There is no respite for residents of Yewaland in Ogun State as rampaging nomadic Fulani herdsmen continue to maul them on their home soil. Consequently, many of the residents have fled to neighbouring Pobe in Benin Republic.
The number of Yewa villagers taking refuge at a makeshift Internally Displaced Persons camp located at Pobe in Benin Republic continues to increase day after day as Fulani herdsmen unleash fresh terror on residents of Yewaland.
Some villagers in villages in Yewaland such as Oha, Asa, Igbooro, Ibeku, Moro, Agbon-Ojodu among others have since fled their homes in Ogun State as the atrocious acts of the marauding herdsmen grew.
The PUNCH gathered that Benin Republic became an option for the fleeing villagers because of its proximity.
Our correspondent who visited areas such as Ohunbe, Asa, Agbon, Isuku, kodera, Iselu, Iyana Meta, Ibeku, Eegelu, Ipobe, Igbo-oko and Iganna, noted that they had been deserted by mostly women due to attacks by suspected herdsmen.
An Ogun resident, Abiodun Abikale, said, “They (Fulani herdsmen) invaded our homes, killed people and destroyed farmlands. Amid the terror, some of us were left with no choice than to flee to Benin Republic.’’
Abikale also said the people of Benin Republic received them well, adding, “They treated us well. They took care of us. I was tempted to conclude that the place is more convenient for me than Nigeria because there is peace. I didn’t return with my wife. I only came to check our property and see the situation. I am not comfortable coming with my wife. But I am returning there. We will return fully when the killings and abductions in our villages end.’’
Another resident whose wife was delivered of a baby in Benin Republic while taking refuge in the country after fleeing the state due to killings by the herdsmen, Monday Odu, said they left during the bedlam between farmers and herders in the Yewa-North Local Government Area of the state.
Our correspondent gathered that many farmers in the state taking refuge in Benin Republic shunned the state government palliatives. Though the government tried to woo them with a few bags of rice and some other stuff to return to the country, the fled residents insisted that they would not return to their villages until security improved in Nigeria.
The state government last Sunday wooed the villagers with the palliatives but they were not around to collect them.
The Chairman, Subcommittee on Palliatives, Olaolu Olabimtan, who is also the Commissioner for Budget and Planning, while delivering the palliatives to the people in the area, described the gesture as a sign of better things to come.
On the palliatives, the Eselu of Iseluland, Oba Akintunde Akinyemi, said that residents were not available to receive them from the government.
The monarch said many of the residents said they preferred to be slaves elsewhere than die in their country due to the level of insecurity in the area.
He said, “It is a terrible situation; nobody is around. They have deserted the houses, the schools, everywhere. The palliatives are in Tata; we can’t pick them because we are still looking for who to give them to; some residents are even saying that they won’t come until security is provided.
“We have been getting in touch with them, some are in Ipobe, some are in Eegelu, Port Novo, and others are saying that it is better for them to be slaves elsewhere than to be killed in Nigeria.’’
Another resident, Monday Idowu, who spoke exclusively to our correspondent, added that some men followed their wives with the children while others stayed behind in the villages.
Idowu said, “Since last week that suspected herdsmen attacked some villages, we did not sleep because we were afraid that they may come for us again. The people have fled to some villages in Benin Republic since Sunday. Few of us that stayed behind take shelter in bushes for fear of attack. These people came back the same day the governor visited our area. The day the commissioner led a delegation to this place, they attacked us. The governor said he would provide security, but we have not seen anybody. There is panic everywhere.”
He added that those taking shelter in Benin Republic stay in temporary shelter, noting that the government was taking care of them.
Idowu stated, “They (Benin Republic) registered and fed them free of charge. Among those who went, five pregnant women have given birth. One of them, Odu Monday, gave birth through caesarean section. The man followed his wife to Benin Republic.”
Idowu further said he was not sure those who fled would return soon because of the report that some herders threatened to return with more attacks on the villages.
Despite the stakeholders meeting held between the Fulani herdsmen and farmers in the state which was attended by five governors including the state governor, Dapo Abiodun and four northern governors, the killings have not abated.
The chairman of the transition committee of Imeko-Afon Local Government, Olusola Oke, lamented that killings and kidnappings were still ongoing in the Yewa axis.
He also lamented the security situation in the area, saying, “Last Thursday, two people who wanted to buy cows were lured into the bush and kidnapped around Iwoye-Ketu. They have yet to be rescued.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, state, DSP Abimbola Oyeyemi, however said two traders were abducted, adding that a suspect who is a Fulani had been arrested in connection with the matter.
Also speaking on the development, Secretary of Faces of Yewa Indigenes Foundation, Kehinde Akinlade, expressed worry over the situation in the area.
Akinlade said, “How can the farmers and the traders go to the market when their silos, barns, farm stores have been burnt down by the Fulani herders? How can they resume their economic activities when they cannot go to their farms for harvest because of the fear of the murderous herders still lurking in the forests surrounding the affected Yewa towns? It is not possible. Their towns and investments are gone and their lives are not secured.’’
Describing the mode of attack by the killer herders as guerrilla, Akinlade condemned the tactic of deploying security agents to the roads and not forests.