A farmer, Sunday Ahmed and two of his friends were working on Ahmed’s farms at Owobamigbe village in the Akure South Local Government Area of Ondo State on January 21, 2020, when some herdsmen allegedly appeared with cattle to graze on the farm. But Sunday and his friends resisted them especially as they had just planted some crops.

A fight ensued and the armed herdsmen overpowered Ahmed and his friends. The two friends fled to inform members of the community but Ahmed was unable to escape and he was allegedly seriously inflicted with machete cuts by the herders.

Ahmed said, “On that day, around 2 pm, I was working on the farm alongside two of my friends when we suddenly saw the herdsmen leading their cattle into my farm. We challenged them to get the cows away from the farm. But instead of leaving, they brought out machetes and started chasing us. It was when I fell down while running that they inflicted machete cuts on my leg. The herders were three and armed.”

Similarly, in Obasooto community in the Idanre Local Government Area of the state, another farmer identified as Idowu Olatuja is counting losses as some herders took their cows to graze on his farm. The cows allegedly ate up the cassava, pineapple, plantain and cocoyam in his farm in one night. He said he wept like a baby when he got to his farm the next day and saw the level of destruction done by the cows.

Olatuja added, “The herdsmen first invaded my wife’s farm with their cows 10 days earlier and returned to destroy my farm and the rest of my wife’s farm.”

Apart from grazing cows in farms, some criminal herdsmen have been accused of kidnapping, killing, maiming and raping in many parts of the South-West. The situation led to the order by the Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, to the herdsmen on January 18, 2021, to vacate forest reserves within seven days. The governors in the region also met with the leadership of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria over the matter and agreed to ban all forms of open grazing in the South-West. The governors had earlier established Amotekun through the Western Nigeria Security Network to tackle the festering insecurity in the region.

Killer herdsmen were said to be responsible for the death of Mrs Funke Olakunri, daughter of the leader of the Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, in 2019, a former captain of the country’s scrabble team, Paul Sodje and ex-Assistant Registrar of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Pastor Amos Arijesuyo.

Some farmers in the state have lamented the destruction of their farms by herdsmen, noting that the development was threatening farming. A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae, has been a victim of criminal herders. Apart from being kidnapped in 2015, Falae, who is also a former Minister of Finance, was said to have lost a substantial amount of money to the herdsmen.

In a recent interview, Falae said, “It is 32 years that I started operating the farm. And the cattle and their owners became a veritable threat or tool for harassment in the last four to five years. At first, they would come in the night to drink water. We were tolerant and they did not stay there.

“We told them, just drink water and go; I did not allow them. Later, they would come in the night, eat our maize and go. I complained to their people more than 10 times. Later still, elements of the same people kidnapped me. They burnt the non-crop area because the grass was already dry. Cows don’t eat dry grass. They burnt it so that fresh grass will grow. They were already breeding my grass as if it was their land.”

Also in a Save our Soul letter to the Commander of Amotekun, Chief Adetunji Adeleye, Falae urged the security outfit to save his farm from the incessant invasion by herdsmen. It was gathered that over 100 people work on the farm and any attack on it could affect their livelihoods.

The letter titled, “Attacks on my farm by Fulani herdsmen,’’ read, “In the last few weeks, Fulani herdsmen came into my maize farm twice to eat up and trample large sessions of the farm. I reported the incidents to the state Chairman, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Garba Bello, nothing has happened.

In the last few days, they have gone to attack my citrus farm by stealing harvested oranges and destroying what they could not carry away. The police on security duty on the farm were sent to drive them away. But they have been coming back every night to attack my workers in our camp, breaking their doors and carting away all belongings. Please let Amotekun save us and our livelihood. They kidnapped me on September 21, 2015; they should not be allowed to do it again.”

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