How herdsmen turned Ogun villages to ‘war zones’, raping, killing, destroying farms, Farmers flogged by soldiers for rejecting herders

How herdsmen turned Ogun villages to ‘war zones’, raping, killing, destroying farms, Farmers flogged by soldiers for rejecting herders
How herdsmen turned Ogun villages to ‘war zones’, raping, killing, destroying farms, Farmers flogged by soldiers for rejecting herders

Fifty-five-year-old Kudoro Gabriel was visibly sad and troubled narrating the pathetic experience with herders who severed his fingers with a machete. The farmer who lives at Ibeku village, Ketuland in the Yewa-North Local Government Area of Ogun State said he had been rendered useless after the attack.

three of his fingers were severed and the points patched. He lamented that he was deformed by Fulani herdsmen who wanted to kill him but ended up chopping off his fingers.

Kudoro said, “The Fulani herdsmen destroyed my barn, where I stored corn. Getting to the place I saw cows eating crops in the barn. I called on the herder who owns them. But instead of checking what the cows did, he rushed at me with a machete. If not that I used my hand to stop the machete before it severed my fingers, he would have cut off my head. As you can see, what can I use the hand for?  Nothing. It’s hard to use the hand to work to feed my family. It’s my wife who is taking care of things now.’’

On the loss suffered, the unhappy father said he couldn’t estimate it, adding “What I want is for the government to assist me to provide for my family and myself.”

Residents of Ketuland said they had been suffering at the hands of criminal herdsmen for many years.

They alleged that the herdsmen maimed, killed and raped some women in the areas. The beleaguered residents who live in fear of herdsmen on their ancestral lands walk around in great awe unsure of when the marauders may attack them.

A resident, David Akindele, said that many of those residing in the area were apprehensive of attacks from herdsmen.

Our correspondent who visited some villages in Ketuland which include Eselu, Kodera, Asa, Okoso, Moro, Isiku, Seeke-Aje, Igbo-Ire, Koole, Oguba, Ayetoro, Adesina, Ibeku, Agbon-Ojodu, among others, noticed that life has become unbearable for villagers in the agrarian communities.

At Ibeku, one of the villages where soldiers were accused of flogging some villagers for rejecting herders who continually destroy their farms with cows, dwellers had fled for fear of the return of the soldiers. The soldiers had reportedly returned to the community last week to force the residents to deny the brutality meted out to them. The monarchs in the Yewa-North council area said they sent a petition on the matter to the state government which said it didn’t receive any. They also said a petition was written to the 35 Artillery Brigade, Alamala, Abeokuta, where the soldiers supposedly came from.

Apart from the challenges from killer herdsmen, the communities also contend with bad roads, lack of potable water, electricity and dilapidated schools. Besides, a popular market known as Asa Market serving about 50 communities in the area, had been deserted.

Pains of injustice amid soldiers’ alleged bias 

A 30-year-old man, Faleti Ibija, narrated how some soldiers flogged him and some other villagers for refusing herdsmen on their farms to feed their cows.

He said, “I insisted that killer herdsmen must leave our land for peace to reign. As I said that, a soldier in a vehicle that brought him and his colleagues to our community asked me to move close to him. I did and he asked me what I said. I repeated it. He stretched forward and slapped me thrice. He used his boots to kick me and I fell down. He corked his gun and threatened to shoot me.”

Forty-nine-year-old Chief Imam of Ibeku, Maruf Fadebi, said he was almost whisked away by the soldiers for cautioning them against brutalising his people.

He, however, blamed past and present administrations in the state for their plight.

Fadebi said, “Anytime government officials visited our communities, they only made promises. We are suffering and you can see the state of our roads. The past administrations promised to rehabilitate the roads but nothing was done. The present administration has been making promises too. It promised to provide us with good roads, electricity, water and so on. We vote during elections too.’’

Another villager, 40-year-old Samuel Ilo from Agbon-Ojodu, said his younger brother and child were killed by killer herdsmen. He said his younger brother, Benjamin Ilo aged 39 and son, Segun Ilo, aged 10, were killed seven years ago on their farm while cutting grasses.

He stated, “We want the government to help us to end herdsmen attacks. We are farmers but herdsmen who invade our lands have made things tough for us.’’

The case of 35-year-old Olaotan Adelana is pitiable as he’s unable to walk properly and work on his farmer after suffering what he called machete attack from some herdsmen.

Adelana narrated that on February 20, 2018, some herdsmen came to meet them on their farm to solicit water to drink and returned twice later to make the same request and turn violent.

Adelana said, “There is a river close to our farm but it is a bit deep. The water is not drinkable and we often fetch water from home to the farm. It was the water that we gave them to drink. They took water the first, second time and returned with cows the third time. They chased us away. I wasn’t even aware at first of what was happening until I fell down after a machete landed on me. It was those around that helped me.

“The brutality of herdsmen against the villagers dated back to 2000. Government should come to our rescue. To eat has been a problem for me. It’s those around that support me.  I sold my property to treat myself and my health is not strong again. We don’t want killer herdsmen on our lands again. We don’t want them again in Yewaland. We don’t want them in Ogun State. We don’t want them in Ketuland or Agbon-Ojudu again. They have killed many people in the communities.’’

