Criminal herders maimed us, murdered our relatives in Oyo community — Natives

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Olufemi Olaniyi

Pa Okanlawon Ogunleke would still be alive today but for killer herdsmen who allegedly invaded and attacked him on his farm located in Ibarapa area of Oyo State. The octogenarian and the town dwellers were enraged and saddened by the development. The old man was said to have been beaten and macheted by his assailants. He was taken to hospital where he eventually died. Our correspondent gathered that many attacks had happened before then and even after in the area.

In June 2020, Saidu Odugbemi, who is from Tapa, was kidnapped and one of his friends told our correspondent that the family coughed up N7.2m ransom to secure his release. Not done with the family, the kidnappers struck in November again and this time, Saidu’s immediate brother, Shefiu, was also kidnapped. A ransom of N5m was paid with pleadings before he was released by the criminals.

Residents of communities in Ibarapaland had endured the pains inflicted on them by the killer herdsmen before Sunday Adeyemo, aka Igboho’s intervention, drew the nation’s attention to their plights. The indigenes’ accommodating nature was said to have made them allow the cattle herders to be warmly accommodated many years back. But some of the nomadic guests had became a thorn in their flesh, destroying farms, killing, raping and maiming with impunity. The unleashed terror has been on for some time. It increased in 2016 and worsened last year.

There is hardly a compound in Ibarapaland, especially in Igangan town, the epicentre of criminal herdsmen’s attacks, without at least a victim of the illicit acts one way or the other. However, the killing of Dr Fatai Aborode, who was said to have returned home from abroad to invest in agriculture and the owner of a petrol station, Alhaja Sherifat Adisa, in quick succession, was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. On the day the filling station owner was killed, two kids were felled by the bullets of the kidnappers that killed her. The sad incidents forced the people to seek the help of Chief Sunday Adeyemi aka Sunday Igboho.

Investors at the Igangan Agro Park Investors Association and small holder farmers live in fear and many of them were already abandoning their farms because of the dangers they had been exposed to in the area.

An auxiliary nurse, Mrs Muyibat Taiwo, also recounted how she lost three of her fingers to the atrocious cruelty of herdsmen on her farm. Speaking with Sunday PUNCH, she said the incident happened in October 2020.

Taiwo said, “I went round the villages on that day to treat people there. I told some tractor owners to plough my land and that was after the herdsmen had destroyed what I planted there. I asked them to plough the land so that I could plant cassava there again. I returned to the farm around 1pm and I started planting the cassava stem.

“I had not spent one hour on the farm when two young herdsmen came to my farm and I greeted them. The face of one of them was familiar. I had seen him in one of their villages. They greeted me and told me they were searching for two of their missing cows. I told them I did not see any cow. I told them that I just got to the farm and I advised them to check everywhere including the bushes around and I even wished them luck. They left but after a few minutes, one of them returned and asked me again for the cow. I told him that I did not see any cow. He left but I didn’t know that he went to hide behind a cashew tree.’’

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She added that he saw a shadow and he jumped out from behind the tree and said that she was the one who stole his cow.

Taiwo added, “I told him that I did not see any cow and he became angry and said he would kill me for stealing his cow. That was how he brought out his cutlass and I started begging him not to kill me but he didn’t listen. He aimed at my head and I blocked it with my hand. That was how he cut off three of my fingers. The bones were crushed by the cutlass and some strands of flesh held the fingers from falling off. I started shouting for help.

“My son’s wife was on another farm close to the place and she also started screaming that the other Fulani wanted to kill her also. But she is younger than me. She grabbed her child and started running. I fainted on the farm because I lost much blood but the children that we came to the farm with ran to the village and called people there who came to take me to hospital. I woke up on a hospital bed.

“The incident was reported to the police and my son undergoing the National Youth Service Corps scheme then, Jide, was called. He wrote a petition to the police headquarters at Eleyele, Ibadan, but nothing came out of it.”

While some of the attacks were carried out on farms, others claimed that killer herdsmen attacked them in their homes.

In an interview with our correspondent, one of the victims of herdsmen’s atrocities in Igangan, Mr Jide Odeyemi, narrated how he was attacked in front of his house, beaten and taken inside the forest.

Odeyemi said, “ I sat in front of my house and at about 10pm on November 14, 2020. I was helping my child to do his homework when about 10 armed Fulani swooped on me and started beating me. They beat me so much and hit my head with gun butts several times.

“They covered their faces with masks and after beating me and dragged me inside the forest. I know if a Fulani man speaks. They spoke Fulani language. They stole the money on me and dragged me inside the forest. I was thoroughly beaten and my eyes were bloodshot. But through divine help, I managed to escape from them inside the forest and that is why I am thankful to God. Although I was battered, I am alive to tell the story.”

The gruesome murder of Dr Fatai Aborode, who was the Chief Executive Officer, Kunfayakun Green Treasures Limited and the owner of Subawah Petrol Station, Sherifat Adisa, angered the people. The killings were allegedly carried out by some criminal herdsmen who felt threatened by Aborode’s 300-acre farm.

The incident was said to have made them seek Igboho’s help to liberate them from the hands of their oppressors on their land.

Aborode and his manager, Bolanle Olanrewaju, were said to be returning home after the day’s work in December 2020 when his assailants waylaid the motorcycle he was on and hacked him to death.

The farm manager, Olanrewaju, narrating how his boss met his untimely death at the hands of the hoodlums said, “We were returning from the farm that day and on getting to the point where the incident happened, we were forced to stop. Two gunmen emerged from the bush and forced us to stop. Two others blocked from behind to ensure that we did not escape. Behind us was another motorcyclist with his (Aborode’s) wife on it. They were also stopped and we were ordered to get down from the motorcycles.

