… Ondo farmers’ we won’t hesitate to become terrorists
Hit by the pangs of herders’ incessant attacks on farmlands in Ondo State, farmers in the state have stated that they have been pushed to the wall. ADEWALE MOMOH writes on the agony of the farmers on why the authorities listen more to bandits and terrorists instead of genuine citizens
For farmers in Ondo State, they could no longer bare all they have been subjected to by Fulani herdsmen who have continued to invade and destroy their farmlands. The farmers who spoke with New Telegraph lamented that there is an orchestrated plan by the herders to forcefully grab their land following the failure of government to heed to their cries all along. According to the farmers who vowed to become terrorists if that will be the only way they will be listened to, some of them maintained that they can no longer go to their farms over fear of the unknown. One of the farmers, Evans Shado, disclosed that he had been victim of Fulani herders since 2016.
Shado who is the Vice Chairman of the Ondo State Agricultural Commodities Association (OSACA), stated that he is confused on what to do next because banks have been disturbing him to pay back the loans he took to cultivate crops on the destroyed farms. He said, “my problem with herdsmen started in 2016.
One day I received a call about my farm at Ipe-Akoko. I rushed down there and saw everything gone. It had been razed. But two of the herders who did it were later apprehended and taken to the police station. “At the station, a man was standing beside the two culprits and APC was boldly written on the regalia he was putting on. On the regalia, House government official was also written. It was later that we discovered that he had come to secure the release of the two arrested persons.
“The people actually destroyed my 10 hectares oil palm field. The same thing was done to my farm in 2016 where it was razed as well as in 2018. “In 2019, the association I belong to had a rice farm at Uso in Owo Local Government. I was the supervisor.
We took loan of about N100 million from the federal government. When it was time to harvest, these Fulani intruders came in to destroy everything. We reported to government officials including the SSA to the governor on Security, Alhaji Dojumo and the Chairman of Miyetti Allah in the state, Alhaji Bello.
The cows were arrested but they were later released while two of the herders who were apprehended are still in remand. The case is still ongoing since 2019. We don’t even know whether they are still in prison. “With everything destroyed, the bank has been on our neck for us to pay back the loan. We took insurance people, CBN and everybody there to see things for themselves but they’re still threatening us to pay back. Shado added that in 2020, some of them went back to the farm again after borrowing more than N3 million where he farmed six hectares of rice.
“I was expecting millions of naira from the job I did. When harvest time came, these people came in again. They destroyed and devastated everything. We reported the case to Amotekun, they came and helped us. They apprehended some of them but it was only a meager amount that was given to our group because we’re so much.
They gave us N1 million. How will that amount assist us on a farm we had spent millions of naira upon? “Also before January 1st, my farm was devastated again. They rooted all my cassava for their cows. On January 2nd, I took Amotekun to my farm again.
Before you can go to the farm in my community in Ipe- Akoko, you’ve to go in the company of six to ten people because one might not come back alive when you decided to go alone. “Formerly, I’m a disappointed, discouraged and undettered farmer but now, I’m for revolution because last year, I went to the SSA and I told him I want to be a terrorist because it’s terrorists and bandits that are respected in our nation. They respect terrorists more than innocent and law abiding citizens. They’ve destroyed this nation.
“I’ve three children in the university. Where do they want me to get money to educate my children and my children will be looking at my that I call myself a farmer, with them suffering while others are enjoying. “So, I don’t know for this nation. We are at war. It’s not longer peace, it’s revolution. Revolution is spontaneous and I know it’ll start one day. I’m a pastor but this time around, it’s only prayers of brethrens that are sustaining me because I can do and undo. If you talk you will die, if you don’t talk you will die. They have killed me.
“Another farmer, Chief Micheal Ogah, a native of Benue State who cultivates vast farmland of cassava, pepper and okro in Ore axis of Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State also emphasized that he had been having issues with Fulani herdsmen for about four years. Ogah said, “At Ore, I’ve a farm in the forest where I cultivate a lot of cassava, pepper and maize on a vast farm farmland but herders and their cattle have been disturbing on the farm.
There was a certain period I reported them to the police and their head in the area known as ‘Seriki’ was invited where we all went to see the level of destruction on the farm. “After the inspection, they told me that if I can get hold of at least one herder or a cow, the culprit will be made to pay for the damages but if I’m unable to get any, there’s nothing they can do about that.
But there was a time that a cow was caught with the aid of the police and little compensation was paid. Even the compensation ended same day at the police station because of the demands of the policemen at the Station. “There’s also a time that we were able to arrest one herder, but on the way coming we had an accident and we’re taken to the hospital. Later the Fulanis came and they accused us of kidnapping their son. The Commissioner of Police in the state also heard about the issue. The family of the arrested herder insisted that I must pay N150,000 to take care of his medical expenses but after much pleading I paid N70,000.
“During the incident, I was locked up in the cell and I bailed myself with N10,000 as well as my motorcycle with N5000. After I was released, o took policemen to the farm to see the enormous damage done to the farm. The police warned me against continuing with the case else I’ll be killed in the farm one day.
“Months later, the herders came to my farm again and destroyed the maize I planted on about 12 acres of land of corn last year after eating part of it. The pepper planted on about two acres was also destroyed. “The worst thing, they came there and built huts on my farmland without my approval since September, 2020 when I was driven away from the farm. They built about huts in the farm.
I went this year again to confirm if they are still but to my surprise, they’re still there alongside their cows. The calves of the cows that I counted were 164. They ate all my cassava and yam on the farm, they finished everything.
“But I want to appreciate the governor for his pronouncement that herders should vacate the forest reserves because after the ultimatum of the vacation order, I went to the farm and I couldn’t see any Fulani herders on the farm again, but everything on the farm had been destroyed.
Due to fear of what the herders could do, I’ve only been to the farm only once this year. “I don’t know how long we’ll continue with this because I don’t have any other occupation other than farming. I’m not a government worker who will be expecting salary at the end of the month. We need more of government assistance.
On his part, Idowu Oludare, stated that farmers are already getting tired of the effrontery and audacious moves of the herders on lands that does not belong to them. Oludare maintained that unless urgent measures are taken, farmers will have to stand up for themselves. “I think at this point we’re just trying to be modest but in fairness, what is happening at present defiles all that. Even the deaf and the blind know that something is happening.
“We cannot but say this, that they have been so despondent with the security situation of this country, just to satisfy their ethnic group. “In fairness to us, what I see presently is a calculated attempt. We all know the solution to what we’re facing. In south west, we’re just too overbearing. We just want to see things from the angle of politics and angle of educated fellow. But beyond that, the war has started already. Every one of us knows what happening in Osun and Oyo State and we are still deceiving and sinking ourselves in that mud of deception.
“The press has tried so much not to create tension in the nation. But the truth is more than tension, what we have is more than tension. It’s a calculated attempt to take over our land. Our silence has been interpreted to be something else. I think now is the time to break out from that cocoon. We cannot be taken for granted any longer by the Fulanis. “We’ve many ethnic groups in Nigeria. See what they have done to the Benue people. The same thing is replicating itself here in the south west. “We personally have counted and have lost counting.
There is nothing painful than when you can help yourself and you are not allowed to especially when you see dead bodies of fellow farmers on the ground, not even farmers but anybody now. See the rate at which they rape our ladies, married women. This cheating is getting too much and we can’t take it anymore.”