The presence of heavily-armed security agents around the agrarian community of Ayede Ogbese in the Akure North Local Government Area of Ondo State suggests to visitors that all is not well in the area.
As Nigeria joined the rest of the world to celebrate the New Year, residents of the community scampered to safety following the crisis which erupted between the Hausa and Fulani settlers in the community. The development came to many as a surprise as the brothers went for the jugular. The two tribes were said to have been cohabiting for a long time. While some of them were into agriculture, others did menial jobs and trading.
Sunday PUNCH gathered that trouble started last Monday. But then no one could immediately ascertain the cause of the fight. Residents only observed rowdiness in the dwelling of the northerners in the community. The two ethnic groups were at daggers drawn and reportedly freely used dangerous weapons against each other. In the process, one person was allegedly killed and many others injured. The government and other stakeholders immediately waded in to arrest the situation from festering.
But it was learnt that after a peace meeting held between the two groups to end the conflict, hostility resumed on Tuesday, January 3, 2023. A source stated that the residents woke up that day to behold the torching of 14 shops belonging to the members of the two tribes. In the affected shops, items worth millions of naira were allegedly destroyed .The shops were reportedly razed at night. The development further compounded residents’ fear that the crisis might degenerate to full blown tribal war if it is not immediately curtailed. Some residents considered relocating from the community.
A resident of the community identified only as Richard told Sunday PUNCH what he knew about the crisis. He claimed that the crisis started when a Hausa and a Fulani man who sells cannabis sativa otherwise called hemp argued over a pack of the plant kept in the bush. The argument, he stated, led to fisticuffs.
He said, “The crisis caused a clash between a Fulani man living in the forest and a Hausa man in the community over hemp. The Hausa man accused the Fulani man of stealing from a pack of hemp he kept in the bush. This led to a fight between two of them. Thereafter, they both went to their different camps and mobilised their people to the forest. In the process, one Fulani was killed. But in a reprisal, the Fulani people came in the night and burnt shops belonging to the Hausa and ran back to the bush.”
The milieu was tense on Friday despite the deployment of security agents to forestall further breakdown of law and order
It was learnt that some Hausa residing in the area had been deserting the town with their families based on fear that the Ogbese community was no longer safe for them. They insinuated that the Fulani could still return to avenge the killing of one of them. The residents of the community, especially the Hausa who are into farming, were scared of going to their farms for fear of being attacked.
One of the fleeing Hausa and grocer, identified only as Mohammed, who our correspondent sighted with his luggage waiting for a vehicle to board, said he was leaving the community for the fear of another Fulani attack.
He said, “I am leaving Ogbese because one can’t predict the Fulani. They can still come back to attack us. I am going to another community. They may return in the night to attack us.’’
Speaking on the incident, a community leader, Augustine Adekanye, urged the government to intervene in the matter and resolve it permanently.
Adekanye said,” I was informed by one of my tenants that the town was boiling, so I rushed down to see what happened. When I saw the damage, I informed the police and other security agencies in the state. When the people heard that they may be attacked, everyone was at alert. But security men are on the ground to calm the situation. We have been living together here for a long time without any problem. My father is one of those who founded the community and have not recorded a crisis. We want to appeal to the government to intervene in the matter.’’
Also, head of the Hausa in Ogbese community, Aminu Abubakar, stated that they had tried to settle the matter. He also commended the deployment of the police, soldiers, and Amotekun corps to the community.
Abubakar stated that the situation could have become a communal crisis but for the timely deployment of the security agents.
He stated, “We tried our best to quell the crisis but that is how God has destined it and we thank God that the issue has been calmed. On that day around 3am, the Fulani came to attack my people and after that, they ran back to the bush. They burnt some shops and a mosque. When I saw what happened, I called the Division Police Officer in Ogbese. He and his men came around to see what had happened. We could not sleep throughout the night but we thank God that it has been settled.’’
In his contribution, Chairman, Ondo State Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Alhaji Garba Bello, who admitted that the crisis broke out between his men and the Hausa, expressed happiness that the crisis had been resolved.
Bello said, “Truly a fight occurred but we have settled it. We have talked to our people and we have now resolved it. No more wahala.”
Reacting to the incident, Secretary to the Akure North Local Government, Mr Emmanuel Olubi, described the incident as unfortunate, adding that the council had waded in by inviting security agents and meeting with those concerned to ensure peace returned to the community which is his home town.
Olubi said, “When the crisis started on Monday, we quickly stepped in. We informed the governor and security agents. Security men were deployed to the place. The chairman of the local government too, Tony Adebusola, was at the place.
“At the community level, we went to the house of the victim to console them. We met with the leaders of the Hausa community and the Fulani community. But to our surprise, the fight started again at midnight as shops were burnt. But now, we have been moving around the town talking to those involved and I believe everything will be calm eventually.”
Efforts to speak with the monarch of the community, Oba Ajibola Oloyede, were not successful as the monarch was said to be overseas. But one of his chiefs, the Odopetu of Ayede-Ogbese, Oladimeji Abitogun, expressed displeasure over the incident.
He said, “It is surprising that some criminals among the Hausa/Fulani community in Ogbeseland could be disturbing the peace of our community. I want to appeal to the government to tame the criminals. We want the Amotekun corps to help us arrest the criminals.”
However, the state police command which sent its men to the community to prevent further breakdown of law and order did not see the incident as a crisis between Hausa/Fulani living in Ogbese community. The command insisted that the two tribes did not clash. Reacting to the incident, the state police spokesperson, Mrs Funmilayo Odunlami, noted that some shops were burnt.
She said, “There is no clash between Hausa and Fulani in Ogbese. The police got a report that about eight shops were razed by fire at midnight with accusing fingers being pointed at a particular (ethnic) extraction. But we have begun our preliminary investigation into the incident to know what actually caused the fire and also to ensure the matter doesn’t degenerate into a communal crisis in that community. Currently, policemen have been sent there. The DPO and his men are already there to maintain law and order and everything has been brought under control.’’
Contacted for his comment on the matter, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu on Security Matters, Jimoh Dojumo, said the government had taken a proactive step on the matter.
Dojumo said, “The matter has been amicably settled. We have met with all parties involved, including the Miyetti Allah chairman, who represented the Fulani, former Special Adviser to the governor on Hausa Matter, Alhaji Balla, was also at the meeting. We have talked to everybody and there would not be reoccurrence of such by God’s grace.’’