There’s hardly a day without security issues raising dust in the country. In Ogun the farmers and herders skirmishes are a pain in the governor’s neck, writes INIOBONG IWOK
Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun recently inaugurated a peace committee and backed it up with a donation of patrol vans and motorcycles to security operatives in the state.
The reasons for these are not far-fetched.
Herders-farmers clashes have in recent time inflamed Ogun State, particularly in some remote communities in Yewa North and Imeko Afon Local Government Areas.
The clashes have left human casualties on both sides. It also led to the destruction of farms, cows and other valuable property.
The incident, which started in Oha Farm Settlement in Imeko-Afon Local Government Area of the state when one Dele Olowoniyi was hacked to death by suspected herdsmen in the midnight of Saturday, February 6, 2021, has spread like a wild fire to other communities such as Owode-Ketu, Asa, Igbooro and Agbon Ojodu, all in Yewa North LGA, where no fewer than 13 person lost their lives. Property including houses, cars, farms and motorcycles were also destroyed.
Lamenting the incessant killings in his constituency, a member of the Ogun State House of Assembly, representing Yewa North 2 State Constituency, Wahab Haruna called both the state and federal government to beef up security in the areas prone to farmers-herders clashes in the state.
“Ketu Area of my constituency has often witnessed violence attacks stemming from disputes between the herdsmen and the farmers,” Haruna noted.
On his part, the Sarkin Fulani in Ogun State and the Zonal Coordinator, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Kabiru Labar, told the Ogun State government delegation during a peace mission to Kara Cow Market in Abeokuta, that his members were killed in what appeared as reprisal attacks.
He added that scores of cows and markets were also killed and destroyed during the attacks.
Labar, while absolving his members of carrying out attacks and destruction of farms and farm produce in the host communities, attributed the attacks to foreign invaders from the neighbouring countries. He added that the attacks were meant to turn farmers against legitimate herders in the state.
Mission to calm frayed nerves
As part of first step towards finding a lasting peace between farmers and herders, the Ogun State government’s delegation and representatives of security agencies embarked on what it termed as ‘Peace and Confidence Building Mission’ to the affected communities and some neighbouring towns.
The delegation comprising Commissioners for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Information and Strategy, Afolabi Afuape and Waheed Odusile respectively, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Security, Retired AIG Sola Subair, Special Assistant to the Governor on Inter-ethnic Affairs, Hadi Sanni and representatives of security agencies, visited Ibeshe, Ilaro, Oja Odan, Ebute Igbooro, Eggua, while a whistle stop visit was also paid to Igbogila and adjoining communities.
The delegation equally visited the palaces of the Olu of Ilaro and Paramount Ruler of Yewaland and Eselu of Iselu Kingdom, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle and Oba Ebenezer Akintunde Akinyemi.
Speaking at the Palace of Olu of Ilaro, Afuape, noted that though the farmers/herders clashes was a national problem, the state government was seriously looking at ways of finding enduring solutions to the challenges.
“Government is not happy with what is happening in this area. Government is not happy with what is going on in this part of the state. We have come on the instruction of the governor to see what can be done to address this crisis. I must stress the need for peaceful co-existence among all our people, irrespective of where they come from. Though this crisis is a national issue, government is putting security plans in place to secure the lives of our people in this area,” Afuape stated.
Corroborating Afuape’s position, Odusile appealed to the people not to take laws into their hands, but to allow the security agencies and the traditional rulers handle the situation.
While calling for peaceful co-existence among the indigenes and people from other ethnic groups, Odusile disclosed that an all-inclusive stakeholders’ meeting had been scheduled to hold to find solutions to the problems.
During an interview session, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Security, AIG Sola Subair (rtd.), said a Joint Security Task Force that would be stationed in the affected areas would take off immediately, just as the Amotekun Corps would begin operations to complement the taskforce.
Abiodun’s assurance of adequate security
Governor Abiodun, during his on-the-spot assessment tour of the affected villages, said a Special Task Force(STF) comprising of soldiers, Police, Operatives of Department of State Security (DSS), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and hunters had been assembled and would be deployed to their communities for surveillance and provision of security to the residence.
The governor also assured the people of compensation for those who lost property and support for others who lost loved ones.
He added that the hospital bills of the injured would be picked by the state government.
Stakeholders’ peace parley
As parts of efforts to find lasting solution to the farmers/herders clashes in the state, the state government had on Tuesday 16, 2021 organised a stakeholders’ parley.
The meeting was attended by some governors including Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Chairman, Northern Governors’ Forum and Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello; Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi); Bello Matawalle (Zamfara) and Abdulahi Ganduje (Kano).
