Nigeria now seems to be a safe haven for Fulani terrorists simply because one of their brothers is holding sway as the country’s president. That perhaps, explains why a Divisional Police Officer at Igbon, in Surulere Local Government Area of Oyo State, had the nerve to open fire on operatives of Amotekun, a state special security outfit, for daring to arrest some outlaw Fulani herdsmen in the area.
The DPO, Ayodeji Adepoju, allegedly shot and injured a member of the Oyo State Security Network Agency, Amotekun, on Friday. He also ordered the arrest of two operatives of the security agency for arresting herdsmen whose cattle were grazing on the farm in Gambari, allegedly destroying crops in the process.
The aggrieved farmer was said to have reported the case to Amotekun in the area and the herdsmen were arrested. But some of the herdsmen were said to have reported the case to the DPO who ordered the arrest of the two Amotekun operatives, Jenyo and Olatunji Mayowa, who were investigating the case.
Reports say the obviously pro-Fulani herdsmen DPO is claiming that Amotekun was not set up to arrest herdsmen but to go after armed robbers. The gun-trigger-happy DPO took the law into his hands when the unit Commander of Amotekun in the area, Araoye Amoo, went to the police station with his men to secure the release of his two arrested officials.
Amoo was still discussing with the police station guard when the DPO stormed out of his office and reportedly collected a gun from a policeman and shot one of the Amotekun men in the leg, claiming repeatedly that he overheard the Amotekun corps say they were coming to the station to kill him.
The unit commander said one of the Amotekun corps who escaped from the scene was pursued and disarmed, adding that the police checked and discovered that the gun which was forcefully collected from the Amotekun was not even loaded.
The unit commander, in a video said all the guns which his men carried to the station were not loaded because they did not go there to fight but to secure the release of those arrested.
Amotekun Commandant in Oyo State, Olayinka Olayanju, a retired Army Colonel, who confirmed the incident, adds that the injured Amotekun official had been taken to the LAUTECH Teaching Hospital, Ogbomoso. According to him, ‘’the DPO arrested and detained our men that arrested herdsmen. The unit commander led some of his people there to ask for the release of his men but the DPO was said to have shot them. One of them was injured and he is on admission at LAUTECH Teaching Hospital.”
Spokesman for the police in the state, Olugbenga Fadeyi, in a statement later says the Fulani herdsmen reported that some Amotekun operatives wanted to set their settlement on fire and some policemen who were deployed there brought the Amotekun men to the police station.
He was however silent on the shooting of the Amotekun operative.
“It was a report from the Secretary of Miyetti Allah, one, Oroji Allah ‘m’ at Orile Igbon Police Station that some Amotekun operatives planned to set ablaze Fulani ‘Igaa’. A team of policemen was sent to the scene and brought them to the station for amicable settlement by the DPO. Not too long, Amotekun corps numbering about 30 invaded the station and conducted themselves in an unruly and riotous manner. Three of them were arrested. The Area Commander Ogbomoso is handling the matter”, the police said.
In the mean time, two persons are said to have lost their lives when some herdsmen attacked Sanusi Village in the Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State. The incident allegedly occurred on Thursday and those who lost their lives were a farmer and a member of a vigilante group.
The operational motorcycles and vehicle of Amotekun were also allegedly set ablaze by the bandits. It was learnt that the attack occurred when Amotekun men and other security agents were carrying out the order of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to flush out the herdsmen who are illegally occupying the forest reserves in the state.
Amotekun Spokesman, Adebayo Ayeni, who confirmed the incident in a statement said, “men of Ondo State Security Network Agency, has again made another major breakthrough in their strive to get rid of criminal elements in Ondo State. This cartel were piling up arms and ammunition to invade the entire state, while masquerading as herders and using the forest as kidnappers den for negotiation and ransom, illegal mining activities and cultivation of Indian hemps.
“The security outfits in conjunction with the police, the army and other security agencies in the state however smoked them out of the forest, after it was discovered that the bandits had killed a farmer and a member of the vigilante group in the area. They also went to the village where an Amotekun vehicle was parked and set it ablaze.”
Also in Ogun State, over 100 Fulani herdsmen allegedly attacked Owode-Ketu and Ijoun villages in Yewa North Local Government Area, killing two people in the process. The victims: Isiaka Apesin and Oguntosin Adebayo were allegedly killed in an ambush by the killer-herdsmen who attacked the villages around 5am on Friday.
The assailants were said to have stormed Owode-Ketu and Ijoun communities shooting sporadically. The incident forced early closure of schools, hospitals and other businesses as villagers scampered for safety.
Baale of Owode-Ketu, Rev. Sanya Fabuyi who confirmed the incident to newsmen, disclosed that the herdsmen came with sophisticated weapons. Fabuyi said the villagers were helpless as the herdsmen shot sporadically causing panic around the area.
While he said, “we are being attacked, we need help, the police should please come to our rescue. The herdsmen came with sophisticated weapons and shot sporadically”, youth leader of the community, Sina Olaleye, also confirms that the herdsmen who were putting on bulletproof vests immediately moved into the forest after the attack.
“The herdsmen were more than one hundred and some of them were putting on bulletproof vests. They (herdsmen) are still in the forest now and the police are here combing the forest. All schools and businesses have been shutdown and our people are indoor for fear of being attacked”, the youth leader said.
Spokesman for the police in the state, Abimbola Oyeyemi, a Deputy Superintendent of Police confirmed the incident, but said the police could not ascertain whether the attackers were Fulani herdsmen. According to him, two people were killed, but no arrest has been made so far, adding that a joint security team comprising the police, local hunters, youths and men of the local vigilance group were currently on the trail of the assailants.
