HERDSMEN OPEN GRAZING: Army, Govt Ignored Petition Against Soldiers Flogged People For Protesting Farms’ Destruction In Ogun - News at its peak

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HERDSMEN OPEN GRAZING: Army, Govt Ignored Petition Against Soldiers Flogged People For Protesting Farms’ Destruction In Ogun

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A traditional ruler, the Eselu of Iseluland, Oba Akintunde Akinyemi, is one of the leaders of Ketuland who petitioned the state government and the military authorities on the harassment of the people of the area by soldiers who connived with Fulani herdsmen. In this interview with DAUD OLATUNJI, the traditional ruler in the Yewa North Local Government Area of Ogun State explains the ordeals of the people in the hands of the soldiers and the herders

is it true that some soldiers connived with  Fulani herdsmen to flog your people?

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 confrontation with them.

What then went wrong?

This very time, why this issue became problematic was because the Benin Republic government passed a law that the Fulani should not graze their cattle  in the country.  I am also aware that they (Benin Republic)  wrote Nigeria’s  Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ogun State Government that they don’t want cattle  to be grazing in their country.  So, this year, the routes of the Fulani  changed. They now come from  the North to our area because during the dry season, we have green grass that their cattle can feed on. This is not the first time. But when they are coming  the government is always aware. When they are coming, government  sends anti-riot policemen to take  care of their feeding and logistics.  The policemen would be there to protect the Fulani and their cattle. Sometimes, the Fulani spend three months here and go.  But this year, instead of  policemen,  soldiers escorted the Fulani to our areas.

Did you mean you were not aware ?

I was not aware.  The police were also not aware. What the soldiers did was to assemble our people and beat those who cautioned against destruction of their  farms by the herdsmen.

What evidence do you have that the soldiers  beat your people?

We have video and pictures . When the soldiers came, they did not know this area. Even the Fulani that came did not know the border between the Benin Republic and Nigeria. On the Benin Republic side, there were Gendam (security agents). When the soldiers came with the Fulani, they strayed into the Benin Republic and there was exchange of fire between them and the Gendam. In the process, some of the Fulani got missing and they have not been found up till now.

What efforts has Ogun State Government made towards resolving this security issue in your areas?

The state government sent a powerful delegation.  I heard they had a meeting last week with the Deputy Commissioner of Police and the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Security. The governor took the necessary steps he ought to take. I was invited to a meeting.  I was the only one (monarch) at the meeting and I briefed them on the issue because they thought the Fulani that got missing were on  Nigerian land and I made them to understand that the place  is in the Benin Republic. When the Fulani were mounting pressure that they could not find their people, we thought they came to  attack us. We made them understand that the place  the Fulani went to is  not part of Nigeria. We know that the Fulani entered another country and that was why there was an exchange of fire.

But what we now need to know is that  where did  soldiers came to harass our people come? 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 police not soldiers who beat people.

Do the Fulani pay money to  the Baales or the Obas in the areas?

They don’t. They just go into our own farms and destroyed them.

Do you have the data of the Fulani destructive activities in your areas ?

You can’t even quantify the destruction  because when the Fulani come  with their cattle, they would break the silos and give all the maize there to their cattle and tell the farmers that they are willing to pay. One of them even told me that giving maize to their cattle gives the animals carbohydrate. So intentionally, they break the silos and give their cattle maize.

Can you mention the areas that Fulani have destroyed farms and killed farmers and residents ?

The areas include Agbon, Asaa, Eselu and Ibeku. They have destroyed farms and killed people in  22 communities in Ketuland. Chief Oluomo  and Michael Kudoro’s farms  were destroyed.  Even Apesi farm was destroyed. The  police always come to see the level of destruction. 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?

Do you also have  pictures  of those that have been killed so far by Fulani?

We have a whole lot  of them .  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.

Can you identify criminals among the herdsmen?

You cannot differentiate them because they are all Fulani.  It is the local Fulani that aid them.

Do you believe part of the problems is our porous borders?

The major problem,  aside from the fact that the borders are porous, is that these areas  are not developed. Anytime I am interviewed,  I always pose this question to the Federal Government.  The border commission should come and tell us one single project they have done in the border areas . To the  best of my ability, I have  not seen one, not even a borehole. There was a documentary recently showing the level of the dilapidation of our schools.  Some of the schools don’t even have English or Mathematics teachers and we are preparing them for examinations. There is a  high level of neglect by the government.

What effects do these have in your area?

It has a  negative effect on our people. Children are not going to school because their parents can’t afford to send them to school.

Can you suggest a way out?

There is nothing that can be done without the government. You cannot acquire land without the government.  Whatever you want to do the government must be ready to support. Our place is a belt of gypsum, cement and  limestone. It is difficult to bring a company to invest  here.

Can you give graphic details of how the soldiers flogged your people?

They visited Ibeku. They called the Baale to arrange his people.  They visited Moro, they gathered people there and subsequently visited Asa area and the person they beat reported to the Police.  The scars he sustained are still there up till now. He opposed rearing of cattle by the  Fulani on farm lands.  Incidentally I was in the palace and the place we are talking about is a village in the jungle but it is in my area. They came and that is why we wrote a petition because there is nothing you can do to someone carrying a gun.  That is why we wrote the petition and send it to the appropriate quarters.

Was your petition acknowledged?

It was acknowledged by the Department of State Services and even the police.

How about  the Nigerian Army?

They did but, they have not responded.

Who did you address  the petition to?

The petition was addressed to the governor, the Commissioner of police, one to Brigade Commander Alamala barracks and the Director of DSS.

Have you heard anything from them about the petition?

There  has not been any response from any of them, not even from the government. Even the Army was silent .

What is your advice to government?

My advice on the aspect of security is that the governor should please resuscitate the approach people are used to.  If the Fulani must come,  there must be anti-riot policemen on the ground. He should give the chairman the power  to oversee that area. Aside that,  we also want the governor to develop the border areas.The Federal Government should do the same.  We, the traditional rulers, why are we there? Everyone is talking about the role of traditional rulers. We can do farming now.  It is just for the government to give us money  and  experts who will guide us.  We have the land and we would work in collaboration with the ministry of agriculture.


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