Residents of Ibarapa-North Local Government Area (LGA) still live in fear despite the arrest of Iskilu Wakili, a suspected Fulani man recently apprehended by members of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC). The residents who recounted their sordid experiences in the hands of herders loyal to Wakili believe their lives are still in danger. Though Wakili has been remanded at the Abolongo Correction Centre, Ibadan, Oyo State, residents of the agrarian communities continue to live as displaced people in nearby communities for fear of reprisal. Olugbenga Adanikin, who visited Kajola community, reports the ordeals of the farmers.
“Take a look at this mark; it was Wakili’s boys that caused it during an attack on our farm,” Mulikat Michael, 68, says as she shows a scar just below her neck, by her shoulder blade.
Mulikat knows Wakili and most of the herders that attacked her. She related with them before the tragic incident. She sells maize and Tapioca, a starchy product derived from cassava tubers, to the locals, including the Fulani and the Bororos. They like the delicacy because it is prepared with milk and sugar. Many of them patronised her, including herders in Kajola and adjoining communities where Wakili reigned as terror lord.
Describing the attacker, she said: “They were hooded. Immediately they grabbed my friend, and we screamed for help while I struggled to assist her. Suddenly, they brought out cutlasses. And we were yelling louder. It was during the struggle to escape that a sharp wood pierced my neck.”
She spent four weeks receiving treatments., she recalls, with fear still in her eyes. The incident happened four years ago.
Sidi Ibrahim, Mulikat’s cousin who sits nearby, adds that the herders are used to hanging on Mango trees to monitor passers-by before carrying out their crime.
“We no longer have peace of mind. All our cassava plantations have been destroyed, our women are raped, and we can no longer farm until today. They (herders) are still there,” says Ibrahim.
In Ibarapa axis, Fulanis are categorised into two types – the ‘Bororo’, core Fulanis from northern Nigeria, and those born and raised in Yorubaland in Southwestern Nigeria.
Mulikat has traded with many of them, whom she describes as Wakili’s boys.
Wakili is a white-bearded, elderly man, “but he is troublesome”. He used to visit the market square during the market days, she says. Residents of Kajola describe him and beyond as a notorious kidnapper, whose age-long atrocities, among Ibarapa residents give sleepless nights. Aside from being blamed for the destruction of farmlands, he is infamous for seizing acres of lands belonging to the local farmers, yet evades arrest until recently.
Mulikat is among scores of other women farmers, school pupils and other residents sacked from their homes in Kajola, Ayete, Mobilu, Dagbere, Afoa, Aatan, Afunije, Baba Isego communities in Ibarapa North following Wakili’s arrest on Sunday, March 7.
The ICIR spoke to at least 15 persons, including women, the elderly, youths, and government officials, while investigating the ethnic crisis in the community.
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A dangerous trip to Kajola
Journeying from Iwo road to Kajola, Wakili’s host community is about 126 kilometres. But from Ayete, the community governing Kajola, the distance is nearly 27 kilometres. It was tough getting transportation to the village because residents, including commercial motorcycle taxis, avoid the place.
“What are you going there to do? It’s not safe, except you are fortified with some spiritual powers,” commercials cyclists who have neglected the communities warn. Jimoh Aliu, an elderly man whose wife was a victim of the attacks, eventually offers help. He owns a farm at Mobilu, one of the affected communities.
For over two hours, the reporter was on the motorcycle meandering the dusty, bumpy road which leads to the sacked villages.
The sights of several abandoned communities flip past as The ICIR reporter approaches Kajola. Next to Kajola is Alagba. The only school in the community was under lock and key. There was no presence of students or teachers. Alagba market was also deserted. At Kajola, shops and houses were locked up, many with broken windows and doors. There were no domestic animals in sight. Those that came were only there to pack their remaining belongings. Kajola was a shadow of itself.
A further trip to Konko community shows a similar scenario as found in the previous communities. Seven persons were seated at a shed by the entrance to the community. Two community schools nearby Konko village were also shut as of the time of visit. There was almost no life activity at the settlements.
