14 February 2018

Nigeria: Workers Flee As Herdsmen Overrun LG Offices in Ondo

Photo: The Guardian Nigeria
Herdsmen

Akure South Local Government Secretariat in Akure, the Ondo State capital, was yesterday sacked by over 30 rampaging herdsmen.

This came on a day Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, said the attitude shown by President Muhammadu Buhari so far on the issue indicated someone who was under trance.

This is even as a Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, yesterday accused political leaders and elders in Benue, Kaduna, Taraba and Zamfara states of sponsoring the wave of killings and violent altercations between herders and farmers, asking President Buhari to immediately declare a state of emergency in those areas.

On the invasion of the local government council, the workers fled as the rampaging herdsmen inflicted matchet cuts on the shoulder of the council's agriculture officer, Simon Johnson.

Three couples about to wed at the council's registry at the time of the invasion also fled the scene as the herdsmen disrupted the ceremony.

Many of the workers and guests at the wedding ceremony returned later in search of their handbags and shoes after normalcy returned to the council.

The daring herdsmen, brandishing dangerous weapons, pursued the workers until the entire secretariat was empty, thus paralysing activities for hours.

Both senior and junior workers scaled the fence of the secretariat to save themselves from the invading herdsmen.

Vanguard gathered that the council chairman, Margaret Atere, was ferried out of the secretariat by some of her aides.

How it started

It was learned that the herdsmen had early yesterday invaded a farm belonging to the council which is located behind the council secretariat and destroyed it.

The farm, in which vegetables and other crops were planted, was reportedly devastated by the cattle brought by the herdsmen.

Vanguard learned that the agriculture officer, who met the cattle destroying the farm, challenged the herdsmen who in turn beckoned on others who dealt some matchet cuts on his shoulder.

One of the council workers, Ojomu Olaiye, who witnessed the incident from afar and tried to record it on his mobile telephone, was accosted and wounded.

Top security chiefs in the state rushed to the scene following a distress call by the council chairman.

Detectives, it was learned, were hurriedly deployed to the area by the state Police Commissioner, Gbenga Adeyanju, who visited the scene in company of Senior Special Adviser to the governor on Security Matters, Alhaji Jimoh Dojumo.

The herdsmen, sensing that they may be arrested, fled the scene before the arrival of security operatives.

The Police Commissioner and the council chairman later rushed to inform the state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, of the security situation in the state capital.

Speaking with newsmen, the council boss, Mrs Atere, who confirmed the incident, pleaded with the state government to provide adequate security in the council for fear of another attack by the herdsmen.

Atere, who expressed worries over the effrontery of the herdsmen to sack the entire council, said the council cannot remain closed.

"We have started making peace with the herdsmen around the council. It is not possible for us to close down the entire council because of what happened.

"Work will continue and we will be here everyday till 4pm. It is not possible for us to close down the council," she said.

State chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Bosede Daramola, accompanied by the Joint Negotiating Council chairman, Opeyemi Oloniyo, and president of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, in the state, Bunmi Eniayewu, rushed to the council to witness the incident.

Workers safety first -- NLC

Speaking with newsmen, NLC state chairman, Daramola, said workers would return to the council, only if their lives were guaranteed.

Daramola expressed fears that the herdsmen might return because the farm that was devastated was on a swampy terrain.

She said: "Workers will not leave their work place and since that place is at the bank of a river, the herdsmen will always come back with their cattle.

"The workers are working, discharging their duties, and we don't want to lose any of our workers. The herdsmen need to be cautioned and checkmated to avoid a reoccurrence."

The Police Commissioner, Adeyanju, said normalcy had returned to the troubled area, adding, however, that no arrest had been made by detectives deployed to maintain peace after the break down of law and order in the council.

At press time yesterday, only pockets of workers had returned to the council after the attack.

Many of the workers stayed around the premises for fear of another attack by the herdsmen who, according to some workers, promised to come back.

Don't allow people resort to self help, Deji

The Deji of Akureland, Oba Aladetoyinbo Ogunlade Aladelusi has condemned the activities of the herdsmen who overran the council and equally destroyed the farm belonging to the council.

Oba Aladelusi said President Buhari should call the herdsmen to order "to avoid self defence by our people once we are left with no option."