Other critical stakeholders at the meeting included traditional rulers, religious leaders, representatives of Meyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), All Farmers Association and heads of security agencies.
Speaking at the meeting, Governor Abiodun said it was high time urgent and pragmatic steps were taken in settling the farmers-herders clashes to guide against it snowballing into an unstoppable crisis.
He wondered why people who had lived together for years now turn against one another.
“It has become worrisome that people who had co-existed peacefully for years are suddenly at each other’s throat on account of sources of livelihood. From time immemorial, herders and farmers have peacefully cohabited and have continued to find joint solutions to their mutual challenges, occasional frictions and misunderstandings, while sorting these differences amicably,” Abiodun said.
While assuring that no stone would be left unturned in securing the people, the governor maintained, “Our first priority in Ogun State is the safety of lives and property of everyone in our dear state irrespective of the circumstances of their birth or religious leaning. Let me restate that we will not compromise”.
“There is a need for collective action between all of us, whether as native farmers; cattle owners; herders; local community leaders; security agents, to rid our dear State of these criminals.
“We must use the opportunity of this parley to tell ourselves the truth, not necessarily by apportioning blame, but definitely we must come up with more practical and viable recommendations that will further cement the peaceful coexistence that we have always had in Ogun State,” Abiodun added.
On his part, the Ondo State governor and Chairman of the Southwest Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu warned that the southwest governors would not allow foreigners occupying the forest reserves illegally to perpetrate crimes and breed insurgency in the region.
Akeredolu said the southwest was learning from the festering cases of insurgency in other states in the country, stressing that criminality must be jointly fought.
He added that it had become important to identify ways to reinforce and foster peaceful coexistence between the people in the southwest and the northerners who have been living in the region for ages.
Akeredolu highlighted the commercial gains and advantages of keeping cows in a designated area instead of moving them around from one region to another, urging the herders to reflect on the business opportunities that the situation was offering.
He vowed criminals illegally occupying forest reserves in the southwest will be flushed out, adding that those who are interested to do legitimate business in the forest must be registered.
The Governor of Kano State, Abdulahi Umar Ganduje attributed the farmers-herders clashes to encroachment, poor education and poverty among the herders, calling for the stoppage of moving cattle from the north to the south.
Ganduje described the crisis as an economic issue turning tribal and religious, calling on the federal government to assist herders transit from pastoral to modern ranching.
Governor Abubakar Sanni-Bello of Niger called for sincere actions to address the problem before it takes a new twist, noting that setting up of ranches was the best way to stop the crisis.
His Zamfara State counterpart, Bello Muhammed Mattawale, recalled the activities of bandits in his state, regretting the loss of lives and destruction of property from the clashes.
The Kebbi State governor, Atiku Bagudu submitted that though Nigerians have rights to live in any part of the country, there must be ways of identifying them and regulating their activities for peaceful co-existence.
The Chairman, Ogun State Council of Obas and the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, expressed the Council’s supports for steps taken by the government in solving the crisis.
The Olu of Ilaro and Paramount Ruler of Yewaland, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle cautioned the Miyetti Allah leadership to guide their utterances in the media, while the Onimeko of Imeko, Oba Benjamin Olanite, alleged that a lot of arms and ammunitions had been brought into Yewaland by foreign pastoralists.
He drew government’s attention to the Imeko Forest Reserve which he said has been turned into a hideout by criminals.
He said the development had exposed people living in the area to serious attacks by armed herdsmen.
He lamented that farmers in the area had suffered huge losses, which might not be recoverable on time except they got help from the government.
The President of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, Mohammed Kiriwa, represented by the National Secretary, Uthman Ngelxema, noted that the crisis was caused by foreign herders as their Nigerian counterparts have always lived in peace with host communities.
The Chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria in Ogun, Segun Dasaolu, revealed that there had been strong collaboration with some herders who have lived in the southwest for decades, adding it was time to combine forces to tackle the menace.
Rounding off discussions, Governor Abiodun said the Federal Government needed to take a second look at the ECOWAS Treaty, as it was meant for people and not cattle movement. He added that a treaty was expected to be signed between the herders and the state government on what has been discussed and agreed on how to go about it.
20-man Peace Committee inaugurated
As a follow up to the stakeholders’ parley on the herders-farmers crisis, Governor Dapo Abiodun, on Saturday, February 20, inaugurated a 20-man Peace Keeping Committee on the farmers and herders clashes in the state.
