How Herdsmen Opened Fire On Soldiers And The Soldiers Ran Away —Edo Community Leader

On Thursday, April 7, 2022, the peace of the agrarian Odiguetue community in Ovia North-East Local Government Area of Edo State, was ruptured when gun wielding men, suspected to be Fulani herdsmen, visited tears , sorrow and death on the hapless villagers. At the end of the mayhem, five dead bodies, all farmers, were recorded. A week earlier, a woman, identified simply as Emeka’s wife, was slaughtered like a sacrificial ram by another set of rampaging herders. In this interview by ’SUYI AYODELE, Lieutenant Commander Anthony Ogie (Rtd), a community leader and William Okpoko, a victim of a 2018 herdsmen attack in the locality, tell the story of the perennial harassment of Odiguetue villagers by Fulani herdsmen.

Can you tell us exactly what happened at Odiguetue on the fateful day.

Thursday last week, some of our citizens or villagers went to the farm at Omigie Camp, there is a camp very close by, just along Benin-Akure Road. The people went there to  farm and when they were there, the Fulani herdsmen came, shot them, killed them. The people that went with them, two of them escaped, when they saw what happened and came to the village to inform the people. I think some of our vigilante boys, we have some vigilante boys there, they went to the farm to go and confirm. When they got there, I mean the farm, they met those corpses and the Fulani herdsmen, they all ran away. They informed the police. Police came and they took, I think two (corpses) away. One of them was an Ebira. Because of their religion, they are Muslims, they said because of their religion, they bury their dead people by themselves. Police came and took the remaining two away to the mortuary, I don’t know where (the mortuary) they took them to. So as they were doing that, people were crying because one of the people they killed was a  very good person to everybody in the village. People were still crying when another news came that they killed another two people again around the same axis, at Emigie town, just along the road. It is very close to a police checkpoint. That is where they killed the other two. The people (villagers) that came to the place, the police were  even telling them that this is where these terrorist people ran into. That is exactly what happened on Thursday. It is the same police that came to take the corpses of the other two people away.

 

 

How many people were killed in terms of women, men and children?

Five of them. A woman was killed a week ago. A woman was killed there, a week before the Thursday killings. Plus the woman that was killed, that will make the number of people killed to be  six.

 

How often have you people been experiencing this type of attack in that locality?

For a very long time, for a very long time. 2018, I have a brother here that they even shot at and he ran away. He is here with me. They shot him. He went to his cocoa plantation, a very large cocoa plantation  running into acres, they met him there and shot him. He ran away and left his bike and they burnt his bike. He was lucky to have escaped that 2018. Ever since, they burnt down our cocoa plantations,  you know, acres of cocoa plantations.  They burnt everywhere and you cannot go there. When you go to try and put out the fire, they will start firing and you will be afraid to go there. Even about three years ago,  the matter was on ITV. The ITV crew went there, recorded,  went to the cocoa plantations and recorded all the burnt cocoa plantations.  Till today,  the government never came. There was a time, I think the governor,  Obaseki came around there, in 2028 and he gave them, when the people complained about the harassment of the Fulani herdsmen, he told the people that he had given them (herdsmen) till 90 days to remove their cows from the bush there. Now, nothing was done. This was in 2018. Just last week, they came close to the house, that was two weeks ago, very close to the house and started firing in the night around that 7pm. They were firing and firing and everybody now ran out of the house, came to the market Square, shouting.  Then some of our vigilante boys also went there and started firing too and that was what made them retreat. Whether they were coming to the village to attack people in the village or to invade the village, nobody really knows. That was exactly what happened two weeks ago before the  Thursday killings. It has been on, you can’t count them. How many people have shot, they have killed people, they have shot people. Soldiers come. Even as I am talking to you now, soldiers are in the village,  I think the government sent them to the village so that they can go into the bush. But they (soldiers)are not in the bush, I think the last time I called, they were in the village primary school,  they made their camp there.

 

How are you sure that those people are Fulani herdsmen?

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No, there is no issue of how are you sure. The people that encountered them. They know that they are Fulani herdsmen.  From the way they talk, one of our brothers went to the farm, they met him in the farm, he saw them and asked them is yam and cassava grass for the cows.  They said yes, their cows no go chop?

 

You mean they were feeding the yam and cassava tubers to their cows?

Yes, yes! He now told them: “you are eating my yam and cassava” and they said their  cows no go chop? That was how he managed to escape because before he talked, he brought out an AK-47 rifle. So he just left him. We have several instances like that. My younger ones are there in the village, about four of them, their cocoa plantations were burnt down. Somebody that has more than 10 acres of cocoa plantation,  you burnt everything down. Plantain plantations,  you burnt everything down. Now there is nothing left, no food to eat. For more than  a week now, none of them can go to the farm, none of them can go.

 

What arrangements are you people making to secure the community and ensure that this does not happen again?

Well, the arrangement? Which other arrangement? We don’t have any other arrangement than to cry to the government.  Our people are supposed to go and mourn the people that were killed and protest to the governor and the Oba Palace. They had made protests to the Government House and the Oba Palace I think three or four times. Nothing,  nobody comes to say, OK, this is what we will do. So, there is nothing we can do. Our boys are just there, those people that we have as Vigilante boys in the village so that when things like this happen,  they also come with their dane guns and what have you.  They try to also fight back. Last week, they injured two of them. They shot at them and they were lucky,  a bullet met one of them on the hand.

 

Your people live in that village and they know the terrain. Is it that they have not been able to identify the camp where these herdsmen reside?

 

The camps? They know the camps.

 

If they know the camps, why have they  not pointed that out to the authorities so that…?

They have. They have. I told you soldiers came the other time and they went with our vigilante boys from Odiguetue and Odigi to the camps. They gathered and these people, the herdsmen, started firing, opened fire on the soldiers.  The soldiers ran away and left their vehicle there and they burnt down the vehicle.  There was one other time the DPO of Ekiadolor took some policemen there. They went to their camp, they got to the camp where they are. They were there for two weeks or so. They were there for two weeks and these people (herdsmen) didn’t come. As they were going,  they wanted to burn down the camp. The DPO said they should not burn the camp, they should leave it. Then what does that signify?  So, there is nothing we can do. We know the camp, the people know the camp. When the soldiers came this time around,  the people said they wanted to take them to the camp, but the soldiers didn’t want to follow.  They don’t want to go.

 

They burnt our cocoa, plantain farms —Okpoko

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I was one of the victims that they attacked in 2018. We came to the Governor’s Office,  we even went to the Oba’s Palace to protest. We went with many people to protest. At that material time, the government said that they gave them three months to evacuate. Up till now, they have not gone, and the government is not doing anything about it. We don’t know what went wrong.

What really happened recently is so painful because of the people they just slaughtered.  That woman that was killed on Monday, popularly known as  Emeka’s wife, was slaughtered like a goat. I do cocoa farming. Can you imagine, in my cocoa farm, there is no elephant grass that will warrant cows grazing there. But they came, looking for anyone to shoot. What is their mission?

 

When you said that in 2018, the government gave them three months to vacate the camp, did you people follow up on that?

Yes, we followed up. We still went there (Government House) and told them and they said OK, we should hold on. Up till now, they are there. I have the papers that carried the protest, I still have them.

 

Apart from burning your cocoa farm has there been any other incident?

Yes, they burnt the cocoa farm, burnt the plantain farm, yam and cassava, they burnt all of them. They uproot the yams and used them to feed their cows and when you challenge them, they bring out their guns. So man has to run for his dear life.

Tribune

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