IT was a sad experience as a commercial farm owner at Akoya community in Ibarapa North Local Government Area of Oyo State, Mr. Kayode Olaitan expressed his ordeal of cattle invasion that caused serious damage to his eight hectares maize farm, which he said, led to a loss of 40 tonnes of maize, among other costs amounting to N3 million. Olaitan, the Manager of Fempanath Nigeria Limited, while expressing his sadness to Mognews, stated that he planted maize on a total of eight hectares of land expanse and to his surprise, cattle herders around there came to his farm and devoured all the crops, leaving them with nothing to harvest.
Narrating his ordeal, Olaitan said: “These are crops that were already developing the cubs. The cubs were already forming. There are several of them that were due for harvest in the next three or four weeks, but we have nothing left to harvest. We have invested a lot of money here. It cost us thousands of naira to bulldoze this land; we spent a lot of money to plough this land; we got seeds that were planted; we paid workers to plant these seeds; and we have a sprinkler irrigation system that we are using. These cost us a lot of money. “We are commercial farmers, cultivating hundreds of hectares of land.” However, Olaitan is looking up to the police and the judiciary to adjudicate over the loss of millions of naira to herdsmen invasion, noting the need for cattle herders to be willing to lease, purchase or rent land to ranch their cattle. His words: “We are willing to embrace compensation. We are commercial farmers, cultivating hundreds of hectares of land. We also expect the cattle herders to invest and acquire land, own their own ranches where they can own and keep their own cattle, as it is done in several parts of the world. They should also be able to lease, or purchase land to ranch their cattle without incurring losses for other farmers.” One of the leaders of Akoya community, Mr. Taiwo Moses, noted that reports of invasion of farmlands had assumed an alarming dimension and was threatening the peaceful coexistence between herdsmen and community dwellers. According to Moses, more worrisome for residents was the seeming failure of security agents and traditional rulers to effectively call the herdsmen to order. He said: “The herdsmen have continued to wreak havoc on farmlands in this area. We have met with them several times not to continue to graze on our farmlands but they remain hesitant. We have informed leaders around to caution them but this has not yielded results. We report to the police but they only beg us to remain calm. The police seem to be conniving with the herdsmen leaders. What we basically want is that the herdsmen should stop grazing on our farmlands. It is the herd of cattle that meets the farmland not farmland meeting the herd of cattle. “When there is negotiation between the herdsmen and owner of destroyed farmland, offer of compensation would usually begin from N2,000 and they hardly pay N15,000. For the past four years, I have not received compensation above N40, 000; whenever my farmland is destroyed. To get a higher compensation, the case will have to be handled by the people in Ibadan.”
Farmers’ association express anger
Reacting to the incursion by herdsmen, the Secretary of Ibarapaland farmers association, Taiwo Adeagbo said the situation had assumed a grave dimension, stating that in a day, the association had been inundated with reports of herdsmen destruction of farmlands totalling about 100 acres. Adeagbo echoed the state of fear that had gripped farmers in Igangan, who are now scared to go to their farms, for fear of attack from herdsmen. Adeagbo said: “These occurrences began in 2013. We got petitions of the destruction of farmlands ranging from eight acres to 20 acres and 30 acres. I have just been called again that cows are on a farmland grazing. We have forwarded a petition to the Alaafin of Oyo, the Commissioner of Police and the Governor over the several incidents there. Today, alone we have got reports of destruction of farmland of about 100 acres. Years ago, we went to Osogbo to report to the Assistant Inspector General of Police and he promised to arrest and sue the concerned herdsmen. “Then, the herdsmen signed an undertaking. On the 7th of November, this year, a meeting was convened by the state government but many residents failed to speak up about their plight. Then some executive members of Ibarapaland farmers association spoke about the plight of the people, on their behalf. We found out that one of the problems is that some are benefiting from the presence of the Fulani farmers not thinking of the havoc wreaked on the entire community. “When we questioned the Seriki Fulani on why cattle continued to graze over farmlands, his response was that occurrences of cattle grazing over farmlands were not new and that as the number of herdsmen were growing, so was cattle growing and farmers increasing, hence farmers had to be patient. But we reprimanded him and asked that was it legal for cattle to continue to destroy crops. We are at a stage where we are tempted to say that farmers can also kill cows that destroy their farmlands. It’s peculiar to Igangan, as it is not happening in neighbouring places like Tapa and Ayete. We have complained that we are not sure of the capability of the police and traditional rulers to handle the issue.”
Allegation of backing herdsmen false—-Oyo
Police Meanwhile, the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, in Oyo State, SP Adekunle Ajisebutu dismissed allegations of being on the side of the herdsmen as false, spurious and baseless. He stressed that the police usually admonished both parties to embrace alternative dispute resolution to prevent a resort to violence, while offenders are charged to court when an amicable settlement could not be reached. Ajisebutu said: “Allegation of supporting the herdsmen over community dwellers is false and baseless. We stand on the path of justice and fairness. Ours is to act as arbiters between the two parties, using alternative dispute resolution approach to avoid violent clashes. “Where amicable settlement cannot be reached, cases are charged to Court. Often, it is the parties themselves that initiate out-of-court negotiation to get financial compensation but when the results fall short of their expectations, spurious allegations are made. However, no fewer than 6 cases involving farmers and herdsmen in the area have been charged to court while some are still under investigation at the state CIID, Iyaganku. The CP, Abiodun Odude, has directed the DPO Ayete as well as other DPOs to treat such cases with all seriousness and promptness.” However, when contacted by Mognews, the Seriki Fulani of Oyo State, Alhaji Soliu Abdul’Kadir refuted the allegations levelled against the herdsmen as unfair and lies, pointing out that they usually investigate reports of their cows destroying farmland. He was quick to add that compensation is usually paid to any farmer who brings such information of an invasion to their notice. Abdul’Kadir said: “Whenever we are informed of cows invading a farmland, we try to find out the truth, the kind of farmland, and whose farmland was destroyed, and what measures the police was using to address the issue. There is no herdsman that is said to have destroyed a farmland that does not pay compensation. In fact, the situation is such that they kill the cows of herdsmen and we get no compensation from the farmers and community. There is no week that our cows are not killed. “They tell several lies against us that we kill them. In the same way that they say we kill them, we can also say that the farmers do same to us, herdsmen. For everywhere they allege that a Fulani has killed a farmer, you find out that a farmer has also killed herdsmen.”