Representatives candidate under the banner of the Accord Party in the 2015 general election, again brought to fore the worsening security situation in the area and the South West in general.
Aborode was said to have been murdered near his farm around Apodun Village in Igangan, Ibarapa North West Local Council Development Area by suspected herdsmen while leaving his farm on a motorbike with his farm manager at about 4 pm.
Describing Aborode’s death as painful, Akeem Adeoye, an indigene of the town, recalled that the victim only returned to Nigeria from Germany about two years ago to start a farm.
“This year alone, he cultivated 300 acres of soya beans, 200 acres of maize and 100 acres of cashew. It is something that had never happened in the history of our local government,” Adeoye told The Nation.
He reckoned that the feat alone would have provided employment for a lot of the youths in the community.
Speaking in the same vein, Pa Ganiyu, a supervisor at the farm, who was said to have been with the late Aborode some 30 minutes before he was murdered, described the deceased man as a good Muslim.
Aware of the security situation in his domain, one would have expected Aborode to go about with security details, but Pa Adeoye said he (Aborode) had no reason to keep a retinue of security aides because “he was a man of peace and extremely generous.”
According to Adeoye, the workers on the farm have since returned to continue the harvest on the instruction of Aborode’s wife.
He said: “The woman begged us to return so that the soya beans would not spoil. On the day of the incident, we had harvested one ton.
“His death really hit me. If not for the wife, I would not want to go back to the farm. The man invested billions of naira in the farm.”
Also speaking with The Nation, the manager of the farm, Olanrewaju Bolanle Saakin, who was with the CEO of Kunfayakun Green Treasure Limited before he was murdered, said they were attacked by four men. He, however, would not be categorical as to the tribe of their assailants, saying: “Only God knows what no man knows. All I can tell you is that they spoke Fulani.”
Olanrewaju said in a move that looked like a planned attack, the first thing the attackers did was to separate him from his boss and make them run in opposite directions. He said that some of the attackers held him in one part of the bush, the others took the late Aborode to another direction where he was murdered.
Another source said the late Aborode actually engaged his attackers in a fierce battle before he was eventually subdued. Olanrewaju said the attack was not anticipated because the occasional attacks previously recorded in the area were limited to cattle rustling and were not targeted at farmers.
To prove that there had been a cordial relationship between the farmers and the herdsmen, he said when the farmers had poor maize harvest this season because of lack of rain, the herdsmen were invited to graze their cattle on the farm in order to clear the land.
A source told the reporter that Olanrewaju was arrested and whisked to Ibadan, Oyo State for questioning shortly after he spoke with The Nation.
Attacks on women
Some months before Aborode was shot dead, a female farmer and certified pharmacist, Mrs Muyibat Taiwo, who dwells in Akoya, one of the villages in Ibarapa, was also attacked by some people believed to be herdsmen but she escaped by a whisker.
Before then, there were said to have been several unreported attacks on women. Her case, however, attracted attention because of the serious efforts made to draw attention to several attacks in that part of Oyo State.
Narrating how Mrs Taiwo was attacked, a close relation of the 50-year-old woman said she was one of the most popular personalities in the community.
According to the source, she was always in high demand among the people in the community because aside from selling medicines to the Fulani and their Yoruba hosts, she is also a farmer and it was on the farm that she was attacked.
A family source said but for providence she would have been killed by some of the herdsmen she had helped in the past.
Recalling the circumstances of the attack, the source said: “It was around 1 pm and she was working on her farm when two herdsmen passed and they exchanged greetings. Apparently, one of them was very familiar with her. They said they were looking for their lost cow, but mama told them that she had not seen anything like that.
“She is familiar with almost all the herdsmen in the area because she treats them often. Whenever they had injuries in the bush, they would come to her shop for treatment.
“When they came back, they told her that they still had not found their cow and Mama prayed for them that they would find it.
“Unknown to her, one of them had come back quietly and lurked in the bush. According to Mama, it was a kind of shadow she saw that jolted her because she was backing the road.
“She asked what the matter was, and it was that question that brought the beast in the herdsman out.
“He said you are the one that carried our cow and today we will butcher you.
“Mama said she pleaded that they should spare her for the sake of her children. But rather than listen, the herdsman drew the dagger and wanted to drive it into her forehead, but Mama used her hand to cover her head, so instead of the herdsman’s target, it was her phalanges that he cut.”
The source said as Mrs Taiwo was shouting, her children who had come with her to the farm also joined in raising the alarm. This attracted sympathisers and the woman was rescued.
He said: “Immediately the herdsman macheted her, he ran away, thinking that she had died.
“And while they were running away, they went to attack another guy popularly called Biggy. They ambushed him and he dropped his motorcycle and took to his heels. Seeing that they could not catch up with him, they returned and set fire on his bike.”
Unfortunately for the herdsmen, the phone of one of them dropped while he was running. The following day the police came to the crime scene, they found the phone.
“It is three months now and we have not heard anything from the police,” the source said in frustration.
The Nation gathered since Taiwo’s case there had been several others in the area.
Why attacks persist in Ibarapa
The absence of security operatives in the area are believed to have predisposed farmers to attacks. The Nation gathered that most farmers in the community depend on the vigilante groups for their security.
