The conflict over land ownership between the Yoruba community and their Fulani neighbours in some villages in Oyo State, South-west Nigeria, has claimed a life. This is as families displaced by the conflict since mid-January are yet to return to their villages over fear of reprisal attacks, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.
On Thursday, Tiamiyu Adeyanju, a Yoruba resident was killed as he tried to stop a herdsman who had brought cattle to drink from a communal stream, members of his family told this newspaper.
They said the injuries that led to his death were inflicted by the herdsman who attacked him with a machete.
Ago’Oyo, Mr Adeyanju’s village, is a walking distance from the troubled villages in our previous story. Until the attack that led to the death of Mr Adeyanju on Thursday, Ago’Oyo was calm as people went about their businesses peacefully, said the head of the village, Abdulganiyu Odunewu, who confirmed the killing to PREMIUM TIMES.
A leader in the Fulani community, Aliyu Usman, while admitting that there was a fight between the deceased and the herdsman, however, told PREMIUM TIMES, that Mr Adeyanju was not murdered but was killed by a “fiery” cow.
He explained that the cow gored the deceased with his horn as he tried to prevent it from drinking from the stream.
“The man (suspected murderer) is nomadic herdsman from Ipapo near Iseyin,” he said. He said the alleged assailant was not a resident of the area. Mr Usman added that he was helping the police to nab the fleeing herdsman
Meanwhile, as of Friday night, the police had arrested six persons in their effort to arrest the suspect.
Last week, PREMIUM Times reported that several Yoruba families were displaced from Agbegun, Monde and Oniyanrin – three villages in Afijio Local Government Area of Oyo State.
Three weeks after they became displaced, many them are still surviving on handouts from members of the public in the Jabata and Akesan areas of Oyo town, too scared to return home for fear of reprisal attacks by the Fulani neighbours.
The displacement followed the razing of the Fulani homes, mid-January by members of the Yoruba community who resorted to self-help after a customary court upheld their right to the disputed land.
Almost immediately, the Fulani retaliated and attacked the Yoruba men with machetes, forcing the entire Yoruba community to flee the villages for fear of further attacks.
The police also arrested some Yoruba men for the attack on the Fulani community.
“We are yet to go back,” a Yoruba, Alfa Rahman, said.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that all the Yoruba men arrested by the police following the razing of the Fulani homes have now been released.
The release followed a deal that the Yoruba would compensate the Fulani and rebuild their homes.
Mr Rahman said a delegation of the Yoruba are meeting with Mr Usman and a team of third-party negotiators, on the terms of their return and subsequent peaceful co-existence of both communities.
“He (Mr Usman) said they (negotiators) should come again tomorrow,” Mr Rahman said.
In an earlier conversation with him when PREMIUM TIMES visited the disputed land in January, Mr Usman said the Fulani were not planning to attack the Yoruba families. But his kinsmen made clear threats of attack in separate interviews with this newspaper in January.
The spokesperson for the police in Oyo State, Adekunle Ajisebutu, suggested the Yoruba families have no reason to fear and that they should return to the villages.
“The Commissioner of Police has directed twenty-four-hour surveillance and intensive patrol of the areas as well as other parts of the state,” said Mr Ajisebutu.
“No one should feel threatened. If anyone has a complaint about a threat to his life or property, they should report to the nearest police station for appropriate actions.”
Residents of neighbouring villages and commercial motorcyclists, however, said the police were yet to deploy officers to the area.
“There is no police anywhere,” said a resident, Musbau Lamidi.
When told that residents of the community said policemen were not deployed to the area, the police spokesperson, Mr Ajisebutu said: “the fact that you don’t see uniformed policemen doesn’t mean absence of police in the area. We have our strategies and you don’t expect to see presence of police in every home or village.”
He, however, admitted an “acute shortage of manpower.”