More states of the Nigerian federation have stepped up measures to combat the activities of criminals masquerading as herdsmen, THISDAY investigation has revealed.
It was gathered at the weekend that state governments in conjunction with the police and other security agencies have devised various means of checking the influx of the herders and monitoring the activities of those already in their domains.
The efforts, it was learnt, were geared towards preventing the ongoing crisis in Oyo and Ondo States where communities and the government are at loggerheads with the herdsmen from spilling to more states.
The Ondo State government and some communities in Oyo State had last week given the herdsmen ultimatum to vacate the forest reserves and some parts of Oyo State, citing their alleged involvement in kidnapping, rape and killings in the states.
But in a bid to de-escalate the tension, THISDAY learnt yesterday that the presidency pleaded with South-west governors to meet with the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN).
The meeting is scheduled to hold today in Akure, the Ondo State capital.
However, former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has called on all stakeholders to team up to defuse the tension over the quit notice given to the herders in some states.
Also, the Commissioner of Police in Oyo State, Ms. Ngozi Onadeko, has appealed to youths in the state to remain calm as the police probe the crisis that happened in Igangan, Ibarapa North Local Government Area on Friday.
A youth leader in Oyo State, Chief Sunday Adeyemo, better known as Sunday Igboho, had given the herdsmen in Igangan one-week ultimatum to vacate the area following the accusation that they are behind the worsening insecurity in the area.
Adeyemo alleged that the killings and kidnappings in the area were being perpetrated by some Fulani who are known to the Fulani community leadership, led by the Seriki Fulani, Mr. Salihu Abdulkadir.
At the expiration of the ultimatum on Friday, hundreds of the aggrieved residents of the community had attacked the herders’ settlement in the town, forcing Abdulkadir, who was accused of being in cahoot with some criminal-minded herdsmen operating in the area.
Sources also told THISDAY that during a meeting on Sunday with a delegation comprising representatives drawn from the Oyo State government, the police and the federal government, leaders of the community said they had earlier given Abdulkadir, whose assets were the only ones torched last Friday, a quit notice.
They added that Adeyemo only acted as an enforcer since all previous efforts to straighten Abdulkadir, including petitions to the police, were futile as he allegedly claimed that nothing could happen to him given his connection with some top presidency officials.
Presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, had earlier announced that the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, had ordered the arrest of Adeyemo.
There was also apprehension in Ondo State as the ultimatum given to unregistered herdsmen by the state Governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), to vacate the state’s forest reserves expired on Sunday.
THISDAY, however, gathered that the herders were yet to vacate the forests.
When contacted, the Ondo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Donald Ojogo, told THISDAY that South-west governors will at the behest of the presidency meet on Monday with the leadership of MACBAN on the issue.
Following these developments, more states are on the red alert to prevent the influx of criminal elements masquerading as herders into their states.
In Benue State, the state government has raised the alarm that the killer herdsmen were already assembling in the neighbouring Nasarawa State.
Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the Governor, Mr. Terver Akase, told THISDAY that the Benue State Security Council will meet this week on the influx of armed herders into the state.
“Governor Samuel Ortom alerted the nation a long time ago about the agenda of these people whether they are herdsmen or Boko Haram, the target is the same – to take over the land,” he said.
Reacting to the fear that the migration of the herders into Ekiti State could further strain the herdsmen-farmers relationship, the Ekiti State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Akin Omole, told THISDAY that the government has well-structured security architecture and laws to checkmate criminals.
“We are ready to protect all Nigerians doing legitimate businesses here in Ekiti while criminals won’t be tolerated. We have laws that prohibit the use of our forests for farming or grazing without authorisation. We also have smooth working relationships with the police and army while the Amotekun corps and hunters are there at the borders watching everybody,” he said.
The Commissioner of Police, Ekiti State Command, Mr. Tunde Mobayo, told THISDAY that the state was ready to effectively regulate the influx of unlawful people into the state.
