This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: Parents Withdraw Children, Wards From Ekiti Community Schools Over Farmer's Murder

Ado-Ekiti — Not many envisaged the dimension the incident would take. But as at yesterday, it is clear that the ripple effect of the gruesome murder of 51-year-old Mr. Ropo Eniafe, a cocoa merchant in Ilawe-Ekiti in Ekiti South West Local Government of Ekiti State, is bound to cause disquiet in the community.

Yesterday, parents and guardians withdrew their children and wards from schools, shortly after public primary and secondary schools resumed for the week. Many of the schoolchildren, who seemed innocently happy about closing only two hours after resumption, trekked home gleefully, without knowing when next they will be permitted to return to the classrooms. Many of the students returning home as early as 11.am, said they were sent home "due to what happened on Saturday".

Eniafe, father of four, was hacked down while working on his farmland on Saturday by those believed to be Fulani herdsmen, who have been unleashing terror on the people for some time now. The herdsmen have been interacting with the people of the surrounding communities, to make it easy for them to graze their cattle on the farmlands. But as it has happened in several parts of the country, the interactions have always been threatened by the anger of local farmers whose crops are often destroyed by the grazing cattle. This has expectedly caused clashes between the local farmers and the Fulani herdsmen. On many occasions, the rifts have often turned fatal.

When THISDAY visited the serene Ilawe community yesterday, it was discovered that parents and guardians were seen withdrawing their children and wards to avoid being caught in the web of the crisis. They said Eniafe's murder could trigger a reprisal that could endanger the lives of the children, adding that they would not want their children to be caught in the envisaged crossfire.

Although, there was no noticeable tension as people were seen going about their normal businesses, the action of the parents might have been governed by threats by the youths who have vowed to avenge the killings.

But the schoolchildren are not the only ones hit by the disquiet in the community because of the murder. Even their parents, who are largely farmers, are now too scared to go to their farms, suspecting that those who killed Eniafe could be lurking somewhere for them. They too, are now idling away in the town, amidst uneasy calm.

Also, at the home of the deceased in Afunremu area yesterday, the whole area was in mourning mood as sympathisers were seen at the deceased's house, sitting in groups apparently discussing the sad incident.

According to the deceased's younger brother, Mr. Boluwaji Eniafe, the deceased's wife, Mrs Funke Rachael Eniafe, came to him about 9am to inform him that her husband had not returned from the farm since he left on Friday morning. This, he added, made him and others to raise a search party which later discovered the corpse of his brother somewhere on the farm in the pool of his blood. He further said that no part of his body was missing when his corpse was found.

Boluwaji lamented that his brother could have been killed by some armed robbers who had been terrorising the community in the last few weeks.

According to him, "He must have run into the armed robbers who were escaping after robbing. The robbers must have killed him based on the assumption that he must have seen them."

He said his brother never had any dispute with anybody before the ugly incident.

He alleged further that some Fulani herdsmen had in recent times been unleashing havoc on the community dispossessing the people of their money and belongings.

He appealed to the government to find the killers of his brother and put a permanent stop to the menace of robbery and the herdsmen's terror.

While confirming the report, Police Public Relations Officer in the state police command, Victor Babayemi Olu, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), said that two persons had been arrested in connection with the murder. The suspects are now in police custody. But to forestall a recurrence, he said the police had taken over the security of the community.

He added that the case would be charged to court as soon as the investigations into the murder have been concluded.

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