Inaugurating the Committee headed by a former House of Representatives member, Kayode Oladele, at the Obas’ Complex, Oke Mosan, Abeokuta, Abiodun mandated members of the panel to determine the cause of the ethnic clashes in Yewaland, the losses and recommend how to forestall recurrence.
He gave the committee comprising state security chiefs, traditional rulers, lawmakers, government officials, representatives of Fulani herdsmen and farmers, four weeks to submit its report.
The governor equally noted that while the committee’s assignment takes immediate effect, his government would roll out palliatives to the victims of the clashes to cushion the effects of their losses.
He added that some victims displaced due to the crisis would be provided with shelter.
“The first assignment will be to determine what really happened. What happened? What happened that disrupted the peace we enjoyed in this state and in that particular area for so long? Because it is in determining what happened that we will ensure such will not repeat itself again.
“After that, we now look at what has it cost us? What have we lost? So, this committee must determine what it has cost us.
“The Committee will determine how we ensure this does not happen again. After the submission of report which must be within four weeks, I am hoping that this committee can even finish the assignment in two weeks.
“Then, the committee will now proceed to be a standing committee that will ensure that peace and harmony continue to reign within all of us,” Abiodun stated
The governor also disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari, at a meeting, had recommended Ogun Model on the resolution of farmers and herders clashes, to other states in the country.
Responding on behalf of the committee, a member and lawmaker representing Imeko/Afon State Constituency in the Ogun State House of Assembly, Jemili Akingbade, applauded the governor for the quick action and responses. He promised that members would carry out its assignment diligently.
“Your Excellency, I want to assure you that the committee will perform beyond expectation,” Akingbade assured.
Miyetti Allah, Fulani Community express confidence in Abiodun’s Peace Committee
The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and Fulani Community in Ogun state, expressed confidence in the ability of the state’s Peace Keeping Committee on Farmers/Herders’ conflict set up by Governor Dapo Abiodun-led administration in the state, in resolving the protracted crisis.
The South West Chairman of MACBAN and Sarikin Fulani in Ogun state, Muhammed Kabir Labar, gave this position on Monday, March 1, in his remarks at the inaugural meeting of the Committee, held in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
He declared that his association had “strong belief” in the ability of the Kayode Oladele led 20-man committee at getting to the roots of the clashes between farmers and herders, and proffer permanent solution towards maintaining peaceful coexistence of people in the affected areas.
Labar urged all the affected communities affected in Yewa North and Imeko-Afon Local Government Areas, to remain calm and cooperate with the committee members towards ensuring that it succeeded in its mission.
“Our belief is that the committee is working perfectly in conjunction with all the stakeholders towards ensuring that we get results and that the conflict is totally resolved.
“We are calling on all the communities affected to remain calm and that the committee will get to them in its fact-finding mission and relay such to the state government as well as all the other agencies involved, so that we can continue to enjoy the peaceful coexistence that we had in the past.
“Our belief is firm in this process and by the special grace of God, we will have achieved a peaceful resolution”, Ogun Sarikin Fulani stated.
Earlier, chairman of the Committee, Kayode Oladele had disclosed that the state government was not unaware of the degree of damages, loss of properties and lives recorded on both sides, declaring his committee would not shy away from faithfully discharging its responsibility towards ensuring that peace and tranquility return to the state.
Oladele, however, disclosed that the 20-man committee had been divided into four other sub-committees to enable it complete its assignment within the time frame given to it by the state government.
According to the chairman, the first sub-committee will be saddled with the responsibility of finding the root causes of the conflict, while the second committee is to determine the levels of damage and compensation to the victims.
Abiodun hands over patrol vehicles, motorcycles to JSIS
On March 2, Governor Abiodun handed patrol vehicles over to the Joint Security Intervention Squad (JSIS) to secure lives and property in Ogun state against further attacks by suspected killer herdsmen.
JSIS, constituted by the state government in response to the recent farmers-herders clashes, had its members drawn from the Nigerian Army, Nigeria Police, Department of State Security Service (DSS) and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
The 10 operational vans and 20 motorcycles equiped with communication gadgets to enhance operations were received by the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of JSIS Operations, DCP Ahmed Abdullahi, at a ceremony attended by the security chiefs in the state.
Abiodun charged operatives of the special taskforce to make optimal use of the equipment for the protection of the people of the state, hinting that personnel of the South West Security Networks (SWSN) code named “Amotekun” would soon be deployed to reinforce JSIS.
He emphasised that equipping the taskforce with necessary working tools was more important than setting it up.
The governor, however, admonished the people of the state to stop ascribing crime to any ethnic nationality, but rather address and treat criminals with the appropriate provisions of the law.