Hammed Shittu writes on how a disagreement between two traditional rulers in the ancient communities of Ilofa and Odo-Owa in Oke-Ero Local Government Area of Kwara State left four persons dead and property worth millions of naira destroyed


Importance of peace in the socio-economic and political development of any society cannot be over emphasised. It has also remained a pedestal upon which a society is developed because it is peaceful environment that the government can plan for the people, boost and accelerate the well-being of the governed and thereby improve the standard of living in the society.

But, the recent development in the ancient communities of Ilofa and Odo-Owa in Oke-Ero Local Government Area of Kwara State was an opposite as the fragile peace in the two affected communities was threatened following the communal clash that ensued between the communities, leading to about four persons being killed and property worth several millions of naira destroyed by the irate youths of the two communities.
The clash, it was gathered, arose from disagreement over who has the right to first sell yams harvested from the farm of the traditional rulers of the two communities. The clash was the second in two years between the two communities.

It was gathered that one of the traditional rulers had felt offended that his colleague was already at the market selling his own yams without deferring to his own seniority.

The two communities, it was gathered, have a common market located to serve as border between them.

One of those reportedly killed was a young graduate who had escorted his wife to the market. Several houses were also razed during the clash while many residents fled the area into neighbouring communities.

The market itself was built as a buffer zone following series of clashes between the two communities.

They have been at loggerheads over seniority between the two of them and a recent upgrading of one of the traditional rulers to a first class chief status was said to have also angered indigenes of the other community.

The tradition, according to those familiar with the two communities, was that on any market day, the traditional ruler from one of the communities would have to first sell yams from his farm, under the supervision of the market leader, before any other person would display his or her own yams for sale.

“That was what happened. One of the Obas (traditional rulers) was at the market selling his yams when his colleague got wind of it and walked straight to the market and challenged him and that was what led to the crisis. As I am talking to you, they are still shooting and burning houses,” a source in one of the communities told journalists on phone, lamenting that the recurring crisis between the two communities must be properly addressed by government.

A community leader in the local government who spoke with THISDAY lamented that almost all the houses in one of the communities had been razed. “It is as if the other side was well prepared for this,” the community leader said.

Spokesman for the Kwara State Police Command, Mr. Ajayi Okasanmi confirmed the development but said the command was yet to ascertain the level of casualties. He, however, explained that security operatives have been deployed to the communities to maintain peace and order.

As the crisis escalated on that fateful day it was gathered that some of the residents of the two communities also fled to other neighboruing towns that surrounded them in order to avoid being attacked.

Among the neighbouring towns said to be accommodating the fleeing people include Omu-Aran, Oko, Osi, Imode and some others in Ekiti State.

In order to stop the clash and prevent it from assuming a more dangerous dimension, the State Security Council led by Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed asked the Nigerian Army from Sobi Barracks, Ilorin and other security agencies in the state to deploy their men to the two communities in order to stop the crisis.

THISDAY further gathered that, despite the deployment of the anti-riot policemen on the first day of the crisis, the situation still subsisted which prompted the State Security Council to compel the Nigerian Army from Sobi Barracks, Ilorin to be deployed to the two communities to stop the crisis.

As the soldiers from Sobi Barracks took over the flash-spots of the two communities, the tension however eased as the soldiers ensured thorough checking of incoming and outgoing vehicles to the two communities.

Also, as this was going on, the State Police Command summoned the two royal fathers of the warring communities to Ilorin, His Royal Highness, Joshua Oloruntoba, the Adimula of Odo-Owa and His Royal Highness, Oba Samuel Niyi Dada, for questioning as a strategy to ensure the tension in the affected communities is subdued.

The two monarchs according to THISDAY checks were summoned to the State Police Command to make statements on how peace will be restored to the two communities.

The meeting with the monarchs it was gathered was held behind closed door at the Police Command so as to know the  cause of the hostilities after which the traditional rulers were cautioned after their release to return to their communities and ensure peace and tranquility.

The Commissioner of Police, Mr. Lawan Ado who directed the two monarchs to report to the Police Headquarters in Ilorin on Monday, July 3, 2017 to give update on the directive given them also visited the warring communities to personally access the extent of the damage.

The two monarchs were said to have left their palaces as a result of the crisis before soldiers were drafted to quell the crisis.

Ado also condemned the communal crisis saying that it was unwarranted fighting over who should sell yams first.

Speaking with journalists after his inspection tour to the two communities, Ado said that a suspect has been arrested in connection with the dastardly act.

His words, “This man (a suspect, Ibrahim Ganiyu) is one of the suspects that was apprehended by Ekiti State Police Command.

“We went there and brought him. We will use him and interrogate him and get other members that participated in this dastardly activity. 

