On Friday, December 11, prominent politician and farmer, Fatai Aborode, left his farm along Apodun village, Ibarapa North Local Government Area of Oyo State, around 4 pm in the company of his wife, manager, and a commercial motorcyclist. But he never got home.
Few minutes after they left his farm on two motorbikes, they were attacked by suspected herdsmen who hacked him severally with a machete as his wife watched helplessly. His manager, Bolanle Olanrewaju, managed to escape and call for help.
But by the time people arrived at the scene, the assailants had escaped. Aborode breathed his last while being rushed to the nearest hospital.
Reacting to Aborode’s death, a 2019 gubernatorial candidate in Oyo State, Olufemi Lanlehin, described it as “a tale too sour to swallow.”
In the weeks that followed Aborode’s murder, the number of tales too sour to swallow in the Ibarapa region has continued to rise as residents now wake up daily not knowing who is next.
While the entire Ibarapa zone is on the edge, two local government areas, Ibarapa North and Ibarapa Central are the hotspots of the crisis.
An Atmosphere Of Fear And Uncertainty
Residents of towns like Idere, Igangan and Tapa, Igbo-Ora, and Ayete in the two local government areas live in an atmosphere of fear.
According to residents, the trend of killings and kidnappings by unknown gunmen has existed for years but the recent cases can be traced to the failure of many police officers to return to their duty post following the End SARS protests that rocked the nation last year.
Residents, who spoke with HumAngle, insisted that the perpetrators of these crimes were herdsmen, noting that released victims all claimed their abductors spoke Hausa and other languages asides Yoruba.
“Idere town is one of the deadliest places to live in Ibarapa at the moment,” the National President of Ibarapa Students, Ogunjobi Dimeji, told HumAngle. “We don’t know the next person that will be kidnapped or killed as I talk to you.”
Dimeji, who resides in Idere town, explained that people outside the zone don’t travel there again and those who still come to sneak in.
“Ever since the recent cases, I have not set my eyes on any police officer. Ever since End SARS, police officers have not fully resumed their duty post till today. Some people that have alternatives have moved out, those of us who have no alternative continue to live in panic. We are in a state of dilemma and we don’t know what to do.”
While panicking residents now prefer to remain indoors, the recent shutdown of filling stations has compounded residents’ plights. A litre of petrol in the black market now costs N500 and transport fares have increased by at least 100 per cent.
On December 31, 2019, Ogunshola Femi, a resident of Eruwa town in Ibarapa East local government area, went for an event at Apati, another community in the zone but he was scared of returning home over fears that he would either be kidnapped or killed.
“I was able to return home only because I have always believed that no matter what happens, I will always be at my hometown on the last day of the year,” Ogunshola said with an emphasis that showed his decision to embark on that journey was against logic.
Like other residents who spoke with HumAngle, Ogunshola noted that the failure of police officers to resume work fully over the last three months was a major factor behind the recent spike in insecurity.
“Despite the current state of things, I travelled from Idere to Eruwa on my motorbike, a journey of over an hour, but I did not meet a single police officer till I got there. I was shocked because about three months ago before the End SARS protests, it was not like this,” he said.
“All these towns are linked and there are a lot of bushes but there is no security apparatus there. Amotekun officers do not even have the weapons to face these people and it’s like police officers are on recess.”
We Are Not Folding Our Arms — Police
The Police Public Relations Officer in Oyo State, Olugbenga Fadeyi, says the state command is fully on top of the insecurity in the Ibarapa zone of the state.
Fadeyi, in a telephone interview with HumAngle, explains that the police force invites critical stakeholders from the zone regularly to sensitise and collaborate with them.
“The Hausa, Fulani people and all those cattle rearers, we call them to the police headquarters from time to time and we have been relating with them,” he said.
Speaking further, Fadeyi revealed that the perpetrators of criminal acts were people who infiltrated the communities in the zone. To solve this, he noted that leaders of the Hausa and Fulani communities have been sensitised “on the need to be very careful and give credible information to the police from time to time and do a kind of check on who are those that are there that are not a part of them so that we can know those that are infiltrating.”
He also noted that the police force is collaborating with other security agencies and vigilantes because of their in-depth knowledge of the terrain in these communities, especially bushes, where these herdsmen surface from and disappear into.
“Not that alone, we are rejigging our security architecture. We have our men all around. We have all these police constabularies now that are being deployed around. Newly passed out police constabularies who are deployed from that axis. After training, we return them to the place. They are majorly to give police credible intelligence because they know their area very well on who and who those people are.”
He also described as untrue allegations from multiple residents that police officers have not resumed to work in the area since the End SARS protests that rocked the country last year.
He noted that the Inspector General of Police visited Oyo State and he sensitised police officers on the need to return to work.
“Our men are fully back to work,” he insisted. “What we need is that the communities themselves should collaborate with the police by making sure they give us credible information from time to time so that we can clamp down on criminals in that area and we strongly believe God will help us.”