- Leave Oyo now, Agbekoya warns herders
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), Prof. Sulyman Abdulkareem, has accused herdsmen of poisoning the university’s dam with chemicals. He also said the herdsmen were destroying the multi-million naira research and training farms by making their cattle to illegally graze on the campus. The university therefore gave the herdsmen notice to quit its campus.
Abdulkareem handed down the notice at a special security meeting held at the institution last Thursday with leaders of the 11 Fulani settlements on the university land. But Chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Usman Adamu, told the university management that the herdsmen destroying the institution’s farm land were not living in the community. According to him, there are other ethnic groups embarking on illegal activities like logging and are not differentiated from the Fulani. At the meeting, Abdulkareem told the Fulani settlers that “enough is enough”, stressing that the university could no longer condone the destructive activities of their grazing cattle on its land, “as this is becoming too costly for the institution to bear”.
He said: “We have a multi-million naira programme that is currently at stake now because they (herders) have gone to the extent of uprooting tubers of cassava for their cattle to feed on. We cannot conduct any research or training on the farm again because each time we get to a point where their cattle can feed on it, they go back there and destroy it. “We care about them but we cannot afford to keep them on our land again.
If they want to continue to be our friends, they can live anywhere around us but they should realise that this is a sacred place. Again, even where there are wars, people leave the university alone. “We are now facing a lot of financial problems and yet they are compounding the problems for us.
The teak plantation, several times they have set it on fire and there are millions of naira invested in that place.” At the meeting, which was attended by law enforcement agencies such as the police, the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Abdulkareem disclosed that the university management would no longer tolerate illegal grazing of cows on its land. He, therefore, told the illegal settlers, who have started building permanent structures to vacate the university land in the interest of peace.
The order came almost a year after the university first issued a quit notice to the illegal settlers. On April 26, 2017 the university had handed down a seven-day ultimatum to the Fulani herdsmen encroaching on its land to quit the campus, but it was never complied with. Also on May 11, 2017, 28 persons – Fulani herdsmen, Yoruba and Hausa farmers – were dragged to an Ilorin Chief Magistrates’ Court for allegedly trespassing on the university land, destroying its plantation and perpetrating other unauthorised activities on the university campus.
The accused were alleged to have resorted to poisoning the institution’s dam with chemicals, while also engaging in illegal felling of economic trees from which they made charcoal. The VC explained that the objective of the meeting was to marshal out plans to agree on a specific time frame for the herdsmen and other illegal settlers to vacate the university land. “And once we agree, they cannot spend one day after on our land,” Abdulkareem said.
The VC disclosed that the university, under his immediate predecessor in 2017, had granted a threemonth extension window which the herders had requested for in order to vacate the university land, an agreement which was eventually violated after the herders failed to comply with it.
Herdsmen from 11 communities took turns to speak at the meeting. Adamu maintained that the Fulani had been living peacefully in the environment and had even helped in checking crimes such as kidnappings, robberies, which hitherto occurred on the university campus.
The herdsmen appealed to the university management for time and pledged to come up with a response on the matter by February 22. Speaking at an earlier meeting with the Vice-Chancellor, the DSS representative, Mr. A. Akinsola, said: “The security agencies are ready to assist; just tell us what you want to do and we will support you.”
Meanwhile, members of the once dreaded farmers’ group in the South- West, “Agbekoya,” have asked Fulani herdsmen to leave Oyo State immediately. The quit notice came on the heels of the killing of the commander of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Saki and a farmer at Iseyin in the Oke Ogun area of Oyo State.
The dreaded hunters, who held sway in the region during the tenure of the defunct Action Group (AG), spoke yesterday though their President-General, Chief Kamoru Okiki Aremu, and the Oyo State Governor of the group, Alhaji Ibrahim Shehu. Aremu and Shehu said they had had enough of the senseless killings by the herdsmen and could no longer watch helplessly. Though the Serkin Fulani of Okeogun, Alhaji Bello, claimed that he had lost four of his men, Aremu told our correspondent that the herdsmen killed a farmer at Iseyin a few days ago.
He said: “They slaughtered him and then beheaded him. What was his offence? He complained that their cattle ate his dried cassava tubers. It was his child who narrowly escaped that raised the alarm. We cannot take this any longer. “As a result of the killing, some of my members called me to get permission if they could go in search of the assailants.
We can’t wait for the police again. Police can’t guarantee us safety again. We have complained several times to the police, the state government and the Federal Government and we have found out they cannot handle the issue.” Asked what would be done if the killers were not released by the Fulani, Aremu said his members would not take it lightly.
He said: “We can no longer fold our arms while they have a field day mowing our people. We are ready for whatever happens. Enough is enough. We thought we could live together in peace, but these ones don’t understand the language of peace.” Similarly, the leader of Agbekoya in Oyo State, Shehu, said his men had been given the mandate not to sit by and watch the ‘lawless’ herdsmen. He said: “Our people are already in the bush looking for them.
We know that the real culprit is not easy to find. What we are saying is that they should leave our lands and anyone who fails to heed the warning should have himself to blame. “You need to see the inhuman manner they killed the farmer. His children had to be picking his body parts that had been dismembered.
A few days ago, they killed a SARS Commander at Saki. We have had enough and are tired of these killings. They have inflicted so much pain on us in this Oke Ogun area and we have been driven to the wall. We can’t tolerate this any longer.” But the Serkin Fulani in Oke Ogun area, Bello, said: “As you are talking to me now, they have killed four Fulani men and many cows. They have gone to bring three corpses of our men they killed. The policemen are already here.”
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