Multiple sources say the herders issued warnings, asking locals to avoid the markets, and their homes, particularly at nights, the reason why the rural dwellers continue to live in panic. Though Ngozi Onadeko, the State Commissioner of Police had earlier visited the community to assure them of safety, the residents were not persuaded.
“They [Fulani] vowed to revenge. That’s why we cannot remain there anymore because they may invade our communities in the middle of the night,” Mulikat says.
Victims recount torments
“Wakili is a strong man.”
That was Jimoh, the farmer who lost his marriage due to injustice meted out to his ex-wife, Rashidat. She had just delivered a set of twins in 2007 when she encountered herders believed to be Wakili’s ‘boys’. The mother of two was attacked while on the farm around Mobilu Alagba, two villages away from Kajola.
Displeased that her husband could not defend her, but agreed with the community elders to forgo the assault, she left the marriage the following year, leaving her children behind.
“My wife was one of those they (herders) assaulted. And because the police frustrated the case, and the elders decided we rest the case, she left the marriage in annoyance. She is now married to another man,” says the aggrieved Jimoh, with an expression of regret.
He also agonises over the case of his late father, Baba Oja Alaagba, whom he said was hit with a rod by the herders. He died shortly after.
“They will destroy cocoa farms, cashew plantations and we must not complain. They will often assault our wives and still threaten us that we cannot do a thing. And at most, the cost of a cow will settle the case with the police,” he adds, narrating alleged atrocities committed by the herders.
He did not establish any rape case in his community but he recalls a woman from Fedegbo, a neighbouring village, whom herders allegedly raped.
Jimoh now visits the farm during the day and returns to Ayete in the evening.
Meanwhile, when Wakili’s problems became unbearable, the communities resolved to seek the support of the Oyo State Joint Security Task Force, otherwise known as ‘Operation Burst’, but it ends a fruitless effort. It was gathered that in October 2015, the Police were invited to help address a similar issue allegedly involving Wakili’s men in a neighbouring community to Kajola, but one of the deployed police officers, Akinwale Akande was shot dead by the herders in the process.
Residents who identify the deceased as ‘pastor’ say since then, the police would ask aggrieved community members to visit their station with an accused person, especially once the issues concern the Fulanis, rather than dispatching their officers for an arrest.
Further findings show that the police could not arrest, and prosecute the herders not until after the OPC arrests Wakili, March 7, and a court sitting in Iyaganku, March 16, prosecutes the accused of murder of the 32-year-old police officer.
Saheed Adebisi, an indigene of Kajola, lived all his life in the rural community, except when he visited Ayete. He is among those whose farm produce was affected. Recalling the experience is a bad memory for him. “Wakili destroyed my life because as I am, I can no longer go to the farm,” Adebisi asserts, adding that meeting his family demands has become a huge challenge. The crises have forced his children to stop school until one of his relatives decides to take up schooling responsibility.
Adebisi is particularly concerned about the destruction of his father’s cocoa farm, which almost led to his attempted murder by the herders when he complained over the damage. He had to make a run for safety. The herders, he said, told him categorically that it would only cost them a cow, and the reported case would be settled.
“If I cultivate two acres of land, the herders would destroy it completely. We are really tired of the situation. Our wives can no longer go to the farms because these people rape them.”
Findings by The ICIR reveal it is a norm for the locals to reside in the farm settlements for weeks, and then return home after cultivation. Some farmers have even made the settlement a permanent abode.
But herders often attack them on the farm. Multiple interviews conducted by the reporter reveal the police could not penetrate the forest where Wakili resides when cases against the herders are reported.
“Once we tell them the accused is in Wakili’s camp, the police would not stop there,” says Adebisi. He also mentioned Akande, the police officer who was shot in 2015. He told The ICIR the incident happened around ‘Magbeje,’ a nearby village to Kajola. He could not identify name of the deceased. Still, he affirms the late officer is nicknamed ‘pastor.’ Adebisi further alleges a cover-up as the herders for a long time was not arrested, or prosecuted.
If a police officer can be shot dead, how much more of the civilians, he asserts, adding an account of a rape case.
“There was a lady who was raped recently around our area. They caught her in the farm, defiled her, and collected her money,” Adebisi adds.
