Tuesday, 30th May 2023
<To guardian.ng

Ondo farmers under siege, seek end to herders’ carnage

By  Gbenga Akinfenwa (Lagos) and  Adewale Momoh (Akure)
12 February 2023   |   4:09 am
Farmers in Ondo State, especially those in agrarian communities are currently under siege, going by the persistent onslaughts unleashed on them, their farmlands, and entire communities, which have sent many to their early graves.

[FILES] A Hausa-Fulani boy stands while his cattle is grazing near some farms . (Photo by Luis TATO / AFP)

• Crops Worth Millions, 50 Hectares Of Farmlands Destroyed  • We Are Scared Of Going Back To Our Farms – Victims

Farmers in Ondo State, especially those in agrarian communities are currently under siege, going by the persistent onslaughts unleashed on them, their farmlands, and entire communities, which have sent many to their early graves.

So far, crops worth millions of naira have been destroyed, and houses and barns set ablaze. This widespread loss of property has forced many to flee the area for their dear lives.
The incessant attacks, which have been going on for months not only constitute a security threat, but also a serious food security hazard to the state and the entire South West region. 
For instance, no fewer than 500 petitions have been received by the Ondo State Security Network Agency, codenamed Amotekun Corps regarding the farmers’ and herders’ clashes in the state between last year and now. This lends credence to the severity of the menace.
Communities in the council have, for a while now, been prone to attacks due to their location – sharing boundaries with Edo State.
The latest attack, which happened last week in Arimogija Community, in Ose Local Council, reportedly claimed lives, while several others were left injured.
 The assault came barely 72 hours after Molege Community in the same council area was attacked, leading to the alleged killing of three people. To many of the farmers, the onslaughts remain a surprise, as security operatives had assured them that such an occurrence would never happen again in the council following previous experiences.
In the latest attacks, six people were killed and property destroyed in the three agrarian communities. According to findings, 40 hectares of farmlands were destroyed in Imoru, while almost all the plantations in Arimogija and Molege were razed. 
Though the exact cost of losses incurred is yet to be ascertained, victims claim that the crops destroyed are worth millions of naira.   A community leader, Mr. Owolafe Folorunsho, who narrated their ordeal, disclosed that the February 2, 2023 attack erupted after farmers tried to repel the continued wanton destruction of their crops by herdsmen.
Folorunsho said: “The herders have continued to invade our farmlands at night, harvest our crops to feed their cows, and on many occasions, they come during the day and force us to uproot the cassava by ourselves, at gunpoint, and command us to cut them into pieces to feed their cows.
“In order not to take laws into our hands, we reported this act of economic sabotage to the appropriate authorities who took prompt action and chased them out of the farming areas, only for the herdsmen to come back and attack us with AK-47, pump action riffles, axes, and cutlasses, killing some of our people at night.”
One of the farmers from Imoru community, Tobi Joshua, who lamented the havoc wrecked on the community, said the recent attack was the most devastating.
 According to him, the gunmen, who were armed with AK-47 and pump-action rifles, invaded the community and fired shots before destroying the crops on the farms. He said some cows were killed during the confrontation with the herders.
Joshua said, “I can’t even quantify the amount that was lost after the destruction. I spent a huge amount of money on my cassava farm, but these people (the herders) came and destroyed everything.
“The same thing was also done to my brother’s farm. We were not around in the community when they arrived.  “There is apprehension currently in the village. Security agents had assured us that we won’t be attacked again, but these people did it again. Going back to the farm is now a huge problem for us.”
Another farmer, Jude Clement, a native of Benue State, who has large cassava and pepper farms in Molege, said he had been having issues with the herdsmen for about four years.
According to him, all efforts to get justice any time the herders invade his farm had been met with frustrations before the recent onslaught occurred.
On his part, Idowu Oludare, said farmers are already getting tired of the effrontery and audacious moves of the herders on lands that do not belong to them.
The monarch of Imoru Community, Oba Rotimi Obamuwagun, who decried the atrocities committed by herders in the area, disclosed that four hectares of cassava farm belonging to one of his subjects, who took a loan with a high-interest rate from a commercial bank to finance the farm, were destroyed.
But despite the apprehension, the Commander of Amotekun Corps, Akogun Adetunji Adeleye, has assured the farmers that they can now return to their farms, stressing that the security agencies in the state have effectively handled the situation.
 Adeleye, who doubles as the Special Adviser to the Ondo State Governor on Security Matters, said: “I want to especially thank the Army and the Police for joining hands with the Amotekun Corps, which helped towards exiting the herdsmen from the area.”
According to him: “We have enough men on the ground in Ijagba and Arimogija to guarantee the safety of the people in the community and its environs.
“This is because we went right into the forest, and we were able to chase them far away from the state,” he stated.  When contacted, the State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), SP Funmilayo Odunlami, disclosed that the unrest in the communities has been put under control.
The police image maker added that police operatives are still on the ground in the affected communities to checkmate further attacks.
According to her, when the incident happened, operatives were immediately mobilised to the area, stressing that an investigation is still ongoing to unravel the circumstances behind the attacks. Odunlami, however, did not disclose the number of casualties, as well as the number of arrests made so far. 


In this article