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Fulani Conquest: How Fulani Gun-wielding Herdsmen Took Over Family Land In Lagos, Tiv Land And Other States Then Erect Structures –Lawyer

May 18 , 2021 | EASTERN PILOT Report By: Victor Ayeni | In a petition dated May 10, 2021, the Ali Moibi-Balogun Family of Odo-Egiri Town ...

May 18 , 2021 | EASTERN PILOT

Report By: Victor Ayeni |

In a petition dated May 10, 2021, the Ali Moibi-Balogun Family of Odo-Egiri Town in Eredo Local Council Development Area of Lagos seeks Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s intervention after armed herdsmen forcefully took over their land and erected structures on it. In this interview with VICTOR AYENI, the lawyer for the Ali Moibi-Balogun family, Adeyemi Adegbite, explains the ordeal of the family.

How long has the family been living on the invaded land?

Their forefathers handed it to them. In our petition, we said they inherited it from time immemorial. So, it predates Nigeria’s independence. You know in Yoruba culture, when you own a land, it is your father’s land from ages. It was not a land they came about in 10 or 20 years; it has been their inherited land.

At what point did they begin to notice the invasion on their land?

It was on March 4, 2021. That was the first instance that they experienced the incursion on their land. And then, they came back sometime in April.

How did the family members protect themselves during these attacks?

It was not all members of the family that were on the ground; they had some members and workers living on the land. Suddenly, these people invaded the land and started shooting indiscriminately. Probably, there have been some land trespassers who had been trespassing on the land. So, when they came and started shooting, the family members and their servants that were on the land escaped. That was on March 4. They reported to the extended family and that was when the family had to present the matter at the Noforija Police Station.

What was the response of the personnel at the Noforija Police Station?

As our petition captured, the first time the invaders came, the police responded swiftly. The people that invaded the land came with three motorbikes, a Honda Accord and the others were on foot. So, they were shooting indiscriminately to take possession of the land; then, those who escaped reported to the police. And as we said, the police at Noforija responded swiftly such that they were able to recover the Honda Accord that the invaders brought. Those on motorbikes, the three of them, escaped. Since then, the Noforija Police Station has been investigating it. But all of a sudden it is like they developed cold feet such that even our client, the complainant, was treated like a suspect. It was at that point that they now briefed us and said they couldn’t take this; they needed a lawyer who would write a petition. That was when we came in.

Aside from the petition, which was aimed at giving a voice to this family, what do they want the government or the authorities to do for them?

Precisely, what they want is to get their land back and also to alert the government that there is danger somewhere in the Epe area, so that the government can quickly come and curtail the activities of the Fulani herdsmen. That is what is written in the petition. How can some strangers from nowhere just come and take their land?

As lawyers, we have to tell the whole world that there is fire on the mountain. The rooftop has caught fire; we can no longer go to sleep. The government should drag these people away so that there can be peace in Lagos State. We do not want Fulani herdsmen coming from anywhere to come and disturb the peace that has been prevalent in Lagos State. That is why we had to petition everybody. We wrote petitions to the governor, the House of Assembly, the Inspector-General of Police, Commissioner of Police and all that this thing should be nipped in the bud.

You described these people as Fulani herdsmen, how are you sure? What is the level of ammunition they have?

These people came with guns and were shooting. They had knives and charms all over them. I was not there, so I would not know if it was an AK-47 or whatever. But they shot at people. So, if someone invades your land with a gun, you should know that it is not a mere threat. They did not even come as if they were passing by, they came to settle down. After they came and drove everyone away between their first and second attack, they already built huts. My clients were watching, wondering what happened on their land. They were taking pictures.

We went to the police; the police came initially and anytime there was an incident, they went back to the police. At a stage, it seemed that the police were helpless; there was nothing they could do. You know, maybe they were compromised or whatever and couldn’t take any further step until we decided to blow this open. But even before then, some people had been threatening them (the family members). They had percolators on their land and they knew their names. The community leader is of no assistance to them. Life has become unbearable for them; they cannot go to their farmland, and all of that. So, the reports that were supplied to us were included in our petition. Whatever the authorities can do to come to the aid of our clients, we will appreciate it. And that will even save us the rigours of going to court, suing the government or suing people. If the government can stem it now, we will not need to go to court and say we want to file criminal action anywhere. That is the essence of the petition.

The family said the police branded them as suspects when they complained. Can you shed more light on this?

You see when the first occurrence took place, we said the police responded swiftly and they recovered some things, which we stated in our petition. After the second occurrence, something happened. What they expected the police to do, the police started to drag their feet. Yesterday, we were at the police area command and we met two DPOs from Noforija and Epe.

They gave us different versions of events. They said an incident occurred in which somebody got injured and they were trying to treat the person, but when they invited our clients, they failed to turn up. But our clients were saying that this particular DPO was not very cooperative with them and wants to turn them into suspects. So, this was what they briefed us about at the area command after we filed our petition.

That’s the most I know about this. It is not as if I have been following this thing for a long time, you know I was just brought in. They used another lawyer before, who was not available, who should be abreast of the facts. But because of the urgency of the case with herdsmen everywhere, everyone was apprehensive. We just wanted to do something so that we would bring it to the attention of the authorities.

Which police division or command was involved in this investigation?

That area falls under Noforija, but then, Noforija falls within Epe. But both DPOs there are hardworking. They stepped up and took this case seriously. In fact, when I met them, they had not even had some rest. They have been going up and down, trying to unravel the situation.

Are the herdsmen still occupying the land as we speak?