Racheal Olawore, a cassava farmer; Olusola Akintola and Eniola David nod in support as he narrates his accounts. David, a father of six, with two wives was visibly restless during the interview. He did not wait for Adebisi to complete his thoughts before he abruptly cuts in to express his worry. His children and two wives currently live far away, leaving the community due to the state of insecurity.
“Where do we run to, how do we feed ourselves, we are only waiting until 5 pm. You won’t find anyone in this village once it’s that time because of them (herders),” says David.
The gradual surge in insecurity has become a source of worry to Nigerians from across the six geo-political zones. Beyond the decade-long Boko Haram insurgency, banditry and kidnapping have taken a centre stage. Not only is kidnapping seen as a new lucrative venture, but it is also carried across Nigeria including the South-West – the South West Governors established a major reason the Amotekun Security Network in January 2020.
Herders have largely been held responsible for the kidnapping. As of February, over 881 students have been kidnapped from 2015. Ransom collected for the kidnappings under the current government alone, as of March 2020, accounts for, “just below $11 million,” says the SBM report, titled the Economics of Kidnap Industry in Nigeria.
A recent study funded by the Open Society for West Africa (OSIWA) and Global Rights notes that over 300, 000 persons were displaced with 1,868 deaths, just in four states, since 2018 due to the farmers-herders crises.
As a fact, the situation in Kajola is similar to the Alagba community. Ojoawo Jamiu, a farmer turned commercial motorcyclist was seated at the empty park, endlessly waiting for passengers from the deserted communities. He resolves to the new business, as farming is no longer viable. He had waited several hours before the reporter bumped into him. The Alagba market, from which he could have possibly gotten passengers was also empty as of the visit.
Ojoawo was particularly pained by the frustrations and the cases of rape, kidnapping, and destruction of farmlands in his community.
“…when we got tired, we took a letter to them to vacate the community. That very day, we never knew they were positioned on a mango tree with guns. They started shooting at us. So, we ran and called Amotekun.”
Multiple sources confirmed that, for about five days, Amotekun officers who visited the communities could not gain entrance into Wakili’s enclave but remained in the Ayete community. “He told us no one can relocate him from the community,” Ojoawo adds.
Comrade Rotimi Oluomo, Oyo state OPC Coordinator added to the above submission. He put the figure of Amotekun officials on the operation to at least 200. Already, some of the 150 members of the OPC integrated into Amotekun were also part of the team.
Still, Oluomo said they could not enter Wakili’s premises purportedly because they were allegedly not instructed until it became worse. The OPC members had to independently intervene under the authority of the Aare Ona kakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams. Since then, until the visit, the herders have instructed the locals to stay away from Alagba market or bear the consequences.
But, Ojoawo will annually plant Maize, Cassava, and Cucumber from which he uses the proceeds to meet his family demands. His maize plantation alone covers 15 acres of land while the cucumber farm is as big as 10 acres. He cultivates the same farm size during the last season but lost everything to the herders. He currently has no harvest.
“I complained but the herders referred me to Seriki Salihu. He said Salihu would meet me in court, and when I went with them to their settlement, Salihu said we should meet in Abuja but I can’t match them financially. So, I left everything to God. Still, they have grabbed the land and built on it.”
Meanwhile, Ayete Divisional Police Command could not provide any information on the concerns including the reported rape cases as the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) is said to have travelled out of town. His deputy did not provide any details as he says he is not authorised to speak. He refuses to share the DPO’s contact. However, Olugbenga Fadeyi, the state former police spokesperson acknowledges the case of the shot officer. He says the locals did not report an issue of rape to the Commissioner when she visited. He did not provide an exact figure of reported cases of rape from the affected communities but those, “already submitted are being looked into.”
“We are treating them one after the other. I can’t give you a specific figure now,” he told The ICIR.
Exclusive video of Ojoawo Jamiu
How the crisis started
Kajola and several other terrified Oyo communities have been in the news, mainly, since Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Sunday Igboho visited Igangan community to oust Saliu Abdulkadir, the Seriki of Fulani in the state. This was due to criminalities such as kidnapping, rape, and assault allegedly perpetrated by the herders. Igboho’s action followed a seven-day ultimatum to the Fulanis to vacate Ibarapaland.