“In fact, we have gotten some names through intelligence and we are pursuing them and we will get them. The nabbed suspect was running away. He was escaping and police apprehended him and later he was interrogated. They later found out that he is one of those people who participated in the mayhem between the two communities.

“We have gone round the two towns. Normalcy has been restored. We are on ground. There is police and joint patrol. Myself and some functionaries of the state government came this morning to assess the situation. We have seen it.

“We assure all the people here to go back to their normal businesses as we are on the ground. We will ensure that this thing does not recur,” he assured.
 
Three contingents of soldiers from Sobi Barracks Ilorin were seen patrolling over the weekend at the flash points in the warring communities where they mounted road blocks searching passers-by to maintain peace in the areas.

When THISDAY visited the two warring communities on the second day of the clash, normalcy has started returning to the affected communities and there was heavy presence of soldiers deployed to the communities.

However, the state government has imposed a curfew on both communities between 6pm and 6am.

In a statement by the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Isiaka Sola Gold, the state government barred all human and vehicular traffic in Iloffa and Odo-Owa during the curfew. 

The government also ordered the suspension of any activities related to the yam festival in Oke Ero Local Government Area of the state. 

While urging residents of both communities to comply with the order, the SSG said the curfew was designed to assist security agencies contain and prevent the escalation of the conflict as well as restore peace.

He urged residents of both communities to remain calm and continue to conduct their lawful affairs in peace as security agencies are on ground in both communities to secure lives and property.

The SSG restated the Governor’s commitment to upholding the security of all residents in the state as well as to unraveling the perpetrators of the conflict in Ilofa and Odo-Owa. 

He also reaffirmed the government resolve to bring the full weight of the law to bear on any individual or group found to have initiated, participated or otherwise contributed to the recent violent conflict between the neighbouring communities under any guise.

Also, the state government said it wou;d set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to find out the immediate and remote causes of the recent communal clash between the two warring communities.

A statement issued by the SSG, said that, “the Kwara State governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed has directed the establishment of the judicial panel of inquiry following the receipt of the report of a government delegation deployed to the affected communities for on-the-spot assessment.”

The SSG described as tragic and unfortunate the recent violent clashes between the two neighbouring communities and vowed that the state government will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law anyone found to have been remotely or directly connected to the crisis no matter how highly-placed.
 
The state governor has approved the composition of a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Ilofa and Odo-Owa communal clashes.

According to a statement released in Ilorin, and signed by the Secretary to the State Government, the Commission is composed as follows: Hon. Justice Sulyman Durosinlorun Kawu, Chief Judge, Kwara State, Chairman, HRH, Alhaji (Dr.) Ndanusa Haliru Yahaya, Emir of Shonga-Member, Mrs. Funsho Dada Lawal, Solicitor-General/Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice-Member Barr. Taiye Oniyide, Professional Arbitrator, Bayo Ojo & Co. -Member, Representative of Commissioner of Police –Member, Representative of Director, Dept. of State Services (DSS)-Member and Elder David A. Adesina, mni, Permanent Secretary, Political, Cabinet and Special Services, Governor’s Office.-  Secretary.
 
The SSG listed the judicial commission’s terms of reference as follows: investigate and ascertain the immediate and remote causes of the violent communal clashes between Iloffa and Odo-Owa; ascertain the extent of loss and damage to lives and property following the eruption of the communal clashes; determine the conduct of any person(s), group of persons or associations that in any way contributed to violent clashes.

Others include, investigate and identify persons or group of persons other than security personnel who possessed and employed the use of firearms during the civil disturbances with recommendation of appropriate sanctions for such destructive actions; identify any external/extraneous factors/involvement on the two sides during the violent clashes; determine the level of involvement or roles of traditional rulers of both communities in the violent communal clashes; make appropriate recommendations including sanctions if need be, to prevent the recurrence of incidence of this nature, any other issues or recommendations that will ensure lasting and peaceful co-existence between the two communities.

The Judicial Commission has been inaugurated by  Governor, Ahmed and work has commenced in earnest.
 
Senator Rafiu Ibrahim representing Kwara South senatorial district at the National Assembly in a statement by his media aide, Hon. Biodun Adegoolu also appealed for calm, adding that there would be no development in atmosphere of acrimony.
 
Calm has since returned to the two communities as the soldiers  from Sobi Barracks, anti-riot policemen and men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps are still parading the length and breadth of the two warring communities to ensure maintenance of law and order.

By and large with the setting up of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the communal clash between the people of Ilofa and Odo-Owa communities, it is believed that the underneath issues that led to the clash would be addressed and thereby bring a lasting peaceful co-existence to the two ancient towns.