Following the activities of some herders perpetrating criminal activities in Ondo State in the past few months, the status of the state as one of the most peaceful in Nigeria is gradually being eroded.
With kidnappings and banditry holding sway in most parts of the state, the Northern Senatorial District of the State has been the most hit with the daring moves of criminals operating under the guise of herders.
The dreaded roads which had become a haven for kidnapping activities allegedly perpetrated by herders include, Owo-Ose highway, Akure-Owo highway (between Ogbese and Uso), highways within Akoko axis of the State, Ilesha-Akure highway as well as Akure-Owena highway.
In recent times, aside the series of kidnappings in which victims pay huge ransoms to their abductors in order to be freed, killings were also recorded among whom were prominent personalities.
Some of the high profile killings included that of the monarch of Ifon in Ose Local Government Area of Ondo State, Oba Israel Adeusi who was killed by bandits at Elegbeka junction along Owo-Ose highway as well as the Deputy Registrar of the Federal University of Technology, FUTA, Dr Amos Arijesuyo and Mrs Funke Olakunri, daughter of the National Leader of Afenifere.
With the herders growing in their audacious move, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu had ordered that herders in the state should register with the appropriate agencies or quit the forest reserves across the state in a bid to identify who is who among the herders operating in the state.
Meanwhile, five days after the herdsmen under the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, MACBAN, agreed to comply with Akeredolu at a meeting which was attended by some southwest governors and two governors from the north, the State is yet to record any fresh case.
“However, recent development indicated that the herders are yet to fully comply with Akeredolu’s directive as some herdsmen during the week led their herds of cattle to destroy vast farmlands belonging to some farmers in Idanre, headquarters of Idanre Local Government Area of the State.
While counting their loses, the farmers who had arrived their farms for the day’s farming said the herders perpetrated the act in the midnight.
With crops worth millions of Naira eaten and destroyed by the cows led by the herdsmen, the farmers at Obasooto farm settlement where the incident happened, said all their sweat and labour had vanished due to what they described as deliberate wickedness on the part of the herders.
According to one of the farmers, Mr. Friday Ayaghi, his cassava plantation which he had been cultivating for a while were eaten and destroyed by the cows.
While emphasizing that every penny on him was invested on the plantation in order to use the proceeds to take care of his wife and children, Ayaghi said all the plans had gone to ruins.
It was the same story by other farmers in the community as they lamented that they had thought that the meeting held with the leadership of the herdsmen by the governors will put to rest the age-long farmers/herdsmen crises, but that was not to be as the herders invaded their farms mindlessly in the community.
Similarly, with open and night grazing banned in the state, the herders had also failed to comply with the directive of the state government as the Herdsmen were on Friday sighted moving and grazing with his cows at School of Nursing axis in highbrow Alagbaka area, a few meters from the Governor’s Office, Akure, the state capital.
It was the same situation in Odigbo, in Odigbo Local Government Area of the state where cows were seen freely moving across the streets on Thursday unchallenged.
With the developments, some residents of the state had began to be skeptical over the potency of the order by Governor Akeredolu.
According to a Pastor of one of the pentecostal churches, Damilola Olarewaju, a situation that cows continue to be seen on the streets despite Akeredolu’s order is an indication that herders are being backed by powerful forces in the country.
“Just look at this, cows moving freely in Akure, not just Akure, but here in Alagbaka. A GRA that is also the seat of power of government in Ondo State.
“Just on Monday, governors were here in Akure, where they all agreed to ban open grazing with the Miyetti Allah people also in support of it, but they are the ones going against the agreement.
“I just want to believe that these people (herdsmen) are very powerful as people say. How on earth will a governor speak and some people will just flout it within days after agreeing to it?”
Another resident who is a farmer, Adebola Kasali stated that his joy that grazing had been banned in the state was short-lived when he heard that some farms in Idanre were invaded.
“What happened in Idanre to fellow farmers was devastating.
“I had thought that such things won’t happen again following the intervention of Aketi (Akeredolu) but I was wrong.
Also, some residents were of the view that the peace witnessed in the state in the last few days might soon fade off.
According to them, if the ban on open and night grazing is being ignored, it is just a matter of time for some criminal minded herders to hold the state by the jugular again by returning to the highway.
Meanwhile, findings has revealed that some herdsmen have made up their minds not to register as most of them have in their numbers been leaving the state for neigbouring states.
As the seven-day ultimatum given to herdsmen to vacate forest reserves across Ondo State has expired, some herders have begun to leave the forests in their numbers.
The herders vacating the forest reserves were those within Ifon axis in Ose Local Government Area of the state and Ala area in Idanre Local Government.
Photos: Herder with cows at Alabama, Akure on Friday.