For Mulero Gabriel, constant herdsmen’s attacks have left the Ogun communities in pains. The 42-year-old said the herders raped women at will and their cows constantly destroyed farms.

Gabriel stated, “On December 19, 2020, some herdsmen and soldiers came to our communities. The soldiers said they wanted the herdsmen to bring their cows and live together with us in Ibeku and we rejected saying it’s not possible. This is because each time they come, their cows destroy our crops and they rape our women. One of the Fulani named Ali pointed at four of us that the soldiers should beat us because we rejected them.”

He further said that in 2018 herdsmen killed some people including three children at Asa community.

According to him, they are unable to endure the unprovoked attacks again hence resisted attempts by the herdsmen to return to their community.

He added, “They bring cows to our communities because our farms have crops which they usually feed their cows. They care only about feeding their cows with crops which we laboured to grow.”

He added that the villagers were now afraid because of the brutality of soldiers accursed of supporting the herdsmen.

He noted, “The day soldiers came to our Baale’s house at Ibeku, a ceremony was held at Asa. One of my brothers told me that I should use my commercial motorcycle to take him to where the ceremony was being held. On our way, we saw some soldiers at Baale’s house. A herdsman identified as Ali pointed at me and my brother to the soldiers. One of the soldiers beat us with a fan belt.

“I didn’t say anything. They told the soldiers that we were chasing them away. But it’s their atrocities that make the villagers ask them to go away with their cows.

“There is nothing else we do here except farming. There is no government presence.  No light, water or good roads. We drink from a stream. Since I was born in this village 42 years ago, I have not seen a government presence.

Thirty-nine-year-old Mulero Oluwaseye is another villager who said he was flogged by soldiers who came to the area to force herders on them. He stated that he went to the Baale’s house from his farm that day when he learnt that herdsmen and some soldiers went there.

“When we got to Baale’s house, I said accommodating the herdsmen would spell doom for the communities considering the damage they had done in the past. Our yams are not safe. They burnt silos and killed many people including a teacher at Oja-Odan. We can’t plant crops again. They would feed them to their cows. They operate as if there is a war ongoing in our villages.”

Sharing his experience regarding herdsmen attacks in the area, Olabisi Ikudaisi, a resident of Agbon-Ojodu, said soldiers once invaded the community and ordered him to lead them to the house of one of the Baales in the communities.

Ikudaisi who is also the Vice Chairman of Police Community Relations Committee in the axis, said they demanded the Baale’s mobile when they got to his place and he wasn’t around.

“I was coming from Oja-Odan to Asa that day. I asked one of them for their mission when they didn’t see the Baale. He got angry and I told him who I am. I said I am from the village and also a Vice Chairman of the PCRC representing Imeko and Ayetoro area command. He got angrier and when he decided to talk to me, he asked me the month herdsmen should be in the village. I directed his question to some women around the Baale’s place at the time. But they said only Baale could answer the soldier’s question.”

He added that the soldiers at that point expressed collective anger and one of them said they cannot force us to talk, stressing that we would be responsible for our security if they left.

The 63-year old retired teacher who is also a farmer traced the history of herdsmen’s attacks on residents of the area to 2000.

He said, “The herdsmen have been in the area since 1984. We related peacefully but around 2000, they started committing several bad acts. They destroyed our crops, rape women and if you express anger over their destructive acts, they would become violent.’’

Ikudaisi said the herdsmen once told them to harvest their crops from the farms when they complained that their cows were destroying them.

He further stated that whenever cows destroyed their farms and they reported to the police, the offending herder would only be told to pay a meager amount of what was destroyed.

He stated, “We planted many crops such as okro, soya beans, plantains, beans but we cannot do that anymore. We cannot be planting crops for cows to eat.”

Speaking on behalf of women in the communities, 47-year-old Ogunjobi Deborah begged the government to end the activities of criminal herdsmen in the villages.

She stated that the situation had peaked as the hoodlums raped, used their cows to destroy farms with fruitful crops and made the villages insecure.

Ogunjobi said, “We can’t give an actual figure of the number of women raped by the killer herdsmen. But many women have fallen victims. They maim or kill any of their victims. Our children can no longer go to the stream in our land. We are not in a war.”

At Asa village, the villagers showed our correspondent pictures of over 40 people allegedly killed by criminal herdsmen in the area.

Speaking on behalf of the community, the Apesin of Eseluland, Chief Samuel Edun, said they had handed over the matter of the killer herdsmen to God.

He noted that for many years killer herdsmen had made their village unsafe by perpetrating criminal acts with impunity.

“They killed some ladies after raping them. They invaded people’s houses to kill them and kidnapped for ransom. Our crops have been destroyed,” he stated.

Edun also said the villagers perform electoral duties and strive to grow crops and increase food production, adding that herdsmen menace had caused fear in residents living in the area.

