Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi has directed security agencies to begin the immediate arrest and prosecution of Fulani herdsmen caught carrying guns and other dangerous weapons across the state.
The governor gave the directive at a stakeholders’ meeting aimed at dousing the tension triggered by the incessant herdsmen-farmers clash, which was attended by the representatives of farmers, Fulani herdsmen, security agencies and other stakeholders, at the House of Chiefs, Secretariat, Ibadan.
Ajimobi also directed the immediate registration of herdsmen and possibly their cattle to separate genuine pastoralists from criminal-minded herders, as well as the convocation of a monthly stakeholders’ meeting at the state and local government levels.
Besides, the governor said that a surveillance unit would be created under the Oyo State Joint Security Outfit, Operation Burst, to curtail the menace of cattle rustlers, murderous herdsmen and farmers who may take the laws into their own hands by poisoning cattle grazing on farmlands.
He called on residents to join hands with the government to secure the state by being vigilant and to always report any form of a security breach to the appropriate security agencies instead of taking the law into their own hands.
The governor wondered why anybody would be carrying guns and other dangerous weapons all in the name of herding cattle, saying such a person should not be regarded as a herdsman but an armed robber.
He said: “The flagship of our administration’s programmes and successes has been the maintenance of peace and security and we will not allow anybody to truncate this. Fulani people are good people; if not I will not allow my only son to marry a Fulani lady. We must separate criminals from the good people.
“Why will a herdsman be carrying a gun? Henceforth, any herdsman found with guns should be arrested and prosecuted. Owners of cattle found grazing on farmlands and destroying crops should also be arrested and prosecuted, Any farmer that poison cattle should also be arrested and prosecuted.
“But, we must realise that some of these herdsmen come all the way from the Niger Republic and Chad for grazing. Not all of these herdsmen are Nigerians.
“The people have their roles, while the government also have a role to play in finding lasting solutions to the menace. We must all participate in the security of our communities. Yes, it is the responsibility of government to guarantee the safety and security of the citizens, but we cannot do it alone.
“We must learn to live together in peace. A special surveillance unit will be created under the Operation Burst to curtail the excesses of those concerned and they will be adequately equipped and given necessary logistics.”
The governor advocated ranching as a long-term solution to the crises but enjoined the stakeholders to deliberate on a mutually-beneficial solution in the interim, stressing that ranching was the best global practice.
Also speaking, the CP said that the police had the men, equipment, the will and capacity to deal decisively with any criminal element in the name of a herdsman.
Odude expressed the regret that no fewer than nine people, including the officer in charge of Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS), had been killed in the last two weeks.
He, however, said that seven people had so far been arrested in connection with the criminal activities, promising that more would be arrested and brought to justice.
The CP said, “The happenings in the last two weeks have been disheartening. We recorded killings of the officer in charge of SARS; a 70-year-old man, five unidentified people and another farmer, in Iseyin, Saki and Ile-Ido. So far, we have recorded the death of nine people and we have arrested seven suspects.
“It is pathetic. We know that the cardinal programme of the state administration is to maintain peace and security. We are not going to allow such things to happen again. We have the men, the equipment and will to ensure that peace is restored. We must learn to live in peace.”
In his contribution, Ajibesin said that the state House of Assembly had in August 2017 called a peace meeting between the farmers and herdsmen where recommendations were made by both parties, adding however that nothing concrete had been done since then.
He also accused some local chiefs, particularly in the Oke Ogun axis of the state, of aiding and abetting herdsmen after collecting calves as gifts from them, particularly those with criminal tendencies, saying that this had contributed to the crises.
Also, the state chairman of MACBAN, who spoke in Yoruba, exonerated his men from criminal activities and called on the government to apprehend those who are criminals among herders.
Bello said: “Government should do the needful to maintain law and order. For us, peace is very germane. We are not happy with what happened in Iseyin recently. Nobody will be happy witnessing the death of another fellow human being. We are all used to one another
“I must also state that the fact that one Fulani is a criminal does not make the whole Fulani criminals. Our normal instruments are cutlasses, knives, rods and hats. Anybody that carries guns should be arrested. The media has not been fair to us by their sweeping generalization.’’