By OLUSESAN LAOYE
The South western states are in a fresh dilemma over the new invasion of Fulani herdsmen which appears to have been abated after the formation of Amontekun Security outfit in the region.
Before the formation of Amontekun by the six governors, the activities of the herdsmen were rampant as they killed, raped and kidnapped the people in the region at will. But there was a temporary lull following the formation, which seemed to justify the effort. However, before the people could heave a sigh of relief, they were back with vengeance.
Right now, it appears that the herdsmen have come back and their presence and constant operations is a source of worry to the entire people of the region and this was believed to have political undertone. It was also said too, that, it was a ploy to weaken the region towards the 2023 presidential election race, for which South west is clamouring.
It was also believed that since the Yoruba people are insisting that if they fail to realize their presidential, ambition, they would agitate for restructuring which the Fulani North who intend to hold on to power, are not happy about and the only way they think that could be forestalled is the plot now to weaken the Yoruba with insecurity, so that the people would live in fear before 2023.
The return of the herders in virtually all parts of the South west states has been so alarming and more devastating than the previous ones. Now, they operate in a more deadly manner and with more impunity and a special mission, which is causing tension all over the Yorubaland.
There has been palpable fear in the zone which is prompting Yoruba leaders to speak out with one voice to ensure that the region is not totally subdued by the invasion of the Fulanis who have taken over the Forest reserves across the South West.
From the records available, it was said that the Fulani herdsmen and collaborators, who are now unleashing terror and fresh attack on the South west have over 1,500 cells across the forests in the region.
With the present state of insecurity, the South west governors despite the formation of Amotekun are now taking extra precautionary measures to ensure adequate security and give Amotekun more teeth to bite, than before.
The rate with which the herdsmen are raiding the South west has made both Oyo state Governor Engineer Seyi Makinde and his counterparts in Ondo state Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, to come out with more stringent moves to curtail the activities of the herdsmen.
These two States are the mostly affected in the South west now, because they have the largest Forest Parks and reserves.
What compounded that of Oyo State is it’s nearness to the borders and the core Northern region which the herders are using as a result of the porous borders to come to the state and hide in the forest reserves to unleash terror and attacks on the people.
Governor Akeredolu was so angry with the activities of the bandits, especially after the killing of the traditional ruler in the state, the Olufon of Ifon Oba Isreal Adewusi, who was returning from the Council of Oba’s meeting in Akure.
Akeredolu, who, during his condolence visit to the people of Ifon declared that the incident was an indications that Nigeria was in a security crisis beyond the ordinary, and has to put political consideration apart and ordered that the Fulani herdsmen, who have been using the Ondo Forest reserves as hide-out, ordered they vacate the place; a decision that was challenged by the presidency.
The Governor last week in a series of Twitter posts said the decision was based on the state of insecurity in the state. He said “bad elements” have turned the forest reserves into hideouts for keeping victims of kidnapping, negotiating for ransom and carrying out other criminal activities.
“All Forest Reserves in the state are to be vacated by herdsmen within the next seven days with effect from today, Monday 18th January, 2021,” Akeredolu ordered.
“Night-grazing is banned with immediate effect because most farm destruction takes place at night.” “Movement of cattle within cities and highways is prohibited. Under-aged grazing of cattle is outlawed”.
“Our resolution to guarantee safety of lives and property within the state shall remain utmost, as security agencies have been directed to enforce the ban.
“In its usual magnanimity, our administration will give a grace period of seven days for those who wish to carry on with their cattle-rearing business to register with appropriate authorities.”
Also the Oyo State Governor Engineer Seyi Makinde declared that the state was being invaded by herdsmen who are not Nigerians but used the porous border of the state to infiltrate the state’s Forest Park/ reserves to operate.
The governor said that bandits from Mali are trying to enter the country through a border in the state. Makinde, who spoke during a visit to the Oke Ogun area of the state, maintained that bandits from Mali were trying to cross in through Saki, a town in the state. Makinde while justifying his claim on the bandits’ movement, said that Saki shares an international border and it is more of an international issue.
“He said “2020 in particular has been a very challenging one. We can see that all of us are wearing face masks and observing other guidelines because we are faced with pandemic and economic meltdown. So, it was really tasking. Of course, in our locality here, the issue of banditry is also another issue.
“For instance, Saki shares an international border and it is more of an international issue because we have bandits all the way from Mali that are trying to cross. Once they gain entrance into anywhere they can operate, they will stay there.”
“When we inaugurated Amotekun, you gave us your support. When some bandits went to the bush at Kishi, we were able to flush them out with all the efforts of all of us here”. He then declared a total war on the hoodlums and promised that they will be fished out from wherever they are hiding in the state.
There was the recent incident and invasion of Ogun state is pathetic and the people now cry out that soldiers are aiding the herdsmen to raid their communities. This situation has forced the traditional rulers in Ketu communities of Yewa North Local Government Area of Ogun state to petition the Nigerian Army over alleged connivance of its officers with herdsmen to harass villagers in the state.
