Fresh facts emerged on Saturday that herdsmen have converted the Ondo Government reserve located in the Odigbo Local Government Area into a militia camp.
This indication buttressed the widespread claim that killers of Mrs Funke Olakunrin, 58-year-old daughter of the leader of pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, were herdsmen who sneaked out of the reserve to rain bullets on the vehicle she was travelling in.
Olakunrin was killed on Friday as the gunmen ambushed vehicles on the highway and abducted some commuters. Her maid reportedly sustained some gunshot injuries during the attack.
Killers of Fasoranti’s daughter have their base in the forest, say villagers
A former senator who represented Ondo South Senatorial District at the Senate, Boluwaji Kunlere, said hoodlums had been operating around where Olakunrin was killed for a long time.
He said this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Lagos on Saturday.
Kunlere said, “I beefed up security in the area when I was in the Senate. I gave 13 Hilux vans to the police divisions in Ondo South Senatorial District and gave motorcycles to the Department of State Services for surveillance.
“I think the police do not have the manpower to ensure adequate security in the area. The expressway (Benin-Ore-Sagamu Expressway) is where the major problem is. The spot (Kajola) where they killed Baba Fasoranti’s daughter falls between Odigbo and Okitipupa Local Government territory.
“The people living close to the area said Fulani herdsmen had taken over that area and there was a time a bishop was abducted and the police rescued him in that area. Herdsmen are all over the forest. We see them between Omotosho and Igbotako. They graze their cows on the road and strike and they run back to the bush.
“They have been operating there for long but the attack on Baba Fasoranti’s daughter was given a wide publicity because of the man’s influence. The downtrodden have been suffering there for long. There was a time that they exchanged gunfire with the police between Omotosho and Ore in the afternoon and they ran away when they discovered that the police would overpower them.
“When they attacked Chief Olu Falae’s farm then, the police said it was bush burning because of the fear of Abuja. They want to attribute this killing to armed robbers but the locals are saying the killers are herdsmen.”
Some residents of Kajola town in the Odigbo council area who spoke with SUNDAY PUNCH insisted that some Fulani herdsmen terrorising the area were residing in the forest in the area.
One of the residents identified only as Mr Ola said the herdsmen behaved as if they were above the law, adding that it was not the first time they would perpetrate the act in the area.
He said, “They destroy our farms at will. Their cows always eat up many of our farm produce. We have reported several times to the police but no action was taken. We heard gunshots yesterday (Friday) and it is a common thing in the area. We call on the government to provide adequate security to protect our lives and property.’’
Also, a farmer in Kajola village who gave his name only as Mr Aliu, also said bandits had invaded forests surrounding the village.
He said there had been many criminal activities going on in the forest and nobody stopped them.
Aliu said, “The herdsmen that struck on the expressway yesterday (Friday) stay in the forest around the area. That is not their first time and that is how they operate. We have reported to security agents but nothing has been done about it. We are helpless. Government should come to our aid.”
Another resident who spoke on condition of anonymity also reiterated that the reserve in the Odigbo council area had been inhabited for long by herdsmen.
He said though the reserve belonged to the government, community members now use the place for farming.
The resident, who is a prominent member of the National Association of Odigbo Local Government Students, said herdsmen rampage started in the area at the same time it became rampant in the country.
He said, “Villagers are aware of the activities of herdsmen in the area. There was a time herdsmen cut the wrist of a farmer who confronted them when they took their cows for grazing on his farm.
“The DPO of Ore Police Station intervened in the matter and spoke with members of the community. The vigilantes have had to confront them many times. The vigilantes later constructed a shed in the community and take turns to ensure security in the area. This is a development that is known to people in the community.’’
It’s a lie, herdsmen are not in reserve –State govt, Ondo CP
However, the Ondo State Government has denied that some killer herdsmen had taken over its forest reserves.
The Commissioner for Information, Mr Donald Ojogo, said the government had invested much on the security in the state.
He added that though intelligence report could not be revealed to the public, government investment on security had been yielding good result.
He said, “It’s not a thing of excitement for the government to divulge to the public measures being put in place to tackle this menace. There are no killer herdsmen residing in our forest reserves.
“As you know, insecurity is almost a nationwide issue that requires everything to curb it. On our part in Ondo State, a lot of investments have been made in this regard. All the same, such are not for the public. It will, therefore, be unfair for anyone to conclude that nothing has been done to checkmate the menace. As you are aware, we have our limitations, but those limitations will not be allowed to discourage us from doing what is appropriate at all times.”
