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Residents flee, live in fear as herdsmen visit deaths, agony on communities for resisting farmland destruction in Ondo State

16:19 Jan 19 2022 Ondo State

Description
Days after some Fulani herdsmen unleashed terror on two Ondo communities of Molege and Arimogija both in the Ose Local Government Area, residents of the affected communities and other neighbouring areas still live in palpable fear.

Molege was the first to witness the attack as the terrorists (herdsmen) opened fire on the residents of the community on January 6, 2022 killing three people, including head of the community. After the deed, on the same fateful day, the herdsmen returned to the community in the night and reportedly burnt houses, but the residents had fled before their return. It was reported that the herdsmen embarked on the evil mission after they had been stopped from grazing on farmlands in Molege.

Few days later, another set of herdsmen attacked the residents of Arimogija town, killing another three youths. Among those killed in the attack was the chairman of the youths association of the community, Augustine Lucky.

The state Governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, visited the attacked community of Molege to see the level of the damage done by the terrorists. He was there in company with the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Oyeyemi Oyediran and the Commander of the state security network agency, Amotekun, Akogun Adetunji Adeleye and other government officials. The governor, who expressed bitterness over the sad incident vowed to deal with the perpetrators. Similarly, the Amotekun boss and the CP said they had deployed their men in the area, particularly, in the forest to forestall another occurrence.

However, the criminal herdsmen seemed to have dared the governor and the state security chiefs by moving to Arimogija community which is just about a mile to Molege, in less than 72 hours, to unleash another bloody attack. It was gathered that the attack on Arimogija would have been deadlier if not the timely response of the security agents.

Residents of the affected communities and many other communities in the Ose Local Government Area revealed that the ugly development had affected them as many people had been fleeing their abodes to seek refuge in other neighbouring communities for fear of another deadly attack of the criminal herdsmen.

A resident of the community, on condition of anonymity, said, “The Fulani herdsmen have their settlement in Edo State, but the settlement is located at the boundary of Ondo and Edo states, the place is called Ofetebe. It is a stream that demarcates the two states in that area. People are leaving because they may still come back.

“They are always carrying their AK 47 rifles to graze on other people’s farms. They always believe they are untouchable and above the law. They were the same persons that attacked the people of Molege. They would come from their community in Edo State to attack our people in Ondo and run back after the attack. We want to call on the state governments of Edo and Ondo and the security agencies of the two states to save us from those terrorists disguising as herdsmen.

Another resident of the Arimogija Community and Secretary of the Arimogija Youths Association, Mr Nweke Izuchukwu, who also escaped the attack, said there was a need for the security agencies and the government to shift serious attention to the area because herdsmen’s attacks, which according to him, had become a pain in the neck of the people. He confirmed that there was already fear among the people.

Izuchukwu said, “ The incident happened on Monday between 3pm and 5pm. They attacked the people working on the farm, some managed to escape with gunshot injuries. They rushed to the community to inform us about what happened. So when we heard this we had to call some security agents and the Amotekun people. They said they would switch to action immediately, so we went towards the direction of where the incident happened and our thought was that Amotekun operatives were already in the place, but later our people called again that they were dying, that we should come quickly. We started calling the Amotekun people again but their telephone was no more going through.

“It was at that point that youths of the community led by their leader, Odalumen Stephen, mobilised to the area. On getting there, they rescued the victims, who were injured and were bringing them back to the community. They were about two poles to enter the community when the herdsmen ambushed them and opened fire on them, killing three of them including the youth leader ( Stephen), while others are in the hospital.”

As a result of the incident, Izuchukwu confirmed that many residents had deserted the agrarian community, saying those still around were living in palpable fear and it was in that fear that they went to farm to work.

“As I am speaking with you, the community is empty. Not only the community, but also the neighbouring communities”, he stated.

However, the state government has allayed the fear of the bereaved people, saying there is heavy presence of security operatives around the area to forestall another attack by the herdsmen.

The Special Adviser to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu on Security Matters, Alhaji Dojumo, said there was no cause for alarm, stating that the Amotekun and other security agents had already been deployed in the area to avert any further attack and also to arrest the perpetrators of the dastardly act.

Dojumo said, “ I don’t see the herdsmen coming back, what happened in Molege and Arimogija, it was not that we were not at alert. It was just unfortunate that it happened but now we have intensified our efforts in that area and all the nooks and crannies of Ondo State. Everywhere is now properly policed and our intelligence has been improved. We are getting credible information. So people should not entertain any fear. Such would not happen again.”

Some security experts shared their views on the security of the state as they stressed the need for establishment of state police and encourage non-governmental paramilitary security outfits to join forces with the Amotekun corps and fight the insecurity at the grassroots.

The state Commandant of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria, Dr Gideon Akinwumi, asked the governor to encourage the VGN to be able to work collaboratively with the Amotekun corps.

He said, “A lot has been said about this for a long time, but it seems some people around the state governor are deceiving him, making him believe Amotekun alone can do it, and a tree cannot make a forest. I have said it previously that the state government should employ vigilante as additional internal security organisation for the state. If we combine tactics, certainly there will be a great achievement.”

In his own view, a retired commissioner of police, Mr Samuel Adetuyi, said the government should employ technological means to tackle the menace in addition to the creation of the state police.

“With the level of Insecurity presently in the country, the federal and state governments should have resolved the unnecessary contentious issue of the establishment of the state police in line with the features of federalism that we are. This will enable the various security outfits established by the states to operate at full throttle. Beyond this, it has always been my belief that government must wholesomely move from the present analogue anti-crime strategy to a technology driven approach. There is no doubt that the cost component is high, but we can seek the assistance of developed countries in this regard,” Adetuyi said.

Meanwhile, the Gani Adams’ faction of the Oodua People’s Congress, has expressed its readiness to work with the Amotekun corps to fight the insecurity in the state.

In a statement issued by the state coordinator of the group, Mr Nafiu Sarafa, the OPC said it was ready to complement the Amotekun in the state to tackle the menace of herdsmen/ farmers clashes, kidnapping, banditry and other criminal activities anywhere in the state.

The statement read, “Another landmark achievement of the Amotekun Corps is the ability to keep the state safe by the adequate implementation of the anti-grazing law signed by the Akeredolu-led administration. All these laudable goals were made possible and achievable with the total support, encouragement and enabling environment given to the Amotekun Corps by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, to secure the people of Ondo State and their property.

“While congratulating the governor, his government, the Amotekun Corps and other security agents for these lofty and noble achievements in securing our Sunshine State, we as OPC pledge our loyalty and readiness to join the winning team in order to consolidate and solidify the security apparatus put on ground by the governor.”

Similarly, the monarchs in the four local governments in Akokoland resolved, in a meeting, held in Oka Akoko recently, to find means of tackling the menace through all possible ways as they lamented that the incessant attacks of the hoodlums had negatively affected the development of the area.
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