Herdsmen invade Ondo, sack LG secretariat

Couples abandon wedding ceremonies, workers flee

Our people may result to self-help –Monarch

Like a scene from Hollywood movie, armed men believed to be Fulani herdsmen yesterday invaded Akure South Local Government Secretariat in Akure, the Ondo State capital, sacked the workers and paralysed activities.

This came as the paramount ruler of Akure, the Deji of Akure, Oba Aladetoyinbo Ogunlade Aladelusi, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to call his men to order to prevent reprisal by his subjects. Civil servants, political appointees and guests took to their heels on seeing about 30 machete-wielding herdsmen who invaded the secretariat through a bush path. Some about-to-wed couples abandoned the engagement ceremonies and ran for safety on seeing the herdsmen who stormed the secretariat with different dangerous weapons. The grooms and brides ran in different directions and abandoned the venue of the wedding ceremonies that were taking place in one of the halls in the secretariat.

The officiating ministers and the cultural troupe ran helterskelter on seeing the herdsmen in the secretariat. The herdsmen invaded the council secretariat from the back gate that leads to a swampy area being cultivated by some workers of the local government.

The crisis, according to workers, started when a worker in the Agriculture Department, Mr. Simon Johnson, resisted grazing on his vegetable farm behind the council secretariat. Johnson was said to have told one of the herders grazing on his farm to leave and move to another place.

The source said: “This led to an argument between them. The Fulani herdsman left the scene to mobilise his friends to attack the council. In the process, the herdsmen attacked two of the workers with machetes.”

While running into safety, several workers, guests of the couples and political office holders sustained various degrees of injury.

Workers who fled their respective offices vowed not to return until their security can be guaranteed. The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Gbenga Adeyanju, who led policemen to the secretariat to assess the situation, said no arrest had been made.

Adeyanju also led the Commander of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Mr. Pedro Awili Ideba, to curtail the situation.

The Local Government Chairman, Mrs. Margret Atere, who confirmed the story, described the incident as unfortunate as Fulani herdsmen had been grazing in the area for a while. She, however, said the local government secretariat would not be closed because of the incident.

The chairman said the workers only marched to the gate to protest what happened and work would resume immediately. Atere, however, called for dialogue between the herdsmen and the officials of the council to give room for peace and to avoid fur ther occurrence of the incident. She commended the security agencies over their prompt response to the herdsmen’s invasion.

The Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mrs. Bosede Daramola, said the workers would return to their workplace if their safety was guaranteed. According to her, some workers were injured in the process of running into safety and since there was water and vegetables in the area, the herdsmen would always return.

Mr. Oluwasegun Ajiboye, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, said the governor had summoned security meeting to access the security in the state. Oba Aladelusi, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Mr. Michael Adeyeye, said any other attack might incur the wrath of the people.

Reacting to the invasion of Akure South Local Government Area secretariat, the monarch condemned the activities of the herdsmen who overran the council and equally destroyed the farm belonging to the council.

Aladelusi described the invasion as barbaric, provocative and an attempt to stir up trouble in the peaceful city of Akure. The traditional ruler wondered why the herdsmen would have chosen to lead their cattle to graze on the farmland belonging to the council if not an attempt to create crisis in town.

He said: “The herdsmen went as far as injuring workers of the council who had made frantic efforts to prevent the wanton destruction carried out on the farm. “It is sad to say that no major arrest or prosecution had been made by the police since the attack on Chief Olu Falae’s farm, now the arsonists who parade themselves as herdsmen target the local government as their next port of call.” Adeyeye said: “His Majesty wishes to call on President Buhari not to treat the issue of these notorious herdsmen with kid gloves as their activities are becoming worrisome and unbearable. Akure people can no longer tolerate the excesses of these herdsmen who are now making live unbearable with their nefarious attitudes.

“Oba Aladetoyinbo wishes to make passionate appeal to the State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who is the Chief Security Officer of the state, to take proactive measure in curbing the menace. “His Majesty wishes to call on the Inspector-General of Police, the Commissioner of Police and all the security agencies to take more decisive action and ensure that the arsonists are brought to justice. “It is important to act now to avoid self-defence by our people once we are left with no option.”