But after Abdukadir’s exit, Wakili’s reign of terror became pronounced. When he was finally arrested on Sunday, March 7, the crisis in the community worsened, leading to the arrest of Awodele Adedigba, 45; Dauda Kazeem, 38; and Hassan Ramon, 33. Though they were released on bail two days after, the controversy took a new twist on Wednesday, March 19, when the detained OPC members got remanded at the Abolongo Correctional Centre for alleged arson. Efforts to secure their release failed. They were remanded on the order of Chief Magistrate at Iyaganku Magistrate Court Olaide Hamzat for conspiracy, murder, and arson. The OPC members were fingered in the death of a woman who died during Wakili’s arrest.
Since then, the incident has stoked tension in the Southwest, leading people to query the rationale behind the arrest and subsequent prosecution. The people view the accused OPC members as Messiahs, who should be celebrated rather than being persecuted.
Overwhelmed by fear of reprisal attack, occupants of the attacked communities have vacated their homes and relocated to nearby towns in Eruwa, Ayete and Igboor where they can no longer farm.
Wakili’s ‘boys’ behind atrocities of rape, kidnapping, assaults, say Kajola’s residents
Contrary to popular belief, The ICIR‘s check shows that Wakili’ is not directly involved in the atrocities committed, due to his old age, health status, and failing sight but his sons, and allies. Some of the persons interviewed at different locations allege the accused persons were working under instructions of the aged man. ‘Iche’, a man identified as Wakili’s brother, has since taken over the mantle after Wakili’s arrest.
In Kajola, where the villagers mostly complained about rape, destruction of farmlands, cause of bodily harm, among other threats. The group of villagers identified some individuals accused of the atrocities.
At least eight names were mentioned to The ICIR. They include Isiaka Wakili identified as Wakili’s sibling ‘Iche’. Others are Saleh Wakili, Babangida Wakili, Yakubu Wakili, Samaila Wakili and Buderi Wakili and Laolo Wakili.
Beyond the identified persons, the locals also recognise eight wives of Wakili, four of whom are deceased while four others are alive. They list Yayache Wakili as one of those still alive.
Tijani Seekenat, who had lived in Kajola for more than two years recalled how she lost her mum over the same problem when her farm was destroyed. She alluded to the claims that Wakili’s children were responsible for the atrocities. She and her 70-year-old father identify Wakili and affirmed his identity through a viral video, played back by The ICIR, showing Wakili’s arrest during the OPC’s intervention.
Tijani, now a mother of three further recognises one Abu in the same footage. He narrates how one of Wakili’s sons was caught on her mother’s three acres of farmland. “He was apprehended on the farm and taken to Wakili but after much argument, Wakili asked his son if he was responsible for the farm destruction, the boy answered no, and that was the end.”
Besides, checks by The ICIR further reveal that among those mentioned by the communities, at least two names – Abu and Samaila surfaced. They were charged with Wakili for murder, kidnapping, conspiracy, and armed robbery, and eventually remanded by the Magistrate Court, Ibadan.
Wakili lived in Kajola for 18 years, illegally amassed acres of land without consent – Chief Odomofin
Chief Saubana Oyewole, the Odomofin of Ayeteland has been the custodian of Kajola community and adjoining villages for decades. His great grandparents own Kajola community, and for 60 years, he farmed on the land with his children and grandchildren. Most times, he will spend months at the farm settlement cultivating major crops, after which he returns to Ayete to take a break, and then return to the farm.
Sadly, he is at the centre of the crisis. He meets Wakili on several occasions and he admits Wakili also paid him a visit in Ayete. As such, he is being accused of selling the land occupied by the herders to Wakili. So, he is blamed for the chaos confronting the entire communities. But, he has vehemently denied the allegation, saying he was not consulted before Wakili took over the land just behind his farm.
“I’m just tired of the problems,” Odomofin says, and paused.
It was 18 years ago. Oyewole was on his farm when his attention was called to a settlement just behind his farmland. So, he approached the person and found out it was Wakili.
“I challenged him but he said God owns all lands.” Yes, God owns all lands but he made people custodians, he tells Wakili, in his response. Strangers should at least seek permission before taking over peoples’ lands, he adds.