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“They didn’t manhandle the rest of us apart from my boss. At first, we thought that they were kidnappers so he asked if they wanted money. They told him that they didn’t need his money. Meanwhile, they dragged me about 500 meters away from where my boss was. There was another man and his wife in-between me and where my boss was held down.

“One of them (assailants) watched me by holding me down while they were attacking my boss. As he was being macheted, I heard the voice of the other man who was on the motorcycle with his wife pleading that they should not kill my boss but they did not listen to him. At a point, the man who held me down left me to meet others so I had the opportunity to run away. It took long for me to get to town. I couldn’t make a distress call as I was not with my mobile phone that day. On getting back, he had died.’’

One of Aborode’s children paid him an emotive tribute in a post which had gone viral on social media.

The tribute read partly, “Dad, knowing I’ll never see you again is a hard pill to swallow. You were kind and caring, always sacrificing and giving your best to everything and everyone. I can’t believe I’m writing about you in past tense and that you won’t be able to read this and give me feedback.

“I remember one of our last conversations, I told you I had lost every hope in Nigeria and how I don’t see it becoming better in another 50-100 years. I told you I don’t see Nigeria as home anymore, and I said “home is where I am safe!”, you disagreed, you said “home is where you’re from, Nigeria is your home!”. You went on to tell me to be optimistic, you mentioned that you benefited from Nigeria in the past, the free and quality education you got in your formative years was one of those things that made you feel indebted to the country. You felt you needed to give back to the country, you had these glowing, utopia image of Nigeria in your mind.’’

Residents have continued to say that the criminal herdsmen didn’t respect anybody in Ibarapaland no matter their status.  This was confirmed in a video showing one of the three herdsmen who invaded and destroyed the farm of the lawmaker representing Ibarapa North/Ibarapa Central constituency at the state House of Assembly, Mr Peter Ojedokun.

The visibly angry herder threatened to return with his colleagues and kill the lawmaker, his workers and the villagers. He said he was told that somebody killed his cow, blaming it on the lawmaker. He said the Fulani had prepared for attack, telling the lawmaker and his people to also prepare for them.

There was an altercation between the herder and the lawmaker in a 7:17 second video showing the lawmaker’s encounter with the herder where the latter displayed his effrontery. When contacted, the lawmaker confirmed the veracity of the video, explaining that the encounter happened last year.

The lawmaker said, “That is part of what they do. This one happened last year. I reported it to the Seriki and other Fulani. Our people have to be vigilant, that is the most important thing now. They have been preparing for war before now. Nobody will secure us if we are not vigilant.”

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Mr Taiwo Adeagbo is an unsung hero in the struggle to free his people from the oppression of criminal herdsmen. Residents said he had confronted the Seriki Fulani, Salihu Abdukadir, who had fled the community, many times to accuse him of being behind insecurity in the area.

Adeagbo and the convener of Igangan Development Advocates, Oladiran Oladokun, narrated how 37-year-old Haruna Sangodeji of Iya Isale compound was killed by herdsmen. They said he was a commercial motorcyclist and on February 27, 2016, two Fulani men were said to have asked him to take them to their settlement after Asunnara village but he was brutally hacked to death.

The skull of Seun Isaiah, who was one of the four persons attacked by some Fulani herdsmen on January 15, 2020, was almost shattered. Miraculously, he survived as the skull was stitched. He told our correspondent on his hospital bed that some Fulani attacked four of them on a motorcycle in the presence of policemen at a checkpoint close to the herdsmen settlement. The incident occurred on the day Igboho gave the Seriki a seven-day-ultimatum to leave Igangan.

Besides, the traditional ruler of the town, Asigangan of Igangan, Oba Abdulazeez Adeoye, also had an experience on the menace of the killer herdsmen. One of his nephews was allegedly kidnapped by the criminal herdsmen.

The monarch was one of those who tendered evidence to the delegation of Governor Seyi Makinde led by the Special Adviser on Security Matters, Fatai Owoseni; the Commissioner of Police, Ngozi Onadeko and the Oyo State Council of Obas led by the Deputy Chairman, Oba Francis Alao, who is the Olugbon of Orile Igbon.

The delegation was told that people in the community paid N50m in ransom to Fulani kidnappers and the monarch also tendered the evidence of payment to the delegation. The delegation was told that 15 women were raped by the rampaging criminals. The natives desire the visitation to translate to peace and prosperity for the beleaguered agrarian communities.

After Igboho’s intervention in the community, attention was drawn to the challenges being faced by the dwellers in Ibarapaland. The governor, Seyi Makinde, sent a delegation headed by his Special Adviser on Security Matters, Mr Fatai Owoseni, a retired commissioner of police to Igangan. The traditional rulers in the state were led to Igangan, the epicentre of the crisis, by the Deputy Chairman of the Oyo State Council of Obas, Oba Francis Alao, who is the Olugbon of Orile Igbon while the state Commissioner of Police, Mrs Ngozi Onadeko, headed the police team to the town where they held a meeting with stakeholders on ways to end the crisis.

As a follow-up, the governor redeployed 200 Amotekun Corps to beef up security in Ibarapa and Oke-Ogun areas of the state where the herdsmen crisis is commonplace. Makinde also visited some towns in Ibarapa where he promised them that his administration would not allow anyone to be wasted anymore by criminals.

Some residents in Kajola, Gbagba Idere and other adjoining villages under Ayete have also alleged threat to their lives and means of livelihoods by a dreaded Fulani man whom they accused of driving away farmers from their farms.

Shawana sent this piece via thekolashawana@gmail.com

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