Ogun State yesterday became the latest in the country to record another attack by herdsmen.
Three herders, who attempted to graze their cattle on a farm in Oke Odo, Ketu Local Council Development Area, were confronted by the owner, Ige Orisade. Infuriated by the challenge, the herdsmen allegedly assaulted the victim, who sustained serious injuries.
Following a tip-off, the trio of Mohammed Bello, 40; Mohammed Momoh, 30; and Yisau Umoru, 18, were later arrested by men of the state police command.
The media recently reported the killing by herdsmen of 10 persons in Kogi State. The governor’s security adviser, Navy Commander Jerry Omodara, however, disputed the figure, saying only one person died.
The latest attack has increased incidences of farmer-herdsmen clashes in several parts of the country, prompting some state governments to mull legislations curbing open grazing.
Ogun police spokesman, Abimbola Oyeyemi, disclosed that following an argument, the herdsmen had macheted the farmer before fleeing. “On the strength of the information, the Area Commander, ACP Titus Musa, dispatched a team of policemen to the scene. The surrounding bush was thoroughly combed, in conjunction with a local vigilance group, at the end of which three suspects were arrested.
“We recovered from them one AK 49 rifle with serial number 513,49, 0.8mm live ammunition, 26 live cartridges and two cutlasses. Efforts are on to apprehend other suspects and recover arms from them.”
The Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Iliyasu, has directed his men to fish out the fleeing members of the gang and also ordered immediate transfer of the suspects to the Federal Special Anti-robbery Squad for thorough investigation, Oyeyemi added.
The Guardian gathered that yesterday’s attack was the 12th in the state this year.
The commander, Vigilante Service of Ogun State (VSO), Mr. Soji Ganzallo, said: “The herdsmen have been attacking our farmers. Most times, they invade farms and destroy crops, leading to skirmishes between them and the farmers. The attacks on our people are always serious. The herdsmen always stage reprisals whenever they have any face-off with farmers.
“They even attack farmers at night. We have always been rising to the occasion by getting them arrested. They have also been involved in armed robbery. Even women that go to their farms are raped. Sometimes, they kill them.”
The Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association could not be reached for comments, as the telephone line of its secretary, Mr. Aminu, was switched off.
Ganzallo added: “As a grassroots security outfit, we will continue to monitor all flashpoints where the herdsmen attack our people. For now, Igbo Ora road and Yewa axis are the flashpoints. Our officers are always alert. We have been arresting them and transferring them to the police. We are committed to the safety of our people and we will redouble our efforts.”
Dr. Ona Ekhomu, first chartered security professional in Nigeria and president, Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria (AISSON), called on the Federal Government to address challenges posed by herdsmen urgently.
Speaking to The Guardian, he acknowledged that herdsmen have a right to graze their cattle, but said it should not be at the expense of farm owners because “if you do, that is trespass. And if you are confronted for trespass, you don’t have the right to fight back.”
He added: “It is an unfortunate circumstance having herdsmen attacking people on their farms. Perhaps there was provocation or loss of assets by the herdsmen. But if they attacked the farmer and macheted him and were later arrested for carrying weapons, then there is obviously weapon violation.
“The machete used, which caused the man serious bodily arm, is a weapon. The arms they were caught with are weapons. That is attempted murder. Nobody in this country, not even the president is above the law. Whether they are herdsmen or not, they don’t have the right to do that.”