“We are combing the push right now. All the Area Commanders of the police divisions, all DPOs in that area, the hunters and the youths of all the communities (Eggua, Igbogila, Sawonjo and others), hunters and men of the local vigilance group have joined the police to comb the forest. The Area Commander of Ayetoro division is leading the onslaught. We are still in the bush now combing for those people.”
Yewa in Ogun West Senatorial District has been under attacks by killer-herdsmen who have been laying siege on communities in the District. A farmer, identified as Dele Olowoniyi was five days ago butchered to death by suspected Fulani herdsmen while asleep in his farm settlement at Oha village, Imeko, in Imeko-Afon Local Government Area.
While the herdsmen are busy spilling blood in Western Nigeria, Saturday Punch reports that a prominent Islamic cleric, Sheik Abubakar Gumi, has said that bandits operating in the northern states forests are planning to acquire anti-aircraft missiles to repeal attacks by the military.
Gumi, who recently went into forests in Zamfara State, to discuss with the bandits who have killed and rendered many people homeless, said his interaction with the bandits showed that they engage in kidnapping and collection of ransom for the purpose of raising money to buy weapons.
Northern states have for long been under the siege of bandits who carry out relentless attacks on villagers, killing and maiming people, setting houses ablaze, and displacing villagers.
Only on February 6, bandits reportedly killed 18 persons in an evening attack on the Birnin Gwari community of Kaduna State. Gumi on his return from the forest called on government to grant amnesty to the bandits so they could drop their weapons.
While with the bandits, he said he was made to understand that the bandits took to crime to revenge the killing of their families by cattle rustlers and the military through airstrikes.
While explaining that the bandits were victims seeking justice, Gumi warned that it was important for government to meet with them urgently before they become religiously radicalised and uncontrollable like the Boko Haram insurgents.
The cleric said, “these people were the first victims of cattle rustling, who lost all their cattle to rustlers because then, the rustlers were having the guns. Then when they lost their cattle, they joined (the rustlers) and they started to kidnap people.
“In fact, most of the kidnappings, they (the bandits) are doing it to acquire weapons. They are now trying to buy missiles, anti-aircraft missiles. This is already developing into a full-blown insurgency and we should stop that. And what we are afraid of is that if they become religiously radicalised, it will give rise to another dimension, and it will be very difficult to control. You see what Boko Haram has become.”
Gumi ruled out the possibility that the bandits were being sponsored by politicians or have foreign collaborators.
According to him, the bandits’ sophisticated weapons were acquired with proceeds of kidnapping and not given to them by politicians or foreign collaborators.
He said, “Like I said, they are collecting ransoms to buy weapons. Look at the herdsmen in Oyo and south eastern states. They are not buying skyscrapers or riding Mercedes; they are still in the bush. They don’t want money. They want their cows, not money. They are doing that (kidnapping) to raise money just to buy weapons to repel helicopters and airplanes and to attack anybody that is going to attack them. You have to understand the psychology of these people. They are not like our governors that are stealing money. They don’t want money. For them, cow is better than money.”
However, Gumi said he realised that the bandits have collaborators in the armed forces.
He said, “They have collaborators everywhere – in the armed forces, everywhere. One of them said, ‘Even this cattle rustling, we don’t have trailers to transport cattle to where they are slaughtered. We don’t have an abattoir.’ So, there are people who are (collaborating with them). Even the kidnapping of the people, they said, ‘We don’t know these people; it is the people in town that will tell us a certain person has money.’”
The cleric warned that if the government failed to act fast, banditry, which, for now, is largely limited to the North, would also spread to the South.
Gumi maintained that the best approach to solve the banditry problem was through dialogue and granting amnesty to the bandits rather than using military might.
He said, “These people (bandits) know how to organise themselves and protect themselves and they have started attacking villages all around. Once you touch one of them, the whole of them will come together to attack a village. They mobilise themselves through the bush. So, it is not good to attack them, honestly speaking. The Hausa are suffering and they have therefore stopped attacking the Fulani herdsmen. So, we should not attack them. We should just pacify them and they are a very shy people. If you meet them, they are very shy.”
The cleric called on the government to urgently engage the bandits in a dialogue, grant them amnesty and re-integrate them into society by building schools, hospitals and other amenities for them.
He added, “When you offer them amnesty, they drop their weapons. Then you go in, build schools for them, build hospitals for them, get them censored; get them registered; then you can control (them).
“You can’t have access to them through the gun. Honestly, they know the terrain in the bush more than our military. So, it is better to negotiate with them.”
But Gumi’s call has been widely rejected and criticised across the country.
Among those who rejected the cleric’s amnesty proposal for the bandits were Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, and his Niger State counterpart, Sanni Bello.
El-Rufai, in an interview British Broadcasting Corporation Hausa servicesaid the bandits were used to getting big money and would find it difficult to repent.
The Kaduna governor said his administration had no room for negotiations, adding that any bandit arrested in the state would be killed.
El-Rufai said, “My administration is at war with the bandits and so we cannot negotiate. Eliminating them is the only solution to banditry.
“I never believed that a Fulani herdsman who ventured into banditry and is collecting millions of naira as ransom will repent. I spoke to Dr Gumi, who is my friend. I explained that majority of these bandits don’t believe in the religion. That is why they kill mercilessly.
“Anybody who thinks a Fulani herdsman that was used to only getting N100,000 in a year after selling a cow, but now is getting millions through kidnapping for ransom will stop, is only wasting his time.”
On his part, Bello, who spoke through his Commissioner for Information, Sani Idris, in an interview with the newspaper, said, “we don’t believe in what Gumi is doing; it is not the solution to the insecurity problem in this zone. We are in full support of what the Kaduna State Government said and that is also our stand on the issue.”