A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Michael Adeyeye in Akure said "Oba Aladetoyinbo wondered why the herdsmen would have chosen to lead their cattle to graze on the farmland belonging to the council if not an attempt to create crisis in town.

"The herdsmen went as far as injuring staff of the council who had made frantic efforts to prevent the wanton destruction carried out on the farm.

"It is so sad that no major arrest or prosecution had been made by the Police since the attack on Chief Olu Falae's farm. Now the arsonists who parade themselves as herdsmen target the local government as their next point of call.

"His Majesty wishes to call on President Muhammadu Buhari not to treat the issue of these notorious herdsmen with kid gloves as their activities are becoming worrisome and unbearable.

"Akure people can no longer tolerate the excesses of these herdsmen who are now making life unbearable with their nefarious attitudes."

Soyinka slams Buhari

Meanwhile, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, yesterday, said the attitude shown by the President on herdsmen attacks across the country indicated someone under trance.

He lamented that despite the achievement recorded under the present administration, it had continuously committed unforced errors in different facets of the society, including herdsmen attacks.

Soyinka, who further described herdsmen attack as deadlier than Boko Haram insurgency, lamented that efforts currently being put into tackling herdsmen menace should have commenced six months ago.

While decrying the present state of affairs in the country, Soyinka raised concerns over total failure of the Federal Government to protect the lives and properties of the masses that relied on the government for protection but allegedly allowed to be murdered by the herdsmen across the country.

He described as unacceptable and irresponsible the nonchalant attitude of the government in handling the herdsmen crisis, noting, that it had reached a point where the people would have to protect themselves.

Soyinka who stated these at a press conference at the Freedom Park, Lagos Island, Lagos, said if he would have the opportunity of meeting Buhari today (yesterday), he would tell him that he was under a trance, noting that the sooner the President got out of the trance, the better for the nation.

He said: "If I meet the President today, I will tell him I think you are under a trance. Many things are happening across the country which he needs to address. And sooner or later he gets out of it, the better for the country."

Soyinka further decried series of cow invasion of his premises and some other parts of the Southwest State, saying he had reported to the police several times and warned that next time cows invaded his territory, drastic measures would be adopted.

He opined that the crisis between farmers and herdsmen was not new, noting that the way the crisis had been ignored in recent times by government created the present problems.

"We need to understand that the confrontation between farmers and the cattle rearers are not new. But the issue of concern is the way the attack had been handled by the government and the lies that followed after the attacks, especially from remarks from public office holders, especially from the Minister of Defence.

Attacks and lies

"Can one imagine the minister of defence opening his mouth to utter words in support for the attacks perpetrated by the herdsmen across the country? With those words, why is that man still in office? What sort of government is that?

"I expected that when the killings started escalating, the president should have ordered the military to stop whatever they are doing in other regions especially Operation Python dance and others and ask them to address the herdsmen issue. In other words, what is happening now should have been done over six months ago.

"Situation like this requires holistic approach. The long term plan which the Federal Government proposed, the ranches, is not sufficient to address the issue. There must be provision for the livestock to sustain them within the ranches.

"We need to ask questions on what happened to the ranches earlier established by the Federal Government. I remember several years ago whenever we go for haunting, we often ran into government ranches filled with well-fed cattle. After some years, the cattle in those ranches started to disappear," Soyinka added.

He said further that he could not imagine why Buhari should reinstate the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, Prof. Umar Yusuf, who was being investigated for alleged financial impropriety.

Soyinka said: "I cannot say the type of trance he is presently under. But there are so many unforced errors going on in the country. For instance, the case of the man, who was sacked by the minister of health but was reinstated, that is what I mean by unforced errors."

Calls for organised resistance

The Nobel laureate called for organised resistance against herdsmen invasion in territories in order to avert the wanton killings that occurred in Benue State and some other states in recent times.

Soyinka urged voluntary organisations and associations like hunters associations to form themselves into groups to disarm any herdsmen found with arms.

According to him, once a herdsman was found with weapon, the police should first be reported to for prompt action and that if the police failed to act, the voluntary organisations, such as Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, hunters associations and others should move in to disarm such herdsman or herdsmen.

