By Rotimi Ojomoyela, Ado Ekiti and Kennedy Mbele
EKITI – Rogue elements among herdsmen are said to be establishing camps in various places in Ekiti State, notably in Government Forest Reserves, where they engage in some kind of military training, according to a report prepared by a committee raised by Ekiti Council of Elders (ECE).
“Some of their activities include armed robbery and kidnapping on the highways within the state and in neighbouring states. These bandits are reportedly capable of moving rapidly from their venues of operation to their hideouts and even other camps outside the state as the case may require”, the report exclusively obtained by Sunday Vanguard said.
The police said on Saturday that they were not aware of any such military training.
The eight-member committee on Land Usages by Non-indigenes in Ekiti State had been put in place in March 2019 by ECE to investigate the influx of non-indigenes into the state.
The committee report, dated November 2019, was discussed at the January 2020 meeting of ECE where Yoruba leader, Prof. Banji Akintoye, said it should be made available to all South-West governors amid the raging battle to legalise Amotekun, the outfit raised by the governors to combat insecurity challenge in the region.
Akintoye insisted that Amòt’kun had come to stay and commended the Yoruba governors “for the good work”.
“The influx of non-indigenes into Ekiti has reached a critical level. There is palpable apprehension in the minds of many indigenes of the potential negative consequences of this influx, especially as there is a feeling of loss of control over this development”, the report, in its introduction, noted.
‘Over the course of many years now, the Ekiti Council of Elders has received notices of this apprehension as well as observed same as individual members of various communities.
“The issue was finally brought forward for discussion within the Council during its February 2019 monthly meeting. As a result, the Committee on Land Usages by Non-Indigenes was constituted at its monthly meeting of March 2019. This Committee is to look into the land usages by non-indigenes and advise the Council regarding appropriate actions that will safeguard the interests of the indigenes especially in the long run”.
In the course of its work, the committee, according to the report, made visitation to royal fathers and their chiefs in Ado-Ekiti, Ijero-Ekiti, Ikere-Ekiti, Ise-Ekiti, Oke Ako-Ekiti and Eda Oniyo-Ekiti, interviewing stakeholders.
“To make the visitation interactions more meaningful, two sets of questionnaires were prepared. One set addressed the concerns of the townships while the other addressed the concerns of the countrysides”, the report said.
“For both the townships and countrysides, the key elements of the questionnaires include the nature of tenancies, payments, settlement patterns and whatever else the indigenes considered of significance to their relationships with the non-indigenes. In regards of the countrysides, mining and cattle rearing issues were additional elements of the questionnaire”.
On its major findings in Ekiti townships, the ECE committee said: “In some cases, buildings are deliberately occupied albeit legally, to create ethnic havens. This is especially the case among the Hausas, who tend to live apart in their ‘Sabo enclave’.
“Overtime, Sabo neighbourhoods become autonomous communities with regards to commercial, residential and cultural activities thus becoming a law unto themselves.
“In the same vein, the Igbo community, while being more integrated in residential and cultural activities, often creates distinct commercial enclaves where indigenes cannot healthily participate in the commercial enterprises in which they are engaged. Notably, they are also increasingly developing distinct worship centres (Igbo and Ibo churches)”.
On its major findings on land usages in the countrysides, it stated: “Pastoralists, notably herdsmen, present a different set of problems in their land usage activities.
“Initially, they tend to seek permission to settle on the land and graze their cattle, albeit temporarily.
“However, they soon roam freely beyond the area in which they are permitted to graze their cattle on.
“Many natives claim that such encroachments are perpetrated by new arrival of pastoralists.
“This claim, has, however, been challenged by people who reported to have caught and challenged such herders speaking Ilorin dialect.
“Those herders are reported to constantly graze their cattle on farm crops with impunity.
“Initially, when accosted, they would pay some compensation.
“Over time, however, they just ignore the complaints and claims of their landlords and other farmers.
“Some are even reported to seek confrontation by asking farmers whether they want to fight over their crops which these herders are grazing on.
“Indeed there are cases of these herdsmen raping, maiming and killing of the indigenes without provocation.
“While the herdsmen in illegal encroachments and ravaging of farmlands across the length and breadth of Ekiti State, the people of the savannah belt in Oke Ako, Ipao, Itapaji, feel especially oppressed.
“These people believe that their plight is aggravated by nearby dams constructed by the Oodua Investment Corporation.
“As a matter of fact, they want these dams demolished as they serve as watering holes for cattle in their migrations from Senegal to the horn of Africa.
“Illegal commercial exploitation of agricultural produce is yet another finding of the committee.
“In many places, where herdsmen have successfully dislodged indigenes from their farmlands, these herdsmen are reportedly exploiting and selling of produce.
“Such produce include fruits like oranges, mangoes and bananas. They also include cash crops like cocoa, plantain and cashew.
“Some marabouts are also reportedly buying large tracts of farmland from ignorant chiefs and heads of households.
“Thereafter they legitimise the transaction by obtaining Certificates of Occupancy.
“They then proceed to erect facilities for the practice of their occupation in utter disregard of existing local government or state government regulations and byelaws.
“There is also the issue of banditry.
“Rogue elements among the herdsmen are said to be establishing camps in various places in the state, notably in Government Forest Reserves – where they engage in some kind of military training.
“Some of their activities include armed robbery and kidnapping on the highways within the state and in neighbouring states.
“These bandits are reportedly capable of moving rapidly from their venues of operation to their hideouts and even other camps outside the state as the case may require”.
Prof. Phillip Adetiloye, who also attended the meeting where the ECE committee report was discussed, called for more efficient use of our land in Ekiti.
Adetiloye observed that only 10% of Ekiti land is being cultivated hence outside from near and far come to occupy the land.
“This has led to some serious problems in some local government areas”, the professor lamented. He urged government to come up with programmes to promote productive land utilisation by indigenes.
Chief Elekolusi, a former Commissioner under the second republic Ajasin administration in Ondo State, on his part, called for a way to resolve violence in Oke Ako cattle ranch.
Prof. Layò Idowu, another ECE member, referred to his paper on the invasion of cassava and maize plantations in Ekiti by cattle rearers, hoping that, with Amòt’kun, the situation will become a thing of the past.
The state deputy governor, Otunba Bisi Egb’y’mi, also a member of ECE in attendance at the meeting, pledged to carry the message of the elders to Governor Kayode Fayemi.
When contacted on the reported military training for herdsmen, the Police Public Relations Officer, Ekiti State Command, Mr Sunday Abutu, said: “We are not aware of any of such training going on. The Command is not aware. Whoever has such information should let us know and we would take action.
“We did a press release about two weeks ago when we heard information about influx of strange people into Ekiti, and we told the public that if they see any strange faces, they should report to the nearest police and we would take the necessary action.
“A press release has been done on that and we urge the public to give us useful information that could lead to monitoring and arrest of such strange faces in our midst. Up till now, no response from the public but we have still expecting information from the public”.