…..As Community leaders, residents debunk claims of herders’ presence
Abuja – Not a few Lagos residents felt disturbed a few days ago when a story filtered out that some herdsmen had invaded Odo-Egiri community in Eredo area of Epe Local Government, with widespread apprehension that the attack could spread to other parts of the state.
The herders were also said to have attacked farmers, forcing them to flee from the community.
The herdsmen, who were said to have migrated from Igangan in Oyo State, reportedly settled on the large expanse on Iganke farmland owned by the Ali Moibi-Balogun family and were already erecting their structures on the land.
The disturbing news followed a petition to the state government and police authorities by one Ali Moibi-Balogun family, which sought the intervention of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to reclaim the farmland from the herdsmen.
In the letter, dated May 10, 2021 and signed by its counsel, Adeyemi Adegbite, the family said that it resorted to the letter after the police station in Noforija in Epe had allegedly labelled the family members suspects after they complained that their farmland had been invaded by herdsmen and that they were already threatening to wreak more havoc within the community.
“We hereby urge your Excellency to deploy your very good office to intervene in this matter, cause a very discreet investigation to be conducted, and ensure that our society is not turned into a lawless one where might is right and power can be hijacked by a few powerful and privileged individuals or group of individuals to the detriment of the common and law-abiding citizens.”
The family explained further that they inherited a large expanse of land housing Iganke farmland from their forebears in accordance with Yoruba custom.
They noted that they had been exercising “rights of possession and ownership over the expanse of land without hindrance or challenge from any person, persons, or quarters whatsoever.”
However, when The Nation visited the community a few days after, residents explained that no herdsmen invaded the community or attacked anyone in it.
Respondents, including community leaders, told our correspondent that the purported herdsmen invasion was nothing but scare tactics.
“When we heard that some herdsmen had invaded this community, a lot of people panicked, but I laughed when I heard the report during a newspaper review programme on the radio.
“I couldn’t help but just laugh because there was nothing like that at all,” said a community leader, Yusuf Afolabi.
He added: “What really happened was that some of the people who are laying claim to a parcel of land in the community raised the alarm to dislodge the occupants of the land who had given a part of it to a cattle breeder operating a ranch on two plots of land.
“The herder is a Yoruba man from Kwara State. He is not a Fulani and did not fight with anyone in this community and no one had any issues with him.
“Therefore, the allegation that herders dislodged from Igangan in Oyo State invaded our community and attacked farmers is nothing but fake.
“I am a farmer too and I have been going about my farming activities without herder confronting me.”
Like Afolabi, Muraina Abdullahi, a resident, said some land speculators contesting ownership of the said land were behind the report.
He said: “The man is Yoruba and not Fulani. The cattle were given to him by a community leader living outside this community to breed with agreed compensation with cattle.
“The man is operating a ranch on two plots of land with his wife and children and never for once had issues with us. But some persons contesting ownership of the land with another family suddenly twisted the story to ensure that the Yoruba cattle breeder is chased away or evacuated from the land by security agents so they can take over the land.
“Ask other residents around, they will tell you the same thing I am telling you now. Or, better still, visit the man’s ranch and hear from him directly.
A farmer in the community, Akanbi Adewale, also described the report of herdsmen invasion and attacks as false.
“It’s just a hoax by some land speculators to dislodge others from the land they are contesting with another family.
“I am a farmer and I have never been attacked by any roving herder, because there is none here.
“The man they are labelling as Fulani herdsman is even a Yoruba cattle breeder who does not engage in grazing. Rather, he operates from a ranch he built on the land where he lives with his wife and children.”
The cattle breeder, Saliu Imoru, his wife, and children were sighted by our correspondent on the land on which they built some thatched houses.
Imoru said: “I am a native of Ilorin, not a Fulani. I am from Afon in Basa Local Government Area of Kwara State and did not come from Igangan.
“We bought this land from a traditional ruler in Badoore.
“There used to be another ranch in this area, but the owners have since left the community and I am the only one here now.
“I am duly registered as a cattle breeder in the state, and my documents are with authorities in Alausa, Ikeja.
“We have been living in fear since we heard that some people claimed we are Fulani herdsmen. We usually run at the sight of strangers on this land.”
It was said that policemen from both the Area Command at Elemooro and state police headquarters had visited the land for on-the-spot assessment of the situation.
Contacted, the police spokesman, Mr. Olumuyiwa Adejobi, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), said it was not true that herdsmen invaded or attacked the community and its residents.
He said: ”I have contacted the Divisional Police Officer(DPO) in charge of the division overseeing the area, and he said there was nothing like herdsmen attacks or invasion in the community.
“I think that some persons fighting over land matters are the ones behind the false alarm of herdsmen attack in the community.”
Odo-Egiri community described as untrue the report that Fulani herdsmen invaded the community, urging the state government to carry out a diligent investigation on the matter.
In a letter they wrote to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the community said there was no iota of truth in the media report that some Fulani herdsmen had attacked some residents on their farmlands.
The letter dated May 19, 2021, written on behalf of the community by their lawyer, Tunde Jinadu, reads in part: ”On Thursday May 6, 2021, the Baale of the community (Odo-Egiri) got a report from two members of Ali Moibi Balogun Family that their family head told them that they saw a Fulani man with cows on their portion of the community land, and that he was already erecting structures on the land.
“The Baale, being indisposed, directed one of the community chiefs to confirm the information from the family head.
“On getting to the family head, he said they had resolved the matter with the family who were claiming their portion of land at Iganke.
“The two chiefs got to the land and saw a man with his wife and children, a few cows settled on two plots of land and we’re being fed on the same spot.”
The community noted that the cattle breeder was subsequently invited to the Baale’s palace and advised to vacate the land, or breed his cattle in open space or market in view of the insecurity pervading the country.
“Surprisingly, in the evening of the same day, the Baale saw different stories in the social media that Fulani herdsmen fleeing from Sunday Igboho had settled in Odo-Egiri community farmland at Iganke, causing mayhem and shooting sporadically at people in the community.
“We strongly believe that there was no such shooting by herdsmen in the community or any persons at all.
“An investigation would also reveal to your good office that there is no presence of Fulani herdsmen in Odo-Egiri community.
“The claim by the Ali Moibi Balogun Family that their residence was attacked by herdsmen would be revealed by intelligent investigation as a lie in its entirety.”
The letter added that the farmland in Odo-Egiri community belongs to the community with the supervision of the Baale and other accredited representatives of the cardinal families in Odo-Egiri, noting that “the community gives a portion of the farmlands to persons that want to cultivate farms on the land. However, there are respective portions that some families have been farming on and are recognised by the community, which was what led to the petition written by a family that was contesting ownership of the land with another family.”(Nation.)