At least nine people have been killed in Oyo State in violence between herdsmen and farmers, the police have said.
The deceased include a senior police officer, police commissioner Abiodun Odude said.
Speaking after a meeting to review the security situation, the Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, directed security agencies to begin the immediate arrest and prosecution of any herder caught carrying guns and other dangerous weapons across the state.
The governor gave the directive at a stakeholders’ meeting aimed at dousing the tension triggered by the incessant herdsmen-farmers clash in the state.
The meeting was attended by the representatives of farmers, Fulani herdsmen, security agencies and other stakeholders, at the House of Chiefs, Secretariat, Ibadan.
Mr. Ajimobi also directed the immediate registration of herdsmen and possibly their cattle to separate genuine pastoralists from criminal-minded herders, as well as the convocation of a monthly stakeholders’ meeting at the state and local government levels.
The governor said that a surveillance unit would be created under the Oyo State Joint Security Outfit, Operation Burst, to curtail the menace of cattle rustlers, murderous herdsmen and farmers who may take the laws into their own hands by poisoning cattle grazing on farmlands.
He called on Oyo residents to join hands with the government to secure the state by being vigilant and to always report any form of security breach to the appropriate security agencies instead of taking the law into their own hands.
Mr. Ajimobi wondered why anybody would be carrying guns and other dangerous weapons all in the name of herding cattle, saying such a person should not be regarded as a herdsman but an armed robber.
“The flagship of our administration’s programmes and successes has been the maintenance of peace and security and we will not allow anybody to truncate this,” he said.
“Fulani people are good people; if not I will not allow my only son to marry a Fulani lady. We must separate criminals from the good people.
“Why will a herdsman be carrying gun? Henceforth, any herdsman found with guns should be arrested and prosecuted. Owners of cattle found grazing on farmlands and destroying crops should also be arrested and prosecuted. Any farmer that poison cattle should also be arrested and prosecuted.
“But, we must realise that some of these herdsmen come all the way from Niger Republic and Chad for grazing. Not all of these herdsmen are Nigerians.
“The people have their roles, while the government also have a role to play in finding lasting solutions to the menace. We must all participate in the security of our communities. Yes, it is the responsibility of government to guarantee the safety and security of the citizens, but we cannot do it alone.
“We must learn to live together in peace. A special surveillance unit will be created under the Operation Burst to curtail the excesses of those concerned and they will be adequately equipped and given necessary logistics.”
The governor advocated ranching as a long-term solution to the crises, but enjoined the stakeholders to deliberate on a mutually-beneficial solution in the interim, stressing that ranching was the best global practice.
Also speaking, the Oyo State Police Commissioner, Abiodun Odude, said that the police had the personnel, equipment, the will and capacity to deal decisively with any criminal element in the name of herdsman.
Mr. Odude expressed the regret that no fewer than nine people, including the officer in charge of Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS), had been killed in the last two weeks.
He, however, said that seven people had so far been arrested in connection with the criminal activities, promising that more would be arrested and brought to justice.
“The happenings in the last two weeks have been disheartening. We recorded killings of the officer in charge of SARS; a 70-year-old man, five unidentified people and another farmer, in Iseyin, Saki and Ile-Ido. So far, we have recorded death of nine people and we have arrested seven suspects,” he said.
“It is pathetic. We know that the cardinal programme of the state administration is to maintain peace and security. We are not going to allow such things to happen again. We have the men, the equipment and will to ensure that peace is restored. We must learn to live in peace.”