“I’ll return if FG allows me to carry gun” – US returnee herdsmen sacked from N20m Oyo farm

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A US-returnee, Mrs. Olajumoke Awosika, who was sacked by Fulani herdsmen from her N20 million farm in Ibaayin village, Ibadan in Oyo State has said she would only return when the Federal Government allows her to buy a gun for self-defence.

The 57-year-old Chief Executive Officer of Fresh Fields Organic Farms stated this in an interview with Sunday Punch.

She disclosed that she had been farming for five years cultivating crops like plantain, palm trees, ginger, turmeric, yam, pineapple, cassava, tomato and pepper.

Explaining how it all started, Awosika said, “When the Sunday Igboho phenomenon happened and he gave the Fulani herders an ultimatum to leave the Ibarapa axis, we saw a gradual increase in the population of Fulani (in our area), which was unlike anything we had seen in the last five years. Before then, I had never seen one Fulani cow in my axis (Ibaayin) because my farm is remote. When we started seeing them, my farm manager told me about it. He is the head of a task force organised by farmers in the area and he had had many encounters with Fulani herdsmen; he had fought with many of them. When the situation got heated and they (herders) started kidnapping people, I stopped going to the farm alone. I went with my farm manager and he showed me tracks of cows. He later told me they had already invaded nearby farms.

“I am the biggest plantain farmer in the area. The first day they (herders) came to the area, they destroyed farms. This was on February 10, 2021. As soon as they (herdsmen) got there, they went into people’s farm, harvested their plantains and uprooted cassava for their cows. Those were farms around mine, owned by old men, people in their 60s and 70s and the herdsmen destroyed the farms on a massive scale. The cows ate the crops after which they were marched by the herdsmen to the two main rivers in the village – these were rivers with very clear and clean water that the villagers drank. The herders destroyed the water completely; their cows defaecated and polluted the water. So, the villagers started fetching water from the borehole in my farm.”

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She disclosed that the villagers set up a task force to trace the whereabouts of the herdsmen responsible and discovered that the cows belonged to a Fulani man that owned 200 acres of land in the area.

Awosika said that the villagers approached the Fulani man and advised him to build a ranch for his cows, he refused to listen.

“The second day, the villagers chased the herdsmen out of our village and we were happy, thanking God that that would be the end. But we were wrong. It turned out it was only a prelude to another horror,” she stated.

Explaining why she left the farm, Awosika said, “On February 27, Fulani men kidnapped the son of a poultry owner in Apete. The vigilantes and the villagers went after them, and the fleeing Fulani people entered Alajaka village and killed eight people; they entered Alaka village and killed more people, beheaded them and took their heads away. That was the height of it and I said, “I’m done!”. I just packed my things and returned to Lagos because my children and everyone in the US had been pressuring me to leave. When I left the farm, I told my workers to leave too because I don’t want any of them to get killed by the herdsmen.”

She disclosed that the matter was reported to the police but nothing was done about it.

Awosika added that she was informed by her manager that the herdsmen invaded her farm and helped themselves to plantain worth N1.5 million which should have been harvested in February but for the crisis.

She vowed to return to her farm if the government would allow her arm herself to defend herself against the killer herdsmen.

“We have to tell ourselves the truth, what we have in the South-West is not herders-farmers clashes; no farmer is fighting with the herders, farmers don’t have guns. These (herders) are armed militia with sophisticated guns. What the armed Fulani men are trying to achieve is what I don’t know. I speak French very well and I listen to the videos of these herders, they are francophone, our borders are wide open for Fulani criminals to come and attack us in Nigeria. It is surprising that Fulani herders publicly carry gun and some governors in the North are telling us that they need the guns to protect their cows. What is the value of a cow compared to the value of a human life? Why can’t I, as a farmer, also bear arms to protect myself and my farm? I remember some years ago, the Buhari government said everyone should surrender their arms. We did, but the Fulani never did. It’s like they have an agenda. We surrendered our arms and as a farmer, I am now a sitting duck for attackers; I can be killed, I can be raped, I can be kidnapped for ransom.

“In America where I lived for over three decades, if I don’t have a criminal record, I can bear arms. I can protect my life, it is in the constitution. Even in the Nigerian 1999 Constitution, I have a right to defend myself. If a Fulani man is carrying AK-47, as a farmer I should also be able to a carry gun and stand up to defend myself. If I am licensed to carry a gun, I swear to God, I will arm those boys on my farm, we will not run and we will stand our ground and l will see the Fulani man that will say he wants to kill me on my own land! If the government cannot defend us, we should have a right to defend ourselves. The way forward is self-defence and it is a shame on this government that human life has no value,”  Awosika said.

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