He said he had resuscitated and fortified the Special Response Squad (SRS) across the 16 local government areas of the state with well-coordinated patrols to ensure that security at the borders remains watertight.
The command’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Sunday Abutu, an assistant superintendent of police (ASP), who spoke on behalf of Mobayo, said there was also another joint task force comprising the police, soldiers, Amotekun corps and hunters, who are working together at the border towns to check undue and dangerous migration of criminals into Ekiti.
Also lending his voice, the Commander of the Amotekun Corps, Brig. Gen. Joe Komolafe (rtd), said his men are on the ground at the border towns and forests to checkmate the influx of criminals into the state.
Komolafe said some suspects who came into the state from Sokoto in a suspicious manner were recently arrested at Eda Oniyo Ekiti while on four motorcycles, describing this as a sign that the Amotekun corps would rise to the occasion.
The spokesperson of the Osun State Police Command, Mrs. Yemisi Opadola, expressed the command’s readiness to secure the state from criminals.
“We are ready for them and the command would not allow enemies to disturb the state,” she said.
The Taraba State Police Command also expressed its preparedness to prevent and combat kidnappers and other criminals masquerading as herdsmen from operating freely in the state.
The Public Relations Officer, Mr. David Misal, a deputy superintendent of police (DSP), stated that the police are always prepared to protect lives and property as well as combat criminality.
In Kwara State, the police command, said all the Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) across the 16 local government councils of the state have been directed to be on the alert to check fake herdsmen from infiltrating the state.
He urged traditional rulers and communities to be vigilant and ensure proper monitoring of those coming to their communities.
“The state police command is not relaxing from its responsibilities as far as insecurity is concerned and we have taken pragmatic steps in order to avert any breaking down of law and order,” he said.
The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Ajayi Okasanmi, told THISDAY: “We are not ruling out the possibilities of the movement of illegal herdsmen to Kwara State and we have directed our state police formations to be on the alert so as to forestall any infiltration of any illegal herdsmen to the state.
“Kwara State is a peaceful state and will not allow any illegal herdsmen to cause any violence in the state.”
The Akwa Ibom State government has also said it is on the alert to check the activities of renegade herdsmen.
The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Ini Ememobong, told THISDAY that the state government is observing the development to ensure that the herdsmen given quit notices do not have access to the state.
“Security information cannot be disclosed, but I can assure you that the state government has taken adequate preventive measures and is absolutely in charge and studying the situation,” Ememobong stated.
The Kaduna State Police Command also said it is monitoring the security situation in the state to avert the influx of criminals.
The spokesman of the command, Mr. Mohammed Jalige, told THISDAY that the command is not only monitoring the likelihood of criminal elements relocating from Ondo State to Kaduna, but from anywhere.
“We are monitoring to see if there will be any influx of criminal elements. You know we have been on the ground and we are monitoring not only those that may be coming from Ondo and Oyo, but from anywhere,” he said.
The Delta State government has also said it has a robust security network on the ground to ward off the influx of criminal-minded herdsmen into the state.
Chief Press Secretary to Delta State Governor, Mr. Olisa Ifeajika, told THISDAY yesterday that security measures are in place to ensure that all is well in the state.
The Bayelsa State government has also said that it is in constant engagement with Miyetti Allah, the coordinating organisation of Fulani herdsmen, in the state.
The Commissioner for Information, Mr. Ayida Duba, told THISDAY that the agreement the state government has with Miyetti Allah is that the herdsmen should restrict their activities to Bayelsa Palms.
“We have not changed our position. That is that they should be restricted to the Bayelsa Palms area where we originally told them to be. They should not be seen on the streets of Yenagoa or going to people’s farmlands,” the commissioner said.
The Police Public Relations Officer of Bayelsa State Police Command, Mr. Asinim Butswat, said the command is always on guard to respond to security situations, not limited only to those concerning Fulani herdsmen and farmers.
In Katsina, spokesman of the state police command, Mr. Gambo Isah, told THISDAY that there is no influx of foreign herdsmen to the state, adding that adequate security measures have been put in place to checkmate movements and activities of herders within the state.