The traditional rulers are the Oniggua of Iggualand, Oba Micheal Dosumu; the Eselu of Iseluland, Oba Akintunde Akinyemi; and the Alademeso of Igan Alade, Oba Gabriel Olalowo. The monarchs in a petition addressed to the Brigade Commander, 35 Artillery Brigade, Nigerian Army, Alamala, Abeokuta, complained that herdsmen invaded their territories with soldiers and harassed their people.
“The Baale was asked to gather his subjects and people from nearby villages which he did. The suspected soldiers told the people that the purpose of their visit was to inform them that the Fulani herders would be coming into their communities to graze cows,” the monarchs said.
“After their address, they asked if anyone had question or comment to make in reaction to the information. Expectedly, one Mr. Seye Mulero responded by calling the attention of the soldiers to the inherent challenges of allowing the herders in their communities based on the sad previous experiences in the community.
“Seye Mulero further cited past killings, maiming and destruction of farms to buttress his point. Sadly, at this point, the soldiers seized him and mercilessly beat him up.
“In the same manner, the Fulani herders in company of the suspected soldiers left Ibeku for Asa, the adjoining village to address the Baale of Asa and his subjects as they had earlier done at Ibeku, the people refused to respond, having heard what transpired at Ibeku.
“However, one of the Fulani herders sighted some of people in the audience and picked on them as those that purportedly shouted at them at Ibeku while brutalising their victim (Seye Mulero). The herders asked the soldiers to also deal with them.
The monarch further said the state Commissioner of Police, Edward Ajogun, had on January 3 brokered a meeting over the matter at the Police Divisional Headquarters, Eggua.
According to them, during the meeting, some of the herders confirmed that they brought the soldiers that escorted them while grazing their herds on the people’s lands, a development that the CP himself strongly condemned.
The monarchs asked the military authority to identify, investigate and prosecute the suspected soldiers for the alleged connivance and involvement in the attacks on the villagers by the Fulani herdsmen. The present security challenges and the invasion of the herdsmen in Yoruba land has made leaders and prominent personalities, cultural associations to react.
One of the leaders of Yoruba land, Professor Banji Akintoye has said that the the people of the region would react if the invasion did not stop and it could result in self defense and anarchy.
“Altogether, we are a nation under very devastating stress in the context of Nigeria. But none of these reverses ranks as high now as the invasion which our Yoruba homeland has been experiencing since 2014. Since 2014, gangs of Fulani herdsmen and militias, coming from the Northwest and other parts of the Nigerian far North, have been destroying farms in our homeland, killing large numbers of farmers and farmers’ wives and children, raping and killing women, destroying villages, kidnapping people, and generally engaging in uttermost rampage in various parts of Yorubaland.
“It has been the same in the homelands of the many peoples of the Nigerian Middle Belt, in the Igbo homeland in the Southeast, and in the homelands of many of the peoples of the South-south”.
“In short, the whole of the Nigerian Middle Belt and South have been experiencing unimaginable disruption since 2015 as a result of persistent rampages by Fulani herdsmen and militias. And it is my belief and recommendation that we must get rid of this invasion without any delay.”
Also on the invasion of the herdsmen in the South west, former Director of the Directorate of Military Intelligence, Col. Kunle Togun (retd), raised the alarm that the South-west has been invaded by Fulani herdsmen from Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal and other West African countries.
Togun pointed out that it was sad some people were playing politics with security issues.
According to to him, “the Yoruba nation is under invasion and that is a fact. The entire Yorubaland has been invaded by these herdsmen and unfortunately, some people are supporting this because of political considerations.”
He argued “the herdsmen were able to perpetrate criminal activities because they have studied the topography of the area and the psychology of the people.”
He warned about some people in Yorubaland, especially in Oke Ogun of Oyo State, selling land to the Fulani saying, that this act would continue to put the Yoruba people and their generations in danger.
“Some people including traditional rulers take cows from these Fulani and settle them here. This has been happening in Oke-Ogun. They graze on people’s farms and kill anyone who complains.”
“These herdsmen now kill the native Fulani and rustle their cows; they rape their wives. These people are Fulani from Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. They come here to own Nigerian land. How can the inheritance of our future generation be given to foreigners? The whole of Oke-Ogun and Ibarapa have been invaded; the entire Yorubaland has been invaded. They have brought their youths, who are now commercial motorcyclists in Lagos. They sell carrots, fruits and all that”.
Togun said he predicted the current situation in December 2014 when he was invited to deliver a lecture by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria but that no action was taken on it.
“Nigerians are not security-conscious people but the worst are the Yoruba. Some are looking at the issue from religious and political views”, he added.
The Yoruba council of Elders has also expressed bitterness over the rate the Fulani are invading the south West and wan steps taken to curtail their activities. The president of the Council Col. S. Ade Agbede said that the Yoruba people and elders would not fold their arms and allow this to continue.
He asked the Federal government to act and if not, the south west would not look while the people are being killed, kidnapped and raped. He then said “I will like all Yoruba people both young and old to be on guard and regard the issue of security as a serious matter.”