Also speaking, the state Commissioner of Police Undie Adie, said he was not aware of gunmen in the state.
He urged residents to provide useful tips on the gunmen and their activities, promising to act on them immediately.
Adie said, “The person with that information should make it available to me right away. We appreciate useful information from anywhere it comes, once it is credible, we would act on it.”
On her part, the Chairman Caretaker Committee of the Odigbo council, Mrs Margaret Akinsuroju, said she was new in the local government but ready to assist security agents in their efforts to make the local government free of bandits.
She said, “I am just two weeks in the council. I am not aware of bandits taking over our forest reserve but as I speak to you, the security agents are working tirelessly to flush criminals out of the area. I will like the traditional rulers and the people to support them by giving them useful information that will lead to the arrest of the bandits.”
IG deploys special forces to hunt down Olakunrin’s killers
The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has deployed special forces to hunt down the killers of Olakunrin.
He disclosed that Ondo State Police Command, backed by Special Forces and seasoned investigators from the Force Criminal Investigation Department, the Intelligence Response Team and the Technical Intelligence Unit, deployed from the Force Headquarters, Abuja, had already commenced a massive manhunt for the hoodlums.
The IG, who announced this in a statement in Abuja on Saturday, by the Force spokesman, Frank Mba, revealed that he had also ordered the total overhaul of security architecture on the highways in the southern part of the country as part of measures to prevent a future occurrence of such incident.
The IG spoke just as some youths staged a peaceful protest on the premises of Fasoranti’s Akure home on Saturday over the killing.
The IG gave the assurance that the Olakunrin’s killers “will certainly be found and made to face the full wrath of the law.”
The statement read in part, “In this vein, the Commissioners of Police in the affected states were ordered by the IG to embrace adequate security arrangement in their areas of jurisdiction.”
Time has come for Yoruba to react, says Gani Adams
The Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams, said the Yoruba nation had been pushed to the wall by the killer herdsmen who he said invaded the South-West.
Adams, who is also the leader of the Oodua Peoples Congress, said in a statement on Saturday that the time had come to react, saying they should not be blamed by the time they start reacting in their own way.
The Aare Onakakanfo said, “Yoruba race is not at a loss as to what to do to put a complete stop to the atrocities of the Fulani herdsmen, but we have continuously issued statements to call the attention of the entire world to the development in the peaceful South-West.
“We only want the whole world to know what has been done and being done to our people. They should be aware of the actions that preceded our reaction when it eventually comes.
“We are not bereft of ideas on how to stop this criminality on our land. It is just that we should not be blamed when the reaction comes. We are like the proverbial goat that it being chased. When it gets to the wall, it will certainly react. We are at that stage now.”
Ooni, Obasanjo, others seek end to insecurity
Meanwhile, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi; former president Olusegun Obasanjo and Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, have called for an end to insecurity in the land. They spoke in separate statements in reaction to the killing.
The Ooni said “Securing lives and property of Nigerians is the primary responsibility of the government. What is happening to us in Yorubaland at the moment if not urgently curtailed by the government may force our people to come with a communal security approach which may not augur well for the unity of this country which we have always laboured for.”
He added that it was a disgusting payback to a man like Pa Fasoranti who continued to live his life for Nigeria’s stability.
On his part, Obasanjo tasked security forces to fish out killers of Olakunrin and end insecurity in the nation.
Obasanjo said, “This is a worrisome development in our polity, especially at a time when all well-meaning Nigerians are preaching tolerance and political accommodation in national politics.
“I must say Nigeria as a whole is diminished by the manner of Funke’s death. We deplore this dastardly act and seize this opportunity to call on governments at all levels to leave no stone unturned in ensuring that our security agents vigorously pursue and find the perpetrators of such heinous crime and make them face the full weight of the law.
“We must together find a solution to all acts of insecurity in the country, particularly acts of banditry, kidnapping, robbery and killing by the suspected Fulani herdsmen.’’
Fayemi condemned the criminal act, saying there was the need for urgent action against the incessant cases of insecurity in the South-West. He described the incident as a tragedy of immense proportion.
He said that the Federal Government would be called upon to do something urgently about the insecurity challenges in the country.
The governor said, “I know Mrs Olakunrin very well. As a matter of fact, she was with me three days ago before heading back to Lagos. It is a personal loss and tragic situation for us and we all own it a duty to tackle this issue headlong to rescue our people from this situation.”
