Many residents of Yewa communities in Ogun West Senatorial District of Ogun State have fled to Benin Republic in search of refuge and protection, following the recent deadly attacks launched on the affected communities by Fulani herdsmen.
It will be recalled that clashes between residents of Agbon-Ojodu, Asa, Iselu, Ijale, Owode-Ketu, Oja Odan and Orile-Igbooro, who are farmers and the Fulani herders in February claimed no fewer than thirteen lives in the affected communities.
When Saturday Vanguard visited some of the affected villages, it was discovered that residents had deserted the communities for fear of another round of attack. At Asa, the ruins of the bloody attack stared one in the face as the villagers lamented their woes.
Speaking with Saturday Vanguard, the traditional ruler of Asa village, the Adele of Asa, Chief Matthew Akande Olukoku and his counterpart in Iseluland, the Eselu of Iseluland, Oba Ebenezer Akinyemi confirmed that many residents of the village and other adjourning villages had relocated to Egelu, Owode, Iganna, Gbokoto and Pobe, all in Benin Republic.
Chief Olukoku said, though few of the fleeing villagers were with their families in Benin Republic, he noted that thousands of them were currently in a camp provided by the government of Benin Republic.
He said, “after series of attacks by the Fulani herdsmen on some villages in which some people were sent to their early graves including children, our people had to seek protection in neighbouring Benin Republic. They don’t have confidence in the Nigerian government any longer”.
Chief Olukoku said the herders embarked on a shooting spree as soon as they stormed the community in a commando-like fashion, killing people and destroying properties worth millions of naira.
According to him, “After killing our people, they broke into residential buildings, stole their belongings and looted shops.
They raided a phone shop, carted away several expensive phones. A lot of our people have left for villages in Benin Republic for fear of being subjected to another attack by the mindless herdsmen. During the attacks, all means of livelihood including our farmlands were destroyed. Our crops were equally destroyed by cattle.
Our silos were broken, many houses, motorcycles and vehicles were destroyed. So, since there is nothing left for them to live on and their security was not guaranteed, they had to leave to where they believed that their lives would be secured”.
Chief Olukoku appealed to the federal government to stop open grazing, saying it is outdated.
“How on earth can someone derive joy in destroying other people’s means of livelihood just to sustain his own ‘business’ and we say ‘we have government and that we belong to the same country? President Muhammadu Buhari should stop herders from coming to our communities, while the Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun should do the needful in protecting his people.”
He added that government, both at the state and federal; should adequately compensate all those whose property and means of livelihood were destroyed during the attack, to enable them bounce back soon.
“I want to thank Governor Abiodun for sending palliatives to my people. I believe that this will cushion the effect of the attack, but we need more”, he said
At Ebute Igbooro, a community leader, who spoke with Saturday Vanguard under the condition of anonymity also confirmed that residents of the community, including women and children had fled the community to the Republic of Benin.
He said, “in the wake of the attack, no fewer than four persons; a mother and her children were sent to their early graves. This led many of our people in their hundreds to move to the neighbouring Republic of Benin to seek refuge and secure their lives. Though, the state government has been appealing to those who ran away to come back to their different communities, especially as the raining season is gradually setting in because residents of all the affected communities are farmers”.
I want to thank the State government for being proactive in curbing the dastardly act through the formation of the Joint Security Intervention Squad (JSIS)On his part, the Eselu of Iseluland, Oba Ebenezer Akinyemi, while commending Governor Abiodun for all the steps he has taken to stem the tide of the ugly incident, he however appealed to the governor to set up temporary camp for all the displaced people, whose houses had been burnt down by the herders.
One of the refugees in the camp in the district of Igana in Pobe, Benin Republic, Mr. Ezekiel Huntoh in a telephone conversation with Saturday Vanguard, said, “the Ogun State government has been appealing to us to come back home, but the only condition that will make us come back is the provision of accommodation. Government is calling on us to come back home, how will that be possible when we don’t have anything called houses. Government should first set up refugee camp for us so that we will have somewhere to lay our heads for the meantime before it fulfills its promise of building new houses for us”.
Investigation by Saturday Vanguard revealed that about five pregnant women had delivered in their camp in the district of Igana in Pobe.
Confirming the report that thousands of Nigerians are in refugee camp in the Republic of Benin, the Mayor of Pobe, Mayor Simon Adébayo Dinan, said 4,477 Nigerians are currently taking refuge in the municipality of Pobe.
In a statement issued after the Mayo visited the Nigerian refugees and addressed them, he said that “indeed, 4,477 people including 2,163 men and 2,314 women have taken refuge in the municipality of Pobè for a week. In total, 688 households are affected by this massive displacement of Nigerian citizens in the inter-community clashes between the Peulhs and the Nago in the border area”.
On Monday, February 15, 2021, the mayor accompanied by his second deputy, the secretary general of the town hall, the head of the human development department and the representative of the head of the center for social promotion of Pobè made a field trip to Asa. It was an opportunity for him to also express the compassion and support of the population and the municipal council of Pobè for the refugees in the district of Igana. He led a delegation from the national civil protection agency to the scene. In its intervention, the authority reassured the refugees.
The Mayor reportedly told the Nigerians, “we have learned with sadness and a broken heart what happened. It is an unfortunate situation. As an authority, we have an obligation to come to your aid because you are going through a very difficult time. Houses, granaries of corn and other property went up in smoke. I have already called on the Pobè Social Promotion Center so that the most urgent social measures can be taken to support you. We will do what is necessary to ensure that the state structures and NGOs intervening in situations of this nature come to our support.”.
The Mayor added; “Rest assured, you are our brothers and sisters, you are our parents, you are our friends. So your safety will be assured. This is why the Republican police are already mobilized for you. I led to you this afternoon a delegation of the National Agency of Civil Protection which is an important assistance of the government of Benin”.
Members of the delegation were reported to have commended the mayor’s promptness in handling the situation before reassuring the refugees of the urgent measures that would be taken to offer them better living conditions”.