From Lukman Olabiyi, Lagos, Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure, and Lawrence Enyoghasu, Lagos
Several security and socio-political groups in the South-West have declared their readiness to repel any attacks launched on any part of the region by foreign herders.
There are also plans by the different groups to comb the vast forests of the region in a bid to flush out criminal elements posing as lawful herders.
Chairman of South West Security Network, Operation Amotekun in Oyo State, General Ajibola Togun, rtd had on Thursday alleged that an invasion of the six South-West states by foreign herdsmen from Mali, Niger Republic, Chad and Burkina Faso, was imminent.
He also disclosed that these non-Nigerians are already hiding in forest reserves in the zone, saying the invasion by the herders would soon happen and that it would definitely begin from Yorubaland.
In separate interviews yesterday, leaders of the South West Security Network, Operation Amotekun, Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, and Agbekoya, among others, warned the foreign bandits disguising as herders to steer clear of the six states of the South West, warning of dire consequences if such plots were actualized.
The groups threatened to deal decisively with Fulani herdsmen or any hoodlum that might want to perpetrate any form of trouble in the region.
Chairman, Forum of Amotekun Commanders in the South West, Mr Adeleye Adetunji said his men are battle ready to fight any form of crime in any of the six states of the region. He called for proactive efforts of all Yoruba people to fight the menace of insecurity to a standstill in the region.
Adetunji who expressed the determination of the corps to bring an end to insecurity, especially killing, kidnapping and banditry in the region, maintained that efforts are on top gear to involve local vigilantes in the activities of Amotekun.
He added that the conventional security agencies were being carried along in the fight against insecurity in the region, stressing that the fight against crime is a collective one, which should not be left in the hands of only the security agents.
Also speaking, the Field Commander of Operation Amotekun in Osun State, Chief Amitolu Shittu warned herders from any part of the world against coming to the South West region, warning that such efforts would be foiled. He said the forests in the South West would be combed to identify illegal herders, especially those from neighbouring countries. Shittu also cautioned those working for the herders within the region to desist from such act before they are identified and made to face the music.
He said: “Vehicular movements from one place to another is guaranteed by the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Nevertheless, that privilege should not be taken as a way to foment crimes in other regions.
“Our borders are too porous and that is responsible for easy movement of the herders from our neighbouring countries, especially Chad and Niger. The fact, however remains that the South West will not tolerate such illegal migration and anyone caught will be taught serious lessons.”
Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Otunba, Iba Gani Adams, said the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), which he heads, has been raising similar alarms has severally warned that the forests in the region had been infiltrated by criminal herders, regretting that such warnings fell on deaf ears.
He said Fulani headers were indeed plotting an invasion but warned that the perpetrators would meet their waterloo. He also asserted that certain Yoruba leaders were giving support to the activities of criminal herders “by empowering them spiritually and traditionally.”
He said the OPC members are always battle ready and willing to fight in the defence of Yoruba land.
“They have indeed surrounded us. We are shocked that when the herdsmen want to establish themselves in any community and the community rejects them, you see Nigerian Army backing them up and forcing them on the community. Then the community can’t access their lands. In a community like Owo, we have nothing less than 10,000 herdsmen in the forests. There are allegations of unknown helicopters coming to drop food for them.
“I said it about two years ago but people didn’t believe me that there are many dangerous herdsmen in Igbo-Ora, Oke Ogun and other parts of Oyo State. They were there until they were chased out by OPC and others. They have almost overrun the Middle-Belt and now in the South-West. The South-East has taken its destiny into its own hands.
“We have to put our house in order. When we are alerting our people they don’t do anything. They don’t call for advice. Even there are some grassroots people conniving with these criminals. We have some Yoruba people empowering the herders spiritually. They give them our spiritual powers. They also help them to gather information about rich Yoruba people. We also have some members of the political class that give them support. The Obas have a big role to play in this. Some of the Obas take it with levity and when the crisis come, they would call the police, an agent of the government. We are in trouble and we have to work.”
“Neighbouring countries have always encouraged crisis and banditry in Nigeria but they will not find it easy if they come to the South West. We have had enough political crisis and no crisis should brew in the South West again,” he added.
Fulani invasion : Traditionally, we’re prepared for them–Agbekoya
The foremost farmers and hunters union in South West, Agbekoya Farmers Society, accused the Federal Government of tacitly supporting criminal herders in the region. The group warned, however, that it would not allow the invasion of any part of Yoruba land by foreign herders.
National Secretary of the union, Adegbenro Ogunlana, said: “It is the Federal Government that is encouraging and pampering them. That is why it seems difficult to check their movement.
“Agbekoya has what it uses to fight, and we are already preparing. We are not relenting. It’s not until we start carrying guns that we are fighting. We have what can tame them, but we cannot be revealing everything in the public.
The Agbekoya scribe disclosed that apart from preparing for the invaders, members of Agbekoya would stage a protest on June 12 to express their feelings.
“Insecurity in the land is seriously affecting us. People cannot go to the farm, and there is poverty.
“But we are very much prepared for the Fulani invaders. Traditionally we are prepared for them. It is only Agbekoya that do fight wars without using guns or cutlasses. That is why it takes us time before we respond or declare war on our enemies. Already, our members are stationed across the forests in South West. We are getting reports on daily basis and there are some other steps already taken as well which I can not reveal. But we are battle ready,” he said.