Herdsmen attacks aimed at Nigeria’s break-up –PANDEF
The Pan Niger Delta Elders’ Forum has described the continued attack on Nigerians by Fulani herdsmen as an attempt to break up Nigeria.
The National Secretary of PANDEF, Dr Alfred Mulade, in a statement on Saturday, said the killing of Olakunrin was callous and barbaric, adding that it was more disturbing to note that the onslaught by the herders against law-abiding citizens of Nigeria had become a daily occurrence.
Also, in a separate statement, IYC President, Eric Omare, observed that suspected Fulani kidnappers had taken over the Benin-Ore Expressway, adding that security agencies had kept mute while the onslaught by the herdsmen continued unabated.
“This is one death too many and we say enough is enough. It is on record that for many months, suspected Fulani kidnappers have virtually taken over the Benin to Lagos road and many persons have been victims of their activities.”
Besides, the Yoruba Unity Forum and the Afenifere Renewal Group commiserated with Fasoranti while condemning the killing of his daughter.
The ARG challenged the South-West governors to rise up to the occasion of securing the region, saying “it would now seem that the central government’s clinging to central policing has failed woefully in providing Nigerians with the needed security.”
ARG’s National Chairman, Olawale Oshun, and the Assistant National Publicity Secretary, Michael Ogungbemi, spoke in separate statements on Saturday.
The ARG statement read in part, “President Muhammadu Buhari government’s treatment of the murderous excesses of herdsmen with kid gloves is enough fillip for their continued killing of innocent souls, especially in places opposed to their archaic, backward, and crude method of pastoralism.”
According to the YUF, “It feels that, and rightly so too, that President Buhari’s continued emotional attachment to his folks; the Fulanis, to the detriment of the rest of the country, is already the fuel for the eventual arson of the whole country, if unchecked.
Youths, under the auspices of Ondo State Youths Network, who protested against the killing at Fasoranti’s home when the dignitaries came on condolence visits, urged the security forces to apprehend the killers.
Carrying placards with inscriptions such as ‘Enough of these killings’ ‘Akeredolu must act now’, ‘Every human life matters’, ‘These killings must stop, ‘Governor Akeredolu do something”, the youth chanted solidarity songs .
One of the leaders of the group, Tuyi Akintade, said the government must act decisively against the killings and kidnapping by the herdsmen in the state.
Police demanded N1000 from us to take Olakunrin to hospital –aide
Oke Olasehinde, an aide to the late Olakunrin, said his boss might have lived if not for the delay they encountered in taking her to the hospital.
Oke said, “The people (bandits) were about 20 in number. They shot at our vehicle; as we were about reversing the vehicle, they shot mummy (Olakunrin). When the policemen came, we begged them to assist us in taking her to the hospital. But one of them asked us to bring N1, 000 for them to fuel their vehicle.
“Maybe if we had got to the hospital on time, she would have survived it because she lost a lot of blood. She died when we got to the hospital.”
The deceased’s driver, Mr Tayo Ogundare, said the attackers wore masks as they attacked them.
He said, “We were on our way to Lagos, but some minutes after the Ore Toll Gate, these men just rushed out from the bush and started shooting at us. I can’t say exactly their number, but they were many. They were shooting sporadically.
“So, mummy asked me to reverse but they kept shooting at our vehicle. As I was trying to reverse, mummy was shot but she did not die on the spot, she got to the hospital before she gave up the ghost.”
Herdsmen not responsible for Olakunrin’s death –Miyetti Allah
The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria has commiserated with Fasoranti.
In a statement by its National Secretary, Baba Uthman Ngelzarma, the group also lambasted the media for attributing the killing to herdsmen.
MACBAN also called on the police to ensure that the killers were brought to book.
The statement read in part, “As we express sincere heartfelt condolence to the family of the deceased, we are left in a deep shock on how a section of the media in collaboration with elements in the country that are held bane (sic) on using every opportunity available to them to fuel crisis as they continue the negative profiling of Fulani for their total annihilation by jumping into a mischievous conclusion that she was killed by herdsmen.
“We strongly condemn this very unprofessional, unpatriotic and callous news reportage patterns that have been conscripted against our people by the section of the media.
“We are calling on security agencies to swing into action, and unravel the perpetrators to bring them to justice in the shortest possible time.”