He charged the various associations to intensify surveillance to nip in the bud, herdsmen invasion in their communities in the South West if the police could not do their jobs properly, leaving the people with no choice than to defend themselves.

Kick against cattle colonies

Soyinka also kicked against the proposed establishment of cattle colonies as a way of solving the herdsmen/farmers crisis, saying ranching was preferable, as it was being done in other parts of the world, adding that no business should warrant killing of people for whatever reason.

"Establishment of ranches is the solution that many countries have adopted to prevent clashes between these two set of people. There is something I called governance body language.

"The body language of the government is sad and it has allowed the attack to continue for long. The long term planning proposed by the Federal Government has not gone hand in hand with the security necessity," he stated.

Backs State Police

The Nobel laureate also joined state governors to demand for creation of state police, saying the governors were only chief security officers of states on paper.

He said: "On paper, the chief security of every state is the governor but that is not the reality, if the police in the state can receive order from someone in remote area or posted out without considering the governor before the posting.

"I am very happy that we are back to the issue, that is, we need to decentralize the country's police formation."

Herdsmen could be worse than Boko Haram -- Sagay

Similarly, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC,. Prof. Itse Sagay, SAN, yesterday warned that failure by the Federal Government to curb the incessant attacks by herdsmen in the country might be disastrous, saying they could be worse than Boko Haram insurgents.

He, however, lampooned the Minister of Defence, Brig. Gen Monsur Dan Alli, retd, for allegedly justifying killings in Benue and other states, saying such remarks were not helpful.

Speaking with Vanguard, the legal icon called on President Buhari to tackle the herdsmen with force, since that remained the only language they would understand.

He said: "I think the only language the herdsmen will understand is force. They should overwhelm them with federal fire power because it is a big mystery to me that herdsmen are killing various security agents, they are killing police and civil defence corps and they get away.

"Nobody has produced one herdsman for us to see. They just come and kill security agents, kill farmers, rape their wives and get away. That is the shocking part of it."

President not under trance -- Sagay

He also disagreed with Professor Wole Soyinka's remarks that the President was in a trance regarding the activities of herdsmen.

Sagay said: "I don't agree because the President has given firm instructions to the various agencies and the Nigerian Army which has moved in."

He said: "I must say that the comments of the Minister of Defence about 10 days ago, in which he was justifying killings by herdsmen, it is not helpful. That might affect the attitude of the military. It may affect their willingness to protect the people.

"For me, that is a minus otherwise, Buhari is determined to stamp out what these herdsmen are doing. What he (Buhari) should find out is what those under him are doing and find out those who are recalcitrant in carrying out his direction."

Speaking further, he said: "It is like there is a conspiracy to allow these people (herdsmen) overrun Nigeria. I understand what is going on. This is a major problem. We have to be careful otherwise, it will overwhelm the whole country. It will be worse than Boko Haram the way it is going if they are not countered by superior force and stopped in their tracks."

Northern Coalition seeks state of emergency

In a related development, Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, has accused political leaders and elders in Benue, Kaduna, Taraba and Zamfara states of sponsoring the wave of killings and violent altercations between herders and farmers, asking President Buhari to immediately declare a state of emergency in those areas.

"We call on the Federal Government to declare state of emergency in the front line states of Taraba, Kaduna, Benue and Zamfara and suspend the current political structures in those states and replace them with sole administrators until conditions improve," it stated.

At a news conference yesterday in Abuja, the coalition also accused the retired Christian Generals Forum, led by Theophilus Danjuma, of aiding and abetting the attacks.

The group stated: "Another pointer to this is the hate-filled outburst of a certain retired Christian Generals Forum powered by Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma that intentionally harped on a fictitious story of plans to Islamise Nigeria."

Spokesman of the CNG, Abdulazeez Suleiman, while reading the coalition's resolutions, equally said the growing attacks in the north was part of a 50-year design which is now being sponsored by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, to annihilate Muslims in the north.

The coalition, which had last issued and rescinded a 'quit notice' to Igbo living in the north, said what the Igbo could not get in the 1966 coup, it now seeks to get through the current herdsmen-farmers' killings.

The coalition said the attacks in Benue, Numan in Adamawa and Mambilla in Taraba "were undoubtedly planned and sponsored by leaders and elders of these states."

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