The traditional ruler of Iseluland in the Yewa North Local Government Area of Ogun State, Akintunde Akinyemi, has narrated how the Nigerian Army as well as the state government ignored the petition written against soldiers who flogged people in the area for protesting against destruction of their farmland by Fulani herdsmen.
Akinyemi, who brought the revelation to light in an interview with The PUNCH, said his people and others in the area have continued to suffer harrasment by soldiers and other security operatives who are protecting the herdsmen.
According to the monarch, Fulani herdsmen have been coming to the area to graze over the years in company with operatives of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) without having much face-offs with the locals.
Akinyemi, however, said the pattern changed this year when soldiers were drafted to accompanying the herdsmen to their area, without the knowledge of the police or the state government.
He alleged that the soldiers have continued to intimidate residents of the area, particularly farmers who protest whenever their farms are destroyed by the herders.
Asked if it was true that soldiers connived with herdsmen to flog his people, he said: "It is true.The Fulani have been coming to our areas, but they don’t reside here. What we usually see is that yearly during the dry season, they move here with their cattle from the North. Some come from Niger Republic. We have not been having problems except when they destroy farms and farmers have confrontations with them.
"What the soldiers did was to assemble our people and beat those who cautioned against destruction of their farms by the herdsmen. We have video and pictures.
"The soldiers are from Alamala, (35 Artillery Brigade, Abeokuta). Our people could identify them. That is why I said there are still pictures and video evidence that the soldiers actually came to our place to beat us because of the Fulani. The Fulani are yearly visitors and they are usually accompanied by the police not soldiers who beat people."
The monarch explained that continued killings and harrassment of the people in the area informed their decision to write a petition to the state government, the army as well as the Department of State Services (DSS).
Akinyemi, however, said the petition has been dragging since then without any response from the relevant quarters.
He continued: "They came and that is why we wrote a petition because there is nothing you can do to someone carrying a gun. The petition was addressed to the governor, the commissioner of police, one to Brigade Commander, Alamala barracks and the Director of DSS.
"It was acknowledged by the Department of State Services and even the police. The Army also acknowledged it but they have not responded. There has not been any response from any of them, not even from the government. Even the Army was silent."
The monarch decried the continued killing of residents in the area, explaining that the situation has taken huge toll on the socio-economic development of the affected communities.
He added: "For the past 16 years, I have been on the throne, no fewer than 70 people have been killed. There was a year they killed 32. That was in 2007. The Fulani attacked a church during a vigil and killed 32 people. That was in 2007. As of that time, former president Olusegun Obasanjo was the President and he set up a committee.
"The major effect is that our farmers who take soft loans to go into farming can’t pay them back. A lot of children don’t even go to school because their parents can’t pay school fees. That is why there are many smugglers because if a father cannot afford to send his child to school and the child sees a way he can make money by selling two to three bags of rice, what will he do?"
Saharareporters, New York