He said, “Cows eat newly sown and grown cocoa. Government needs the trees. We also need them. Government encourages us to plant trees but when we plant them, the herders will take their cows to the farms to graze on them. The government should save us from killer herdsmen.”

While narrating a nasty experience with the herders, 55-year-old Hannah Ogundele, nearly betrayed emotion. She stated that raping of females was a common act among the killer herdsmen.

Ogundele said, “We went to the farm that day to cut grass. We were close to the river in our village when we saw herdsmen who started chasing us. We ran as fast as our legs could take us. They caught one of us but we didn’t notice until we got home. We raised the alarm when we got home that we didn’t see the person. The men in the village went in search of her. Her body was later found the following day where they dumped it.

“We couldn’t sleep in the village that day. Many villagers left to sleep in Ibeku because the herdsmen later returned to the village and started shooting. We thought everything was settled and went to the river after sometime but one of us was kidnapped and raped again.’’

She stated that women now go to the stream in a group of 20, noting that “the stream is not even a flowing one. We always dig holes to fetch the little water we get. What is more painful is that one of the teachers in a school in the community was killed and the teacher has not been replaced.’’

She added, “As big as the school in the community is, only three teachers are there. We work because of our children. It’s not good for them not to go to school.’’

Also, Abidemi Ilo lost his father and three fingers to herdsmen attack. He stated that on the day her father was killed, he ran away with him but they caught up with his father.

He said, “My father and I went to the river that day. As we were returning home I didn’t know that they were at our back. They used a stick to hit my father without any provocation. I lifted up the one who did hit my dad but I later saw that they were eight. I was injured and my fingers affected. I still managed to run away and told my dad to do so too. It was later I heard that they killed my father. He was 65 years old then.’’

Govt, monarch, police express views      

In his view, the President, National Integrity Youths Movement in Nigeria, Dr Tayo Komolafe, warned the Federal Government and governors against forcing the people to resort to self-help.

Komolafe in a statement titled, “Don’t push us to self-help, IYM warns Federal Government, governors and Yoruba obas,” gave a seven-day ultimatum to address the herders menace in the South-West, adding that failure to do so would make the group to mobilise its members across the region for self-help.

He said, “We are calling on the government and the obas pretending innocence of the unabated and consistent killings, kidnappings, raping and destruction in the states in Yorubaland that if by seven days nothing serious is done, we shall mobilise our members to defend our land and people.”

Komolafe said since the governors and the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) had sworn to protect the citizens without doing so, it would be illegal to be law-abiding in a state of lawlessness.

The Eselu of Eseluland , Oba Akintunde Akinyemi,  said both the state and the federal governments had failed the people on the task of securing lives and property.

Oba Akinyemi said failure of the ruling class made a Yoruba activist, Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho, to move in a bid to rescue his people from killer herdsmen.

Igboho visited some of the troubled villages including Eggua where some houses belonging to the Seriki of Fulani and the Kara market were set ablaze.

The monarch said he received Igboho in his palace in Ketuland before he proceeded to other areas in the local government.

He stated that he blessed the activist and sought his help to rescue the villagers from the grip of killer herdsmen.

He said, “What is happening now is a sign that both the state and federal governments have failed. People are trying to defend their territory. If our right has been protected, Igboho will not be the one chasing killer herdsmen away from the South-West. It is the responsibility of the police.’’

The monarch said it was wrong that despite an injunction restraining herdsmen from bringing cows into the council area, they still engaged in it without care.

On the petition to the government on developments in the area, the monarch said that nothing had been done.

He stated, “That is why I said the situation now is a sign of a failed government. When there have been reports in the media, petitions, radio and TV discussions, up till now, the government has not said a word about the matter. Nothing not even a meeting.”

Reacting to the villagers’ allegations, the Seriki Hausawa of Egbaland, Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan, urged peace between the communities and the herdsmen.

 He said, “We don’t want a situation where this crisis will escalate in this country. My advice is that we should be united in this country. We are one. We don’t want to separate. I call on the Fulani, Hausa community and Yoruba communities to ensure peaceful co-existence.’’

In its reaction, the state government said it has not failed the people contrary to the positions of the monarch and IYM. The Special Adviser to the Governor on Public Communications, Remmy Hazzan, described the statements as unfair.

He said, “The Ogun State government has not failed and I don’t want to believe that the Federal Government has failed too. That doesn’t mean that there are no grey areas needing some immediate address. That is why we clamour for restructuring.’’

Hazzan noted that it was unfair to say that the state government had failed its people in terms of security considering what he described as the enormous work the government was doing to ensure peace in the state.

He added, “That we  have failed is not a fair statement and I don’t want to believe that the monarch will say that to the state government .

“We have not failed as a government .No. There are lapses in security. Whatever it is we are facing today we will handle it within the best allowable constitutional framework.  We haven’t failed and not in any way gravitating towards failure.”

Also, the police in the state said it was working with the parties involved in the crisis to find a solution to it.

The state Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Abimbola Oyeyemi, noted that the Commissioner of Police had held a meeting with the communities and Fulani settlers.

Oyeyemi said, “We have a robust session and the two parties have resolved to work together to fish out those perpetrating crime therein.”

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