Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
Tension rose in Orin Ekiti in Ido/Osi Local Government Area of Ekiti State wednesday as residents protested an alleged attempt by suspected herdsmen to forcefully take over their lands.
The protesters that comprised of old people as well as young men and women of the community, regretted that the suspected herdsmen had destroyed crops that belonged to 70 farmers, which was estimated to worth more than N50 million.
They alleged that one person, Mr. Emmanuel Ilori, was allegedly killed by suspected herders while Benue farmers in the town were chased away.
The protesters, who chanted derisive songs against the invaders, paraded placards with the following inscriptions: “Save Our Lives;” “We are in danger in Orin Ekiti;” “Save Orin Ekiti from Herdsmen invasion;” “We are Tired of Molestation by Herdsmen;” “We Won’t Allow Fulani to Chase us from Our Land” and “Government Must Relocate Fulani Herdsmen,” among others.
Speaking on the forceful takeover their farmland, the Onikare of Orin Ekiti, Chief Bamidele Fasuyi, alleged that the herders occupied and destroyed crops planted on the abandoned 2500 acres of land at Orin Farm Settlement.
“What they wanted is to invade our land and chase us away. They even killed one of our able bodied men this year. They are imposing some curfew in this town, because our youths can’t go to farm freely and government has not been doing anything. Several hectares of land had been destroyed. They used to operate at night with AK 47 rifle.
“Over 70 farmers were affected. They ate up their products such as cocoyam, yam, cassava and others crops and made them to incur debts.
“We appeal to government to use the 2500 acres of land for farming. The state and federal government as well as private bodies should come to our aid. There were facilities like electricity, buildings and equipment that can aid farming if they want to invest,” Fasuyi said.
A youth leader, Mr. Omotoso Mathew Kayode, alleged that the suspected herders hoisted a flag at the farm settlement and warned the farmers to either keep off or face death.
“They wrote ‘keep off’ with a picture of a cattle herder on the flag. This is a serious threat. The police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps and soldiers removed the flag last year, but they have hoisted another one.
“We used to do night guard to ward off attacks because the police had found it difficult to arrest them. Our graduates who have no jobs were going into farming but they are suffering losses because of destruction by cows.
“They must vacate the place. Governor Kayode Fayemi must relocate them. From our findings, they used to enter into this place from neighbouring towns like Isan, Ayede and Ido and we are suspecting conspiracy. There may be famine in the land with the way things are going.
“We are not compromising our stand on this relocation. Chief Obafemi Awolowo-led government in the defunct Western Region acquired the land in 1958 for arable farming and not for ranching,” Kayode said.
He appealed to Fayemi to compensate the farmers so that they would not to abandon farming out rightly.
Speaking in the same vein, the Oniwaro of Orin, Chief Mathew Oke, asked Fayemi to fulfill his election promise to build a police station in the town and rejuvenate the farm settlement to ward off herdsmen invasion in the area.