EARLIER this month, killer herdsmen gruesomely dismembered a woman, Elizabeth Pascal, in a pattern that is turning Ogun State to a safe haven for sundry criminals. Unfortunately, Pascal’s brutal daylight decapitation as she returned from the local stream to fetch water is not an isolated occurrence in the state. The whole of the Yewa area of the state is in tumult. Elsewhere in the state, two female students of the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ayetoro campus, in Yewa-North Local Government Area, Precious Adeyemo and Abiola Otefule, kidnapped recently were reportedly released. For years, farmers have been unable to go to their farms because of the fear of the Fulani herders, some of whom have infiltrated Nigeria from other West African countries.
In February alone, armed Fulani herders wreaked widespread havoc, including a dreadful February 8 incident in Oha village, Imeko-Afon LGA in which Dele Olowoniyi was butchered in a deadly midnight attack in front of his farmhouse by scores of herders. The victim’s wife said her husband’s offence was his complaint that herders destroyed his crops. Three days later, Isiaka Apesin and Adebayo Oguntosin lost their lives in another grisly attack on Owode-Ketu in Yewa North LGA. Around this period, the herders slaughtered two farmers in Fagboun village near Oja-Odan in Yewa South LGA within one week.
In January, some Yewa communities petitioned the governor and the security agencies over the invasion of their communities. In the petition, they accused the herders of conniving with soldiers, who subjected them to beatings and harassment for objecting to cows grazing on their farms. Nothing significant has been done to right this wrong.
The outcome is that the fleeing local people are fast ceding their land to the herders, who maim, rape and murder them. It is a surreal scenario. Affected areas include Asa, Igbooro, Moro, Ibeku and Agbon-Ojodu communities. According to media reports, five of the fleeing women have been delivered of babies in their camps in Benin Republic.
Although the state government denies that the people are fleeing, an account by the Nigerian Red Cross Society, which visited the concerned places, puts the situation in a frightening perspective. “What I saw there alongside my team, I will term it a very serious disaster,” said Oluwole Aboyade, the secretary of the Ogun chapter of the Red Cross. “The people have deserted their homes and they now sleep in Benin Republic. You can imagine people leaving Nigeria to seek protection in another country. The situation is more than pathetic.” This is a shame.
Governor Dapo Abiodun’s loud silence is ominous and risky, as he is endangering the lives of the citizens. In the 2019 Global Terrorism Index compiled by the Institute for Economics and Peace, armed Fulani herdsmen killed more Nigerians than Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West African Province terrorists. Undoubtedly, this is not a group to treat with levity. Governments across the West African sub-region have taken firm actions to stem their bloodletting.
Unlike many governors who are rising up to the challenge, it is obvious that Abiodun is not yet alive to this killer Fulani herdsmen menace. Although he has just donated some patrol vehicles to the security agencies to beef up security in the state, the reluctance depicted by his body language to move against the invaders is clearly evident. Long after the South-West states jointly agreed to establish the Western Nigeria Security Network, better known as Operation Amotekun, early in 2020, Ogun has yet to fully mobilise the outfit. In the face of the brutal campaign by the herders, this is unfathomable.
At this point, many states have realised that depending on the centre to secure them is mere futility. It has not worked and will not work. As a result, state governors are boldly rising to the occasion even beyond the South-West. In Benue, the Governor, Samuel Ortom, has enacted an anti-open grazing law. Bayelsa and Anambra are promulgating their own laws banning the open rearing of cattle. This is a giant step. In 2016, Ekiti State, under erstwhile governor Ayo Fayose, saw the need for such a law. Oyo State has followed suit. In Ondo, Rotimi Akeredolu has banned open grazing and given an eviction notice to the criminal herders illegally occupying the forest reserves in the state. All this are evolving attempts to rein in the murderous nomads.
Security wise, Nigeria is in a mess, and Abiodun has wasted too much time already. He should move with haste on the establishment of the Amotekun corps in Ogun, collaborating with the state House of Assembly to hasten the enactment of a law on it.
The herders’ atrocities are being helped by the lack of legal instruments to fight open grazing. Ogun should bring out its own law on anti-open grazing urgently. Lagos State has just reviewed its law on cultism. All incidents should be investigated thoroughly and suspects prosecuted. The people deserve a respite from the herdsmen occupation of their means of livelihood and incessant attacks. To make Ogun State safer, the governor should consolidate the joint arrangement between the state and the LGAs on security issues.
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