Speaking on the security situation in Ibarapa, a man who preferred to be identified simply as Yinka said if there are no enemies within, a stranger cannot do any harm.
“I suspect some level of conspiracy within the community,” he said.
The Nation gathered that it is the natives who come to the police station to bail them when some of the criminal elements are arrested.
“Because they have properties with some of these indigenes, they believe it is a licence to do whatever they want.
“They now see it as a culture to machete Yoruba men and women. Go to Igangan and adjoining villages and do a survey, you will hardly find five out of 10 Yoruba men with a complete set of fingers. Many who are with a complete set of fingers are without ear, and we have been shouting and shouting about this.”
The Nation also gathered that apart from constant attacks on indigenes in this part of Oyo State, kidnapping is currently at its peak.
“Recently, a friend’s relation was kidnapped and the family had to pay N7 million as ransom. That is how miserable and harrowing our lives have been,” a source in the community told The Nation, adding that they had cried to the state government to no avail.
He said that many of the affluent people in the community had been dealt with by the criminal elements among the herders in one way or the other.
“The women can no longer go to the farm without their husbands. If they do, there is no assurance that they would come back in one piece. And for the farmers here, the fear of the Fulani is the beginning of wisdom. They come to your farm and tell you that they want to graze on it. Any attempt to resist them, they will machete you.”
To make the matter worse, some of the leaders of the town, whenever there is a problem, rather than address it, they prefer to cover for these herders. A few of them are married to the herdsman and most times, their judgments lack objectivity.
According to Yinka, some of the leaders, because of the alliance they have through marriage, sell land to them indiscriminately.
“This is the laxity they exploit. So, any time there is a problem, the sing song is, ‘It is a local thing; we will settle it.’ That is what they always tell the police.
“The monarchs are helpless because they have taken too much from them. The Seriki of the Fulani is as powerful as a Yoruba monarch.
“Things are getting worse in Igangan. There is no difference between the Yoruba and the herdsman. They have almost outgrown us in population. That has been the case from Igboora down to Igangan and Elekoko. The rural women are the ones feeling the pains most.”
Monarch denies shielding herdsmen
Reacting to the incessant attacks by herdsmen in the area, the traditional ruler of Iganganland, Ashiganaga, Lasisi Adeoye, said efforts were being made to arrest the insecurity situation in that part of Oyo State. He said consultations were ongoing and peace and security meetings were being held within and outside the town to prevent future occurrence.
While recognising the fact that some of the cows belonging to Fulani herders sometimes destroy the farmlands, he said it was not possible for the community to drive them away as they had been around for long.
He denied the claim that traditional rulers are shielding the herders, saying: “Most times when they enter the town, they enter at night. You know they (herders) settle in the bush. They don’t rent houses. It is only when the crisis has escalated that we get to hear anything. That is the problem we are facing.
“But anytime their cows destroy farmland, they are made to account for it.
“We are working on it and we are trying to stop the incessant attacks.
“We are meeting, we are dialoguing and we are working on how to curtail the crisis. They come to us for meetings.”
We’ll call them to order — OPC
The Oyo State chapter of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) said that it would not fold its arms and watch the continued killing of other innocent citizens of the state by herdsmen.
According to a report, OPC said it was disturbed with the way the herdsmen were disturbing the conducive atmosphere in the state, adding that the OPC was battle ready to curtail the excesses of the so called herdsmen in the state.
The group said it was putting a lot of strategies in place to make sure that citizens Oyo State can sleep with their two eyes closed.
‘Why it may be difficult for Amotekun, OPC to fight insecurity’
A security expert and a certified golden member of the International Security Association, Switzerland, Mr Jackson Lekan Ojo, said it may be difficult for both the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) codenamed Operation Amotekun (Leopard) and the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) to win the war against insecurity in the South-West
According to him, the two groups do not have the required tools to do the job. “What are they going to use. Can the defenseless defend people?” he wondered.
He said the two outfits do not have the necessary encouragement to arrest the trend, warning that the people being engaged to fight crime could be tools to sabotage the system if they get tired.
Ojo said: “OPC and Amotekun cannot do much to arrest the trend. Who are the OPC boys? The OPC boys are not gainfully employed, the OPC boys are not traders.
“I want to clearly tell you that the OPC boys are those that are jobless; they have nothing doing. If they are engaged in one form of employment or the other, I don’t think they will have time for OPC.
“OPC is a voluntary organization. Nobody is paying them and nobody is appreciating them. They are trying their best, but a time is coming when the level of economic crisis will hit them hard. Most of them will withdraw, and where are they withdrawing to?”
He said the two cannot stop criminality in the South West
He observed that the police too do not have the necessary encouragement, “and the military are overwhelmed with what they are seeing in the North.”
While describing the security challenge as a national problem, he warned that nobody should expect anything magical from the police in the South West, because it is a national issue.
He noted that police in the South West are not being funded better than any other part of this country. “The police in the South-West are not better equipped than the police in other regions. The police in the South-West are not better motivated than those in other parts of this country,” he said.
He advised those little things like accommodation, uniform, booths, operational vehicles and other things that have to do with the welfare of the police to be taken care of in order for them to perform optimally.