I have not been to the site. We lawyers rely on information provided to us by our clients. We attached some photographic evidence to our petition, so you could see that they were present. Then again, like I said, yesterday we were at the area command and we tried to get our clients to come to the area command, but they could not come. But then, when I called them to ask about their position if they were coming for the meeting at the area command, they told me that they noticed some herdsmen still on the land and they were trying to video them. Even when we got to the residence of my client at Epe with the DPO, the wife of the Olori Ebi confirmed to me that the Fulani herdsmen were still on their land.

Have the police visited the expanse of land to invite or arrest the suspects?

At the first instance in March, the police went there and recovered a car. That was when the DPO at Noforija said he saw someone there who was injured. I think he was bleeding on his head kind of, so he paid attention to him. Probably they might have gone back, you know, on some other occasions that we were not aware of.

Do you suspect that some powerful people in Abuja are supporting these herdsmen in some way?

Abuja? That is beyond my brief. We wrote a petition to the Inspector-General of Police. You see, this insecurity is nationwide, that is why we want to alert everybody. I wouldn’t know if anybody is supporting them. Support is a big word. I would not know if anybody is sponsoring or backing them from Abuja. My own is that we saw these people on the land and we have to alert the authorities.

Have the state government and House of Assembly responded to your petition?

Nobody has responded to our petition now except that the police are working hard. They are working round the clock. We have not received any correspondence from any authority. But I was even surprised, you see we did not write to the Commissioner of Police, we only copied him, yet the police are working. They are on top of the matter. They want to be sure that if there is such a thing, they will nip it in the bud.

RECALLAFP Report April 28, 2021 | Seven killed in attack on IDPs camp in central Nigeria

Gunmen believed to be Fulani herdsmen early Tuesday attacked an internally displaced people's camp in central Nigeria's Benue state, killing seven and injuring nine others, the local state governor said. Benue is part of Nigeria's Middle Belt region which has been troubled by deadly clashes between nomadic herders and local farmers over land, grazing and water for years.

The conflict is an additional challenge for the nation's security forces who are battling on several fronts -- a more than decade-long jihadist insurgency in the northeast, criminal kidnap gangs in the northwest and a separatist militia in the southeast. "Many are in the hospital apart from the seven that died in the attack on the IDPs camp," said Benue Governor Samuel Ortom when he visited the camp at the outskirts of Makurdi, the state capital on Tuesday. He said the dawn attack on the camp housing 21,000 people displaced as a result of previous herder-farmer clashes was "inhuman, barbaric and unacceptable." Although it was not immediately clear the reason for the latest attack, tensions have been on the rise since the government enacted a law banning open grazing of cattle in the state.

Ortom appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the frequent killings in the state. "I want to say that we are being overstretched. Our patience and preaching of rule of law is being overstretched. You can see that the people are fed up. Mr. President must rise up," he said. He said "if the federal government had taken the issue of militia herders seriously, it wouldn't have escalated to this level." The governor has often accused Buhari, himself a northern Fulani Muslim, of taking a soft approach to the herder issue. He said that in the last two weeks, over 70 people had been killed in various parts of the state. Emmanuel Shior of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) called for assistance for the displaced. "That camp is home to over 21,000 IDPs who reside in the camp and the host community. We are in dire need of assistance and aid from both local and international organisations," he said. He also called for a security beef-up in and around the IDPs camps to prevent future attacks.

RECALL:  Chika Ebuzor Report April 8, 2018 | Fulani herdsmen still occupying some communities

This is coming on the heels of reports that Buhari has ordered rehabilitation of communities destroyed during the deadly attacks by Fulani herdsmen. The President of the Tiv Youths Organization (TYO), Comrade Timothy Hembaor has revealed that Fulani herdsmen are still occupying some communities in Benue state.  According to Daily Post, Hembaor called on President Buhari to order the military to flush out the group from the state. This is coming on the heels of reports that Buhari has ordered rehabilitation of those displacedduring the deadly attacks by Fulani herdsmen.

The TYO President also asked the President to enforce the anti-grazing law passed by the Benue state government. Hembaor said “The herdsmen are still occupying some of our lands. They are still there. That’s why our people are still in IDPs camps. If President Buhari directs the military to get them out it will be done in a jiffy. We don’t know why this has not been done.  “The most important thing here is that we have a validly made law prohibiting open grazing in Benue state. It is left for the President to direct that the law should be fully enforced by law enforcement agencies so that there can be peace in Benue.

“If there is no peace, you can build mansions but they would eventually be destroyed by herdsmen. So let the President solve our problems before rebuilding our communities. What we need is ranching, if you want to do livestock business in Benue, obey our ranching law.” “If the President Buhari led government is sincere with what they are saying, they should give a strict instruction to security agencies to enforce our grazing law.  “When that is done, we can now sit back as comfortable people and start talking of how our destroyed communities can be rehabilitated and rebuilt so that these recurrent killings and destruction of our communities can stop for good.

“For now we all know that close to 180,000 persons are displaced in Benue because their villages have been taken over by herdsmen. If they are not dislodged for the people to return to their ancestral homes, who will the federal government rehabilitate the communities for?  “Our position on this matter is clear, support our grazing law, give a presidential directive to the military and security agencies to dislodge the herdsmen from occupied Benue communities and then embark on the rehabilitation and our people will support the government and its initiative,” he added.

Herdsmen shoot at soldiers

Recently,suspected herdsmen engaged in a shootout with troops of  707 Special Forces Brigade of the Nigerian Army in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State. Also, four officers  reportedly went missing following an attack on a police team by suspected herdsme in Logo Local Government Area of Benue State. Premium Times reports that the attack on the police was carried out on Saturday afternoon, February 10, 2018.


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