The herder would later agree to pay some due for the land but Oyewole says, since then, Wakili paid no dime. He had to swear before the deity before his community believed his innocence.
In 2018, he recalls how Wakili was summoned to court for trespassing over the land. He was charged to the State High Court of Justice, Igboora, while Wakili also got his lawyer. Eventually, Oyewole was advised by the presiding judge to settle the case out of court due to the lingering crisis. Both lawyers agree to an out-of-court settlement, while Oyewole is to secure another land for Wakili.
“We got another land, took him there but he refused to go, inflicting more hardship on the people.”
According to Odomofin, at some point, his people were buying farm produce from Wakili’s men because farmlands belonging to the locals were destroyed through cattle grazing. The aged man challenged The ICIR to visit nearby streets, approach the locals to verify his assertions.
Nevertheless, Wakili refutes all the allegations.
The Wakili I know – exiled Seriki of Fulani
Despite several accusations against the Fulani communities in Ibarapa-North LGA, getting the side of Wakili proves difficult. No civilians dare access ‘Gaa Wakili’, mainly since the OPC arrested him. But, the residents of Kajola say from the community to Wakili’s settlement is about 1 kilometre apart.
To reach out to at least a trusted relative of Wakili, The ICIR contacted Alhassan Saleh, Secretary-General of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore Fulani Association. He promised to reach out to some individuals within the area and revert, but he is yet to share the contacts as of the time of filing this report.
Ibrahim Jaji, Oyo State Chairman of the Fulani socio-cultural association was contacted severally but remained unreachable.
Mustapha Modibo, secretary of the association in Oyo state initially agreed to grant an interview but subsequently rejected repeated calls to his line. Text messages sent to his line were not returned.
Abdulkadir, the ousted Seriki of Igangan, eventually agreed to speak via phone interview on Thursday, March 18.
“Yes, I can confirm that Bororo raped a girl in Igangan. That, I know. And when it happened and I was told, I traced him and he was arrested and taken to the police,” says Abdulkadir. The Fulani leader says the rapist was further transferred to the criminal investigation department (CID), from which he was remanded.
That was one of the cases he recalled. Beyond that, Abdulkadir recognises Wakili but he could not make a categorical statement on the alleged atrocities levelled against him. Nevertheless, he said he made attempts to ensure Wakili lives harmoniously with the people, especially in advice to meet with Oyewole.
Proposing a lasting solution, he says the federal government should promote peace by persuading the locals to embrace other ethnic groups. He also called for fairness.
“I heard a farmer was killed today,” he states further. “This kind of thing should not persist. Whoever committed crime should be arrested and punished.”
Rivalry between OPC and Amotekun poses concerns
The ICIR finds that there is a silent rivalry between the Amotekun group and the OPC. Though Amotekun comprises individuals from the public, Agbekoya, local hunters, and selected OPC members, there is a level of distrust on performance and credibility of the state-formed security outfit.
Amotekun is a product of the South-West governors. A regional intervention aimed to nip the growing state of insecurity, especially kidnapping in the southwest region. It is backed by the laws of each participating state, and meant to complement the efforts of the conventional police.
On the other side, the OPC had existed for decades. Popular among people of the southwest, it is rooted across the local governments and wards, just as Amotekun. And recognised for its metaphysical powers, but not recognised by the State laws from which it operates.
Meanwhile, on-ground findings reveal much was expected from Amotekun, especially during the crisis. “Amotekun only procrastinated to enter Wakili’s settlement. Eventually, they spent five days without effecting an arrest. We were never informed,” says Oluomo, the Oyo state coordinator of the OPC.
His members within Ayete, Ibarapa decries failure of Amotekun, and the persistent attacks days after Amotekun’s withdrawal.
“Our members complained to us, and since the Police and Amotekun could not do anything, we informed Chief Gani Adams, and we got his instruction to make the arrest,” says Oluomo, while explaining the rationale for the arrest.
He told The ICIR that even if Amotekun had invited the OPC, the arrest might be unsuccessful due to the different calibre of persons who comprise the group. Not all intelligent information could be shared with Amotekun due to possible sell-out, he notes.
