Residents and some monarchs of Ketu-speaking villages in Yewa North Local Government Area, Ogun State have lamented that they were brutalised by soldiers who escorted herdsmen to graze in their communities.
In separate interviews with The Nation, the residents narrated that the soldiers, numbering about 10, flogged them for daring to prevent the herders from grazing.
It was learnt that one of the residents, identified simply as Mulero, was beaten mercilessly, leaving him with serious injuries, for insisting that the herdsmen would not be allowed to graze.
It was also gathered that traditional rulers were beaten after they were forced to convoke a meeting.
According to them, the herdsmen, who had departed Ubeku village after their continued presence was rejected suddenly resurfaced about 2 pm on December 19, 2020, with the soldiers from the 35 Artillery Brigade, Alamala, Abeokuta.
The soldiers headed straight to the palace of the traditional ruler of the community, Chief Olaleye Adigun, calling out the villagers and warning them against preventing the evicted herdsmen from returning to the village.
It was in the middle of this encounter that the soldiers were told that the herders would not be allowed to remain in the community because of their brutal killing of residents and the destruction of their farmlands in recent times.
One of the residents, identified simply as Mulero, said, “Everyone was frightened by the action and utterances of the soldiers but I summoned courage to tell them how a Geography teacher Mr. Yomi Akinola and two students of Community High School, Ibeku, among others, were killed by the herdsmen while our women were raped and killed on their way to the farm.
“Before I knew it, the herdsmen had motioned to the soldiers who immediately pulled me out of the audience and flogged me mercilessly with a wire whip. It was as if I stole something valuable.
“As I speak, my body still aches because of the wounds, even after I had been treated in a hospital.
“Numerous other villagers were subjected to the brutal act as the soldiers escorted the herdsmen from one village to another all in a bid to intimidate us into allowing them to graze on our farms.”
Also, indigenes of Iselu, Ibeku, Agbon-Ojodu, Asa and other villages were also harassed and assaulted by the soldiers at the instance of the herdsmen.
One of them, Mulero’s brother, Gabriel, was said to have been slapped after he was identified as one of those who resisted the herdsmen’s attempt to graze.
Narrating their experience in a petition, the traditional rulers said the herdsmen confirmed that they invited the soldiers to intimidate, harass, and beat them.
The traditional rulers are the Oniggua of Iggualand, Oba Micheal Dosumu; the Eselu of Iseluland, Oba Akintunde Akinyemi; and the Alademeso of Igan Alade, Oba Gabriel Olalowo.
The monarchs in a petition addressed to the Brigade Commander, 35 Artillery Brigade, Nigerian Army, Alamala, Abeokuta, titled, ‘Matter of urgency,’ dated January 7, 2020, said, “The Baale was asked to gather his subjects and people from nearby villages which he did. The suspected soldiers told the people that the purpose of their visit was to inform them that the Fulani herders would be coming into their communities to graze cows.
“After their address, they asked if anyone had a question or comment to make in reaction to the information. Expectedly, one Mr Seye Mulero responded by calling the attention of the soldiers to the inherent challenges of allowing the herders in their communities based on the sad previous experiences in the community.
“That the said Seye Mulero further cited past killings, maiming and destruction of farms to buttress his point. Sadly, at this point, the soldiers seized him and mercilessly beat him up.
“In the same manner, the Fulani herders in the company of the suspected soldiers left Ibeku for Asa, the adjoining village to address the Baale of Asa and his subjects as they had earlier done at Ibeku, the people refused to respond, having heard what transpired at Ibeku.
“However, one of the Fulani herders sighted some of the people in the audience and picked on them as those that purportedly shouted on them at Ibeku while brutalising their victim (Seye Mulero). The herders asked the soldiers to also deal with them.”