The recent migration of Fulani people and cattle herders from neighbouring South-west states into Kwara is causing anxiety in the southern district of the state.
However, the state government has urged the people not to panic but to ensure they live in harmony with the new settlers.
The new arrivals are believed to have moved northward into Kwara following their expulsion from some South-west states.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how a Yoruba nationalist, Sunday Adeyemo, aka Sunday Igboho, gave Fulani settlers seven days to leave the Ibarapa area of Oyo State.
He had accused Fulani cattle herders of perpetrating kidnappings and other violent crimes in the area.
Mr Adeyemo then led some youth to Igangan in the area to enforce his quit notice, during which they damaged properties, including the house of the Seriki Fulani, Saliu Abdulkadir.
The Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, had also ordered herders to vacate government’s forest reserves he said they had encroached on in the state.
Last week, Mr Abdulkadir said he relocated his family to Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.
Influx, horrendous tales
But communities in Kwara South said there has also been an influx of herders to their area who they complained were already encroaching on and destroying their farms.
Residents, mostly farmers, who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES, said they feared the development would reenact their past bad experience with herders.
Sunday Adeniyi, a farmer in Offa, recounted how his cassava farm was destroyed by herders in 2019.
“I saw their cows grazing on my farm and I wanted to chase at them. The next thing I noticed was that the herders were moving towards my direction with their cutlasses,” he said.
“I had to quickly hop on my bike before they tried anything,” Mr Adeniyi added.
He said he did not harvest a single tuber of cassava from the farm of about three acres. “Their cows destroyed everything.”
Mr Adeniyi said the experience forced him to quit farming, adding that he now works as a bricklayer.
Another farmer in Osi in Ekiti Local Government Area, John Ayodele, recalled herders chasing his friends from his farm in broad daylight last year after grazing their cattle on the farm.
“These people are ruthless. They destroyed many farms. In fact, they raped and stole from others,” the septuagenarian told PREMIUM TIMES.
Messrs Adeniyi and Ayodele both urged the authorities not to allow the herders back into their areas.
Kicks from the South
The movement of herders has been met with consternation and protests in Ifelodun Local Government Area of the state too.
In video footage seen by PREMIUM TIMES, residents of Igbaja on Monday stormed the palace of their king who was hosting a meeting of the Council of Chiefs of the local government.
The clip shows a large crowd marching towards the venue of the meeting and chanting in Yoruba: “We don’t want Bororo (Fulani herders) in our community anymore.”
The king later addressed the people, promising to ensure an end to the menace of herders in the community.
“In the name of Kabiyesi, Elese of Igbaja, and the kings of Ifelodun, I greet you all. Because of this same issue (herdsmen-farmers conflict), we have gathered here today for solutions to the problems. We don’t want them too. We are working towards what you want,” the king said.
Also, women in Oro in neighbouring Irepodun Local Government Area marched to the palace of their king to protest the influx of the herders into the town.
They said the herders had settled on a portion of land a prominent indigene had acquired to start a large farm.
Meanwhile, a group of prominent persons in the area, Igbomina Professionals Association (IPA), also decried the influx of the herders into the area.
“The influx of Fulani herdsmen, recently expelled from some South-west towns, into Igbomina land in Kwara State calls for serious concern. Going by stories surrounding the activities of these people in their areas of former abode, the Igbomina Professionals Association (IPA) hereby rejects in totality their relocation to our area and illegal occupation of the lands on which they are currently erecting their new homes,” the group said in a statement signed by Bayo Atoyebi and Kunle Akogun, its chairman and spokesperson respectively.
According to the group, the Fulani have lived in the area for ages without problem, until recently when alleged criminal herders “joined the fray”.
No need to panic – State government
But the state authorities have said there is no need to panic over the new arrivals.
The Secretary to the State Government, Mamman Jibril, said the government has put in place measures to prevent crisis between host communities and herders in the state.
He advised residents to go about their lawful business and maintain a harmonious relationship with one another.
Mr Jibril, who spoke to journalists in Ilorin on Sunday, urged the people not to entertain fear about the security of their lives and properties.
He said the state government ”was working with the security agencies, directors of personnel management (DPMs) in the local governments, and the leadership of Miyetti Allah to strengthen the existing peace between various economic interests in the state”.
Meanwhile, the commissioner of police in the state, Mohammed Bagega, held a security meeting at the police headquarters on Tuesday.
The spokesperson of the police in the state, Okasanmi Ajayi, said the meeting was part of the efforts to allay the fear of the people ”on the influx of strange people suspected to be Fulani herders driven from neighbouring states”.
According to him, traditional rulers and leaders of different settlements and villages were at the meeting.
“The CP confirmed receiving information from different people on the alleged influx of Fulani herdsmen into the state and the step the command was taking to ensure there was no breakdown of law and order,” Mr Okasanmi said in a statement.
“He spoke frankly on the need for all hands to be on deck, collaboration among all stakeholders in the communities including resident Fulanis, so as to be able to fish out the defiantly inclined Fulanis in their midst. He admonished the stakeholders of the presence of peddlers of fake news in our society, and the need to verify any news before acting on the bases of such news.
“He spoke of the need to make information on movements of strange people around them available to the police. The people should also embrace the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in settling issues while consultation among the people, including the resident Fulanis, should be encouraged,” the spokesperson stated.
Mr Ajayi said the police commissioner advised the traditional rulers, as the leaders of their communities, not to abdicate their responsibility to the youth. He said the youth should be checked at all times for peace to reign in our communities.
On the feedback from the community leaders, Mr Ajayi said Billy Olajide, the Ololla of Olla, ”spoke extensively on the need for the government to take a decision on the issue of Fulani herders and the anxiety caused by their activities”.
“He solicited more logistics to be given to the police to enable them to perform optimally.
“In his own contribution, the Alangwas of Lanwa, Jebba and Sadu area spoke of his efforts at making the Fulani in their area conform with all the peaceful engagements with their hosts. He promised to ensure that no breakdown of peace will happen in their area,” he added.
According to Mr Ajayi, the Seriki Fulani Ajase also promised on behalf of his fellow Fulani to be lawful and join hands with the host communities to fish out criminals among them.
“Other traditional rulers made different suggestions on how the situation could be tackled.
In conclusion, the CP admonished the stakeholders to put the collective interest above personal interest for the purpose of peaceful co-existence among the different people in the state.”
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