Some villagers in Ondo State have begun to flee their homes, following incessant attacks suffered from the herdsmen-cum-bandits’ invasion.
This has become the fate of residents in some villages in the state after longtime reported cases of attacks, kidnappings and sometimes – killings, which have continued to disrupt business activities, undermine food security, displace a large number of inhabitants, and also cast heavy doubt on the safety of lives and property.
Research has shown that over 4,000 farmers have been killed in the South Western part of Nigeria from 2015 to date.
According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data, Nigeria has lost not less than 8,343 persons to the farmers-herders conflict since 2005.
This rising invasion of herders in the Southwest region subsequently led the governors in the six South-West states, with ranking traditional rulers, to form the Western Nigeria Security Network codenamed ‘Amotekun’ on January 9, 2020.
Despite the support from the state governments, the regional security outfit has continued to struggle to maintain and counter persistent attacks from the herdsmen.
Some residents have raised concerns about the wherewithal of the Amotekun corps to overpower and take control of the areas that have become dominated by the herdsmen.
Following investigations by The PUNCH, a resident who gave her name as Tinu said she stays in Akoko but visits Ifon often and that it is always a scary journey to embark on.
“I live after Arigidi Akoko but I often commute on the road that leads to Ifon. I have a friend I visit regularly. That road is now lonely, Amotekun men have practically been overpowered in that place because it’s like the epicentre of herdsmen. They sacked an entire community,” she said.
A monarch who didn’t want his name in print said he had to get extra local security to support the Amotekun but that they’re struggling to keep them away.
Although, the men of the Amotekun security corps didn’t say much about the challenges faced, residents gave their views about some of the problems the security network encountered in the cause of duty.
A man who simply gave his name as Joe and a graduate of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, said Amotekun is powerless in certain parts of the state and his parents had to abandon their home because of the security crisis in their area.
“Which Amotekun? Bandits are killing people in Ose LG every day. Ifon, Okeluse, Molege, Arimogijaa communities are no-go areas till today. We even heard Amotekun were told to stop fighting the bandits when they lost like 5 of their officers in that environment. My parents had to leave the house to go and stay with my brother who lives in Ondo town,” he said.
While travellers have been attacked, killed and kidnapped, the farmers and their farmlands too weren’t been spared. From tales of being killed on their farms to escaping with injuries and destruction of farmlands, the farmers have had a bitter taste of the precarious security situation of the state.
Femi Adeyele, a farmer with 50 hectares of farmland in Igbara Oke, Ifedore Local Government Area, captured the prevailing situation in an interview with our correspondent.
Adeyele, who was still nursing the injuries he sustained from an attack by herdsmen when he met with our correspondent, narrated: “I met them (herdsmen) on my 50 hectares farm that had cassava planted on it. I was somewhere watching and I saw as they uprooted my cassava to feed their cows. This angered me and I came out of where I was and ordered them to leave my farm but instead, it seemed like they spoke some language to their cows and they surrounded me. As I tried to run, I put the phone to my ears feigning a call to Amotekun for help but they struck me with cutlass and I began to bleed.”
Another farmer, Yele Adaranijo, said the herdsmen usually lay ambush for farmers before they strike.
“They came to my farm and destroyed the corn we planted. They tried attacking my farmer colleagues and me but we begged them not to hurt us. We also begged them not to destroy our crops because that was our only means of livelihood. They’re always threatening us here; we are tired of this whole thing,” he said.