He said the command has deployed additional armed policemen in the 34 local government areas of the state to monitor the activities of the herdsmen.
“Only genuine herdsmen will be allowed into Katsina State after thorough screening and investigation in line with federal government and ECOWAS tripartite agreement,” he said.
In Plateau State, the Police Command said it is prepared to tackle any criminal in the state, whether masquerading as herdsmen or not.
The state Police Public Relation Officer, ASP Gabriel Ogaba, said: “But I can assure you that we are always on top of our game to ensure that the state is safe; that is our primary duty here. With the security architecture on the ground, I do not think that criminal elements will succeed in the state.”
Meanwhile, a delegation of Oyo State government officials and the new Commissioner of Police in the state, Mrs. Ngozi Onadeko, yesterday toured the trouble spots of Ibarapa and Oke-Ogun areas of the state where they conducted on-the-spot assessment of the tension-soaked communities.
The commissioner of police, who led senior police officers, sued for peace, while also declaring the readiness of the police to embark on a thorough investigation to ensure justice for victims of kidnapping, armed robbery, rape and other crimes.
The Special Adviser to Governor Seyi Makinde on Security, Mr. Fatai Owoseni a retired commissioner of police, who led the government’s delegation also appealed to community leaders, youths and Hausa-Fulani residents to eschew violence and live in peace.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, added that Owoseni told the people to be vigilant and ensure they identify the criminal elements among them for prosecution by the police, declaring that no one should take the law into their hands.
He also debunked insinuations that Makinde’s government has abandoned the people to their fate, adding that at least 51 suspected perpetrators of kidnapping, rape and banditry are currently in police net from Oke-Ogun axis.
The delegation also visited the razed home of the Seriki Fulani in Igangan, where it assessed the extent of damage and promised thorough investigation.
Secretary of Igangan Development Advocates, Mr. Lawal Akeem, who spoke in Igangan, said the people were tired of the antics of the Seriki Fulani, Alhaji Saliu Abdukadir, whom he accused of complicity in many cases.
He also said the community has been forced to pay about N50 million in ransom for different cases of kidnapping, while also accusing Fulani herders of regularly vandalising farms and raping women of the community.
Another youth in the town, Mr. Taiwo Adeagbo, said no fewer than 15 women have been raped in recent weeks.
A member of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Hon. Peter Ojedokun, also told the delegation that Ibarapaland had been peaceful all the while but that the peace was affected recently when Fulani herders started attacking members of the community on their farms, kidnapping persons and committing crimes.
Two Fulani leaders, the Seriki Fulani of Igbo Ora, Alhaji Idris Abubakar, and the Seriki Fulani of Eruwa, Alhaji Sule Mohammed, asked for forgiveness from those offended, adding that they are ready to facilitate a peaceful co-existence in Ibarapaland.
The Caretaker Chairman of Ibarapa North-West Local Council Development Area, Hon. Okediji Olusegun, also corroborated the allegations leveled against the Seriki Fulani of Igangan, saying that he has been fingered in the series of security challenges in the area many times.
Addressing the gathering of traditional rulers, government officials and Fulani leaders in Igangan, the Commissioner of Police, Onadeko said: “We have come to assess and listen to you over the incident that happened. I want to appeal to every one of us to be calm and ensure there is peace. If there is no peace in the community, there won’t be growth and development.
“I want to appeal to the youth. We have listened and they have interpreted all your complaints and I want to say you should not spoil your case by using force. We are a new team. Bring out all the cases you have, put them in an orderly manner and we will make sure that justice is done.
“So, I want to enjoin all of you to be peaceful and live with one another in a peaceful manner. If we live in peace in this community, we should be able to identify kidnappers, robbers, and rapists. It does not matter where you come from – whether you are from Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa. Actually, we have the good and bad ones. Criminality is not only ascribed to a particular ethnic group, it cuts across all the ethnic groups.”