How Lagos tamed Fulani herdsmen

There have been rising cases of killings and wanton destruction of properties by Fulani herdsmen in some parts of the South West region in recent times.

Lagos State is also located in the south-western part of Nigeria on the narrow coastal flood plain of Bight of Benin.

The state is bound in the north and east by Ogun State of Nigeria, in the west by the Republic of Benin, and in the south by the Atlantic Ocean. It has five administrative divisions of Ikeja, Badagry, Ikorodu, Lagos Island and Epe.

There was a period when the cases of Fulani herdsmen attacks were on the rise, particularly at the border line between Ogun and Lagos States, at Berger, along Lagos-Ogun Expressway.

Consequently, as part of measures to curtail the development, with the aim of bringing the culprits to book, government of Ogun and Lagos State, under the incumbent Governor Ibikunle Amosun and immediate past Governor Babatunde Fashola, respectively, created a joint police team to arrest the situation.

The then Lagos Police Commissioner, Umar Manko, announced that a new operational order had been released for the Lagos and Ogun Police Commands to constitute joint border patrol teams.

According to Manko, “Already, we have an operational order which we are going to implement very soon, criminals around the border areas of these two states have no choice than to leave.”

He said that the patrol teams would be provided with working tools and a conducive atmosphere to enhance their operations.

“We don’t expect anything less than positive results from the patrol teams,” he added.

Motorists on the Lagos/Ibadan expressway have been exposed to robbery and Fulani herdsmen attacks, at specific areas such as; Sapade, Ogere and the 7-km bridge, near Lagos

Some of the incidents that led to the security measures are as follows:

A commercial motorcyclist, popularly called  okada  rider was stabbed in the stomach by two hoodlums suspected to be Fulani herdsmen on the long bridge end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

It was learnt that the victim, Mr. Owolabi Habib, had picked his assailants at Berger, Lagos, who posed as passengers.

The hoodlums had told him they were going to New Kara, Ogun State, located around the long bridge.

According to a source within Habib’s family: “As soon as they got near their destination and Owolabi(Habib) slowed down, one of the men pulled out a long knife and stabbed him in the stomach.

“Habib told us that he abandoned his okada and fled to save himself. But the stab was so deep that his intestine came out.”

Habib was later rushed to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital.

A doctor at the centre, who  preferred anonymity said: “The wound he sustained needed intensive care. That is why he was moved to LASUTH.”

Also on July 7, 2012, a retired Brigadier-General, (retd), Sylvester Iruh, was killed on the bridge by suspected Fulani herdsmen as he was changing the tyre of his car.

Iruh left Ilorin, Kwara State to return to his family in Akute, Ogun, Lagos border, only to meet his death on the long bridge.

He was attacked by suspected herdsmen on the Long Bridge on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

Iruh’s wife, Christiana, explained, “When I got to the Lagos State Emergency Hospital where he was rushed to, I was told he was dead.

“I asked the other occupants of the vehicle – two men and a woman – what happened to my husband and they said the tyre of the Hilux vehicle he was driving had a problem. So, he had to stop on the bridge to change it.

“They said other motorists going on the road kept warning them that the place was dangerous. So, he decided to leave the place and change the tyre when they got to a safe spot.”

But before Iruh could leave the place, two men came out from under the bridge and immediately shot him with an arrow.

Christiana said, “I was told they immediately pounced on him after that and stabbed him all over his body and face. One of the daggers stuck to his back.

“Iru was confirmed dead at LASUTH. The dagger was also removed at the hospital.. The men who attacked him were said to be carrying sticks like Fulani nomads with bows and arrows in their bags.”

Iruh was the Commander, Army Records, Lokoja, Kogi State and was at a time appointed Chief Security Officer in the state during Alhaji Idris Ibrahim’s administration.

He retired in 2009 and had his pull-out ceremony on January 23, 2009.

The state Police Public Relations Officer, then, Mr. Muyiwa Adejobi, said, “We are always patrolling the long bridge because the area is notorious for robberies and attacks.

“Last night, we even arrested five suspected robbers there. When the police got wind of the attack, we did what we were supposed to do and we will continue to pay attention to the area.

“But we have to be careful with saying they are herdsmen until we catch the culprits and are able to ascertain their identity.”

The numerous incidents by suspected herdsmen on the long bridge and other areas elicited pragmatic measures by the police of both states to restore sanity in the states, especially along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

The security measures, it was gathered is being supported by efforts of the members of the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, and vigilante group by monitoring the area with the aim of arresting any suspected assailant as well as defend themselves and their land from the marauders.

The measure which has been sustained, has practically reduced the spate of attacks in the border areas and within the Lagos metropolis.

The present administration of Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode through the state Commissioner of Police,  Mr. Fatai Owoseni had warned criminals to steer clear of the state or be ruthlessly dealt with.

The Police Commissioner while speaking with newsmen enumerated strategies being put in place to prevent armed groups from infiltrating the state.

He said, “It is important that we do not allow any form of armed groups to come into the state before reacting. This is why we have put in place proactive measures such as constant raids on dark spots and criminal hide outs as well as random checks at entry points into the state.”

He however, urged all law abiding citizens to continue to go about their legitimate business without fear of molestation.