“There are ordinary people in Amotekun, and you can’t be certain of their antecedents. There are moles within the Yoruba tribe. And when the OPC was invited, they only gave us slots for 150 people. Kazeem Akinro, the second in command of Amotekun, is also our member. So, we cannot divulge all our intelligent information.”
On the alleged murder, arson, he says scores of Wakili’s boys returned to the site after Wakili’s arrest to set the houses ablaze.
In his argument, Wakili’s boys initiated gunshots before the arrest while his members, through a supposed supernatural power, got shielded from the shots, until they were forced to retaliate.
“Didn’t the Fulanis shoot at us,” Oluomo asks rhetorically?
“They had AK 47s and they were shooting. It is from their gunshots the woman was killed. If it were to be the Police that visited, won’t they shoot when attacked?”
He insists on his argument highlighting an incident of reprisal attack in Igijan, still within Ibarapa, where four persons were reportedly killed and houses set ablaze. He identifies one of the victims as Okanlawon. “Will you also blame the OPC for that incident?”
Still, Oluomo expresses hope that justice would prevail on the accused OPC members. He also exonerates them of the allegations.
Olayanju Olayinka, state coordinator of Amotekun, earlier accused the OPC of conducting an independent arrest without their involvement. The retired Colonel also justifies why his team could not penetrate Wakili’s settlement saying their job was to complement the police, as they “don’t just carry out operations.”
The OPC, however, advised the need for all security operatives to work in collaboration, as the Police cannot unilaterally guarantee the safety of the people, especially at the grassroots. The Police, he suggests, would need intelligent information from the OPC, Agbekoya, local hunters, and ordinary members of the communities.
“The police are reluctant to enter the forest, yet that remains the abode of these criminals,” says Oluomo as he offers sustainable solutions. In his narration, he was quick to add how he was contacted two days to the interview regarding the abduction of some persons along Ibadan – Ijebu-Ode road.
“…And they have been on the search for 15 days. A relative of those declared missing, who is a DPO, have also called to inform me that the police will join the OPC to search for the missing persons in the forest. So, this is how things should be,” he says affirming the need for cooperation.
For two days, March 18 and 19, The ICIR attempted to visit Fadeyi, the state police spokesperson to verify evidence used against all those accused including the rationale behind the arrest of the OPC members.
But, he simply says the matter is in court.
He says Wakili has been remanded and, thereafter, vows not to disclose further information on the incident. He denies all of the reporter’s findings, even when The ICIR offers to provide footages, photographs including multiple interviews conducted.
“The current concerns have been submitted to the CID. Even those that happened years back, they (villagers) have been told to itemise them and submit to the CID,” says Fadeyi. “Police formation has been dispatched to protect the people, and we have encouraged them to report any case to the nearest police station.”
He concludes by assuring the people of safety and advises the locals to, henceforth, officially submit their grievances to the police with valid proofs to pursue their case effectively.
Taiwo Adisa, Chief Press Secretary to Seyi Makinde, the state governor, did not respond to calls and text message sent to him. He was also not available when visited at his office. But, Makinde had earlier assured the people of justice and advised against ethnic profiling.
“Anyone that is found wanting or that has broken the law, irrespective of their ethnic background or their religion, will be dealt with by the law of the land,” he had said.
Expert advocates peacebuilding efforts, intelligence gathering
Timothy Avele, a security expert, accused the government and security operatives of shortage of workforce. He also called for deliberate peace-building efforts with active participation of the governments and respected individuals – Obas, Emirs, Senators including local and grassroots mobilisers to restore confidence among the various tribes.
“Bad eggs among the settlers engaging in these criminal activities must be fished out and handled legally.”
Beyond this, he asked state and local governments to be proactive when there is a disagreement between both parties. He said there is a need to set up crisis intelligence monitoring groups.
“Finally, I am of the view that the government should help cool tempers by releasing those suspects from remand and pay for damages.”
On a national scale, he believes Nigeria can only breathe fresh air once actionable intelligence is put at the forefront, supported with modern technologies such as enterprise drones, cybernetics capabilities, recruitment, and training of more intelligence analysts including taking officers welfare as a top priority and restructuring the various intelligence agencies.