Herders drove us away, built their huts on our farmlands— Ondo farmers
…Narrate huge losses to banks
By Dayo Johnson, Akure
It is tales of woe from farmers across Ondo State following the activities of herdsmen who have not only destroyed their sources of livelihood by their incessant attacks on their farmlands but also annoyingly raped their wives and daughters in their presence.
They lamented that they have consistently been victims of herders for the past five years, precisely since 2016.
The farmers from across the three senatorial districts of the state, almost in tears, narrated their nightmares to Sunday Vanguard.
Some of them claimed to have taken loans to put together their farms, saying everything went down the drains, no thanks to the rampaging activities of herders.
The Vice Chairman of the Ondo State Agricultural Commodities Association (OSACA), the umbrella body for farmers engaged in agricultural commodities in the state, Evans Shado, whose farm is located in lpe-Akoko, Ondo North, narrated, “My problem with herdsmen started in 2016. One day I received a call that my farm at Ipe-Akoko was under attack.
“I rushed down there and saw that everything was gone.
“But two of the herders who did it were later apprehended and taken to the police station.
“The attackers actually destroyed my 10 hectares oil palm field. The same thing was done to my farm when it was razed in 2018.
“In 2019, the association I belong to had a rice farm at Uso in Owo Local Government Area.
“I was the supervisor. We took a loan of about N10 million from the Federal Government. When it was time to harvest, these intruders came 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 custody.
“The case is ongoing since 2019.
“With everything destroyed, the bank has been on our neck for us to pay back the loan. We took insurance people, CBN officials and everybody there to see things for themselves but they’re still asking us to pay back.
“But if such had happened in the North, I’m sure they would have reimbursed affected farmers to go back to enable them continue in business”.
In 2020, after they had put the sad incident of 2019 behind them, Shado said some of them went back to farm by borrowing more than N3 million.
“This time I farmed six hectares of rice. I was expecting millions of naira from the job I did. But when harvest time came, these people came again. They destroyed everything. We reported the case to Amotekun and they came and helped us. “They apprehended some of the attackers but only a meager amount was given to our group because we are so many.
“They gave us N1 million. How will that amount assist us on a farm we had spent millions of naira on?
“Just before January this year, my farm was attacked again. They uprooted all my cassava for their cows. On January 2, I took Amotekun operatives 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 if you decided to go alone.
“Formerly, I’m a disappointed, discouraged and an undeterred farmer but, now, I’m for revolution because, last year, I went to the SSA and told him I wanted to be a terrorist because only terrorists and bandits are respected in our nation.
“People 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 who will be looking at me that I call myself a farmer and suffering while others are enjoying.
“So we are at war in this country. It is no longer peace, it is revolution. Revolution is spontaneous and I know it’ll start one day. “I’m a pastor but this time around, it is the prayers of the brethren 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 while still living”.
Also speaking with Sunday Vanguard, Chief Ogah Michael, a native of Benue State who has his farm in Ore, Ondo South, said farmers in the area had been having issues with herdsmen for about four years now.
“At Ore, I’ve a farm in the forest where I cultivate a lot of cassava, pepper and maize but herders and their cattle have been disturbing on the farm”, Michael said.
“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 could catch at least one herder or a cow, the culprit will be made to pay for the damages but if I’m unable to catch any, there’s nothing they could do.
“But there was a time that a cow was caught with the aid of the police and little compensation was paid.
“But the compensation ended same day at the police station because of the demands of policemen.
“There was also a time that we were able to arrest one herder but on the way coming we had an accident and we were taken to hospital.
“Later the Fulani came and 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 cell and I bailed myself with N10, 000 as well as my motorcycle with N5, 000.
“After I was released, l took policemen to see the enormous damage done to my farm.
“The police warned me against continuing with the case else I’ll be killed in the farm one day.
“Months later, herders came to my farm again and destroyed the maize I planted on it, about 12 hectares of corn, 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 in September, 2020 after I was driven away from the farm. “They built their huts in my farm. I went this year again to confirm if they were still there and I found they were still there alongside their cows.
“The calves of the cows I counted numbered 164. They ate all my cassava and yam on the farm, they finished everything.
“But I want to appreciate Governor Akeredolu for his pronouncement that herders should vacate forest reserves because, after the ultimatum of the vacation order, I went to the farm and I couldn’t see any herder on the farm anymore, but everything on the farm had been destroyed. “Due to the fear of what the herders could do, I’ve been to the farm only once this year.
“There was a time I challenged them on why were uprooting my cassava for their cows and they told me that I could not compare the nutrient in cassava and maize to that of ordinary grass.
“l 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 government assistance”.
Narrating his plight, another farmer representing Ondo Central and who happened to be the Public Relations Officer of OSACA, Idowu Oludare, said, “l think, at this point, we’re just trying to be modest but, in fairness, what is happening at present defies all that.
“Even the deaf and the blind know that something is happening.
“In fairness to every one of us as Nigerians, for a long time, we’ve disabused my mind from the concept of one Nigeria.
“And as it is, it’s obvious that there’s a lot of influx of herders through the borders in the name of ‘we’re brethren, brothers’ pronouncement made by the President himself and supported by those from his ethnic group that surround him.
“We cannot but say this, that they have been so careless with the security situation of this country, just to satisfy their ethnic group.
“IPOB was proscribed. IPOB was not found all over Nigeria killing and raping people. “They are just saying ‘this is our territory and we want to protect it and to have our own nation’. I think it’s a worthy thing to demand from a country. In spite of that, IPOB was proscribed.
“In fairness to us, what I see presently is a calculated attempt. We all know the solution to what we’re facing.
“In the South-West, we’re just too understanding. We just want to see things from the angle of politics and angle of educated fellows. “
But beyond that, war has started already. Every one of us knows what is happening in Ogun and Oyo. 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 Fulani.
“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 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 bodies of fellow farmers on the ground.
“See the rate at which they rape our ladies, married women. This cheating is getting too much and we can’t take it anymore”.