Despite the passage of the Oyo State Open Rearing and Grazing Regulation Law 2019 by the state House of Assembly, herdsmen go on the rampage, killing farmers, destroying farms, and raping minors in over 60 communities in the Oke-Ogun zone of the state.
The law states that anyone who engages in open rearing or grazing of livestock is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for five years or a fine of N500,000 or both. Subsequent offenders shall, upon conviction, be liable to 10-year imprisonment or a fine of N2 million or both.
However, the law appears to be a paper tiger as there is no enforcement and herdsmen not only engage in open grazing, but also do kidnap, kill, and rape members of the community.
The state is arguably the food basket of the Southwest region, for it is blessed with a massive landmass of about 28,454 km². It is the biggest with a huge arable landmass. Its agricultural potential is so high that some are of the view that farm produce in the state can feed the region. All zones of the state – Oke-Ogun, Ibarapa, Ogbomoso, Oyo, and Ibadan – have enormous agricultural potential.
However, with various reports of clashes between farmers and herdsmen, kidnappings, killings and robberies, insecurity seems to be threatening food production in the state, while the law implementation is hampered as there are no enforcement agents.
Amotekun corps, analysts have said, could give life to the law if fully constituted, empowered, and appropriately deplored for community protection, intelligence gathering, and crime prevention. But for now, farmers and communities still live and farm at the mercy of herdsmen.
The case of Miss Modupe Oyetoso, a farmer whose fiancé was shot by suspected herdsmen at the Lanlate area of the Ibarapa East Local Government Area of the state early this year readily comes to mind.
Oyetoso and her fiancé were returning from a farm when the four suspects waylaid them around 5 p.m. While the fiancé was attempting to manoeuvre his way to escape the attack, one of the gunmen reportedly shot him.
The owner of Smart Farm narrated her ordeal: “The bullet hit my fiancé at the back of his head. I didn’t know what to do as the blood was rushing out of his head. I thought I could save him, so I attempted applying pressure to stop the blood, but I couldn’t do it because the car, which was still in motion, was about to hit a tree.”
After managing to stop the vehicle, the assailants reportedly caught up with Miss Oyetoso, whisked her away into a nearby forest, and abandoned her fiancé, who later died.
She narrated that while in the forest, the kidnappers tied her hands and one of them used the rope to pull her, while another one hit her from behind anytime she slowed down.
“When I slumped, they beat me and pulled me up. I had to summon the strength to run with them as it was raining,” she added.
Apart from Oyetoso, many farmers in the state complained of how herdsmen are disrupting their farms.
In Igbo-Ora, a 36-year-old man, Idris Aderinto, was murdered in the presence of his wife while harvesting cassava he purchased from a farmer. His wife explained that the suspected herdsmen killed him after he challenged them not to graze on the acquired cassava farm.
In Oke-Ogun zone, a 39-year-old farmer in the area, Mr Timothy Oluleke, a father of three, who cultivates maize, yam, cassava, and others, who stays at Sepeteri, Oke-Ogun area, recounted his ordeal in the hands of cattlemen.
“I plant maize, yam, cassava, and other crops. The herdsmen destroyed about two acres of my farm. It should be about N500,000. That is how they have been wreaking havoc. Last year, it was the same story. They devoured my farm amounting to N700,000. I’m not the only one affected at Sepeteri. It happens to numerous farmers. When it happened, we reported them to the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), they took action but the action did not bring any result. The herdsmen denied responsibility for the act. We warned them not to do that again. Since then, they have not been coming. They are Fulani herdsmen,” he said.
Mr Fatai Teslim Balogun, whose farm is located at Olorunda, Ona-Ara Local Government area of the state, shared his experience with The Guardian.
Balogun said: “I always feel that they come to my farm feeding on my crops, especially on the day I am absent on farm.
So, the last time they came, I was on the farm hearing the sound of the cattle from the other end of my farm. I went there and saw the cattle grazing on my maize farm. I tried to get the herdsman for about five minutes, I didn’t see anyone with the cattle. Then I chased them away, but not quite long, another set of cattle came from another direction, grazing again on my maize farm. They were like a hundred cattle with no one with them.”
In Ogbomoso zone, clashes between farmers and herdsmen are recurrent.
Following clashes that usually erupt between the farmers and cattle herders of Ikoyi-Ile, Orire Local Government area of the zone, residents recently threatened to resolve to self-help if the Oyo State government failed to protect them from suspected herdsmen terrorising their community.
One of the victims, Usman Daudu, whose farm produce was destroyed by the herders, said that 20 hectares of his farmland planted with maize, yam, and tomatoes were destroyed by the herdsmen, and he was injured on the head with machete while trying to chase them away.
He said: “They have not stopped the attacks on our farms. We have pleaded with them several times, yet they didn’t yield. They are ‘bororo’ because our Fulani neighbours are not violent.”
Another victim, Dominic Gbegbi, said he was inflicted with 14 machete cuts while trying to defend himself from the herders who invaded his farm with their cattle and destroyed his farm produce.
The Babalaje of Agbe and secretary of Idera Agbe Farmers Association, Orire Local Government branch, Chief Oyekola Joseph, alleged that there had been repeated attacks, calling for urgent interventions from the state government before the issues would get out of control.
He said: “We don’t know what to do because if we revenge, it might lead to bloodshed. We want the government to help us. Herders cut off the hand of one of our workers working on his farm. They destroyed our farm produce. Another farmer was attacked with a machete and two of our minors were also raped.”
The Onikoyi of Ikoyi-Ile, Oba Abdul-Yekeen Atilola Oladipupo 1V, said that he had made several futile attempts to ensure peaceful co-existence between the farmers and herders in the area.
‘’We have tried to resolve the issue many times, but it is difficult to separate farmers and herders. We have been living together for a while. I have taken a lot of steps on the matter to find a lasting solution, but it seems my efforts were not fruitful.
“I have had a series of meetings with all the community leaders around me. In fact, I even had meetings with the Assistant Inspector General of Police in Osogbo together with the Commissioner of Police, and they assured me that peace would reign,” the monarch said.