In Oyo, herdsmen believe their animals are utmost

As a result of the cord of unity that binds all diverse ethnic groups together as an indivisible entity, it is not out of place for anybody from the 44 ethnic groups that make up Nigeria to live anywhere in the country.

But, what happens if visitors now pose a serious threat to security of lives and property of their hosts?

That aptly paints the picture of the frosty relationship between residents of Oyo State especially people from Oke Ogun area and Fulani herdsmen. The constant clashes between the two groups.

The people of Oke Ogun are not complaining about co-habiting with the Fulani herdsmen, but their grudge against them stems from constant and unabated destruction of their farmlands by the cattle of these nomads.

The cold war between the two groups dates back to many years ago. According to a resident of the area, about 20 or 30 people have lost their lives since the problem started. The herdsmen are scattered all over towns and cities like Irawo, Agbonle in Saki East Local Government, Igboho, Igbeti, Iganna, Otu, Eruwa and Igboora. In all these areas, they always have serious problems with them.

He said, “The Fulani herdsmen believe they can kill human beings to protect lives of their animals. Their population is increasing seriously and this is due to some factors. One is that our area is savannah area. They know that their cattle grow bigger here than elsewhere because they have enough grass to eat. Two, we have large expanse of land that is large enough for them. Another factor is the issue of Boko Haram. There was a time, they even pleaded with our traditional rulers here to allow their people to come down and live here because of the problem of Boko Haram in the North. On market days, if you see them, they almost outnumber the indigenes. Most of these people come from Niger Republic because of its proximity to Saki.”

A lawyer in the area, Mr. Adeola Fehintola told Vanguard that the issue is a very herculean task for people in the area adding that they don’t sleep with their eyes closed any more.

According to him, indigenes especially farmers in Oke Ogun always have their hectares of farmlands destroyed by the voracious cattle that the Fulani men graze. When asked if there had been any improvement on the incident, he said, “it is even getting worse by the day and the recent kidnap of the former Secretary to the Federal Government and former Minister of Finance, Chief Olu Falae has further heightened the fears of our people. They say if ‘fire can consume a tortoise with iron coat, what will it not do to the flesh of a frog’ meaning if somebody like Chief Falae could be kidnapped, people of low estate are not safe”.

“Recently, there was a farmer whose hectares of farmland where he planted maize were completely destroyed. When I asked him to let us take up the matter, he simply said I should not bother just because he was afraid they(Fulani) could kill him. He is just one of the farmers that suffer in silence here in Oke Ogun”.

He said what baffles him was a response of one of the cattle rearers who said their animals too have a fundamental right to eat and what will they feed on if not grass?

He further explained that what the herdsmen do now is to pay for damages whenever their animals encroach upon any farmland but the compensation is never commensurate with the crops they destroy.

“For instance, if their cows destroyed crops worth N100,000 they offer you between N40, 000 and N60,000. Who will pay for the rest. That is the issue here. There have been several attacks on farmers and most of the physical attacks are unreported”.

Apart from destroying farmlands, most of these herdsmen are dare-devil robbers who don’t have any respect for sanctity of human life. In the past, the state police command had paraded them as robbery suspects and most the attacks would claim casualty.

Recently, the Chairman, Arewa Chiefs in southern Nigeria and the Seriki Hausa in Shasha, Oyo State, Alhaji Haruna Katsina advised that both groups should value peaceful co-existence.

The Hausa leader urged the Fulani herdsmen to maintain peace, respect their neighbors, and respect law and government to engender peace in the state.

Katsina said observing the laws of the land and respect for the host community will prevent conflict from escalating to violence saying the region will not allow the terrible condition being witnessed in the north to rear its head in southern Nigeria.

Alhaji Katsina stated this while  meeting  with the leaders of the Fulani in the 17 southern states of the country held at his palace in Ibadan.

The Seriki in Shasha is the Chairman of the Arewa Chiefs across the 17 southern states of the country. He called on the Fulani/ Bororo herdsmen to maintain peace, obey the   government and hold peaceful meetings occasionally and settle    their differences  with farmers in the state.

Early this month, the state House of Assembly constituted a committee that is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring peaceful existence between the herdsmen and their host. The committee is    headed by the majority leader of the legislative arm, Mr. Kehinde Subair.

The Speaker, Michael Adeyemo called on all feuding parties and other stakeholders to appear before the House so as to find lasting solutions to the recurring problem.

Among those the House summoned are the Permanent Secretary and Director, Livestock, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Commissioner of Police, the Chairman and Secretary, Fulani/Bororo Cattle Breeders Association. Others are the head, Oyo State Farmers Association and the head, Oke-Ogun Farmers Association.

Mr. Gabriel Kehinde, the Acting Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, said the only antidote to the problem was the creation of grazing reserve for the nomads.

Also, Mr. Solomon Odedeji, the Chairman, All Farmers’ Association of Nigeria(AFAN), Oyo State Chapter also urged the legislative arm to warn traditional heads, who allegedly connived with the herdsmen after collecting money from them.

In his own contribution, Alhaji Yakubu Bello, the Chairman, Miyetta Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria(MACBAN), Oyo State Chapter said complained that some farmers in the state often spray their farmlands and crops with    poisonous substances which often results to the death of many of their livestock, adding that the grazing reserve at Ayete and Igangan areas of the state were not accessible because the community had ploughed the land and chased them away.

Mr. Joshua Oyebamiji who represents Akinyele 1, called on all stakeholders to consult agriculturists on how best to provide alternative means of feeding the cattle.

The Speaker then called on traditional chiefs and the security agencies to be more vigilant and discharge their duties as expected of them.