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From Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Just when residents of Oja Odan community in Yewa North local Government Area of Ogun State, were heaving a sigh of relief over the incessant attacks by Fulani herdsmen, the town, once again, last week witnessed the fury of the armed cattle rearers.
In the past, communities like Eegua, Iselu, Igan Okoto and Igan Alade, all in Yewa North LG, as well as Iwoye in Imeko-Afon LG, were flash points of Fulani herdsmen attacks. While several persons – men, women and children – had either been reportedly killed or maimed, several farmers have had their crops, worth millions of naira devastated by cattle.
Apart from that, many women were raped and those who resisted suffered several machete blows. The wanton destruction by these rampaging herdsmen got to the height, when cows were reportedly unleashed on acres of farmland in Eegua, belonging to the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and crops running into millions of naira were destroyed!
Security agencies swung into action and some of the culprits were apprehended, while meetings were organised between the leadership of Fulani community and farmers as well as residents of the affected communities. Local vigilance groups were formed to checkmate the excesses of the herdsmen. These steps helped to douse the tension as herdsmen/farmers clashes receded.
Therefore, not few people were surprised and perhaps, shocked when on Saturday, December 9, persons suspected to be Fulani herdsmen, accosted four women in Oja-Odan and inflicted several machete cuts on them for resisting rape.
The women, it was gathered, were on their way from a burial of a relation at Moro and going home in Eegelu community when two suspected herdsmen accosted them at Oja-Odan. The suspected herdsmen, it was learnt, demanded to have sexual intercourse with the women. When they resisted, the furious herdsmen began to beat them, inflicting deep machete cuts on three of the victims. A relation to one of the victims told the Daily Sun that the women were later rescued and taken to a private clinic for treatment. He added that the incident was reported at the Oja-Odan Divisional Police Headquarters.
Vainly buoyed by their ability to escape arrest on Saturday, the assailants carried out similar attack on farmers the following day, injuring one of them severely.
“The women were returning home after a burial programme in their neighbouring community. They were attacked with machetes by herdsmen who wanted to rape them. There was another attack on innocent farmers yesterday (Sunday.) The two incidents were reported at the Oja-Odan Police Station,” the source said.
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Abimbola Oyeyemi, said though he was not aware of the attack on the women, he, however, confirmed that a farmer identified as Ige, Orisade, was attacked and wounded by suspected herdsmen. He said three herdsmen were arrested in connection with the attack on Ige.
He added that dangerous weapons such as AK 49 riffle, with serial number 513, 49 0.8mm life ammunition, 26 live cartridges and two sharp cutlasses, were recovered from suspects. He listed Mohammed Bello, Muhammed Momoh and Yisau Umoru (18) as the suspects:
“Three herdsmen have been arrested by the Police in Ogun State for attempted murder and unlawful possession of fire arms. The three were arrested following information received by the police that one Ige was attacked and severely wounded by the herdsmen in his Imedu farm Oke-Odo via Oja-Odan.
“And when he confronted them to know why they allowed their cattle to graze on his farm and destroyed his farms’ crops, an argument ensued in the process, the herdsmen attacked him with machete, wounding him severally before they escaped into the nearby bush.
“On the strength of the information, the Area Commander of Ilaro, Titus Musa, dispatched team of policemen to the scene and the bush was thoroughly combed in conjunction with local vigilante at the end of which the three suspects were arrested.”
The Eselu of Iselu, Oba Ebenezer Akinyemi, said the major threats being faced by people in Oja-Odan and the surrounding towns, including Iselu, remained attacks by Fulani herdsmen. He explained that on several occasions, he had personally led youths in the area to ward off armed herdsmen from attacking innocent residents.
He pointed out that most of the clashes between farmers and herdsmen are as a result of the latter taking cows to overrun farms. He added that though government was not folding its arms on the issues, he called for more concerted efforts to end the crisis once and for all. The clashes are always on the increase during the dry season, urging government look at promulgating anti-open gazing law, to forestall further loss of life and property.
A native of Oja-Odan, Gbenga Fabuyi, noted that people of the area have suffered several losses due to the unwarranted attacks by herdsmen. He added that it is always painful when innocent lives are taken or property destroyed by herdsmen: “Victims, orphans, widows and widowers courtesy of herdsmen are there without getting the desired justice.”
He chided government for its slow response to the calls for help, of the victims of herdsmen attacks, positing that security agencies, particularly police and well armed vigilance organisation, should be detailed to areas prone to incessant attacks by Fulani herdsmen.