Residents of Ibarapa area of Oyo State have lost sleep despite the arrest of Iskilu Wakili, said to be a dreaded warlord terrorising the area. Dwellers in Ibarapaland have been suffering attacks at the hands of killer herders who destroyed their farmlands with cattle, raped, killed and kidnapped many for ransom. Farmers are said to be the worst hit as those in communities such as Ayete, Igangan, Idere, Igboora, Tapa, Lanlate and Eruwa have harrowing tales to tell.
The development led a Yoruba activist, Chief Sunday Adeyemo, popularly called Sunday Igboho to issue a seven-day notice to quit to Fulani herders in the area. Upon the expiration of the order, he went to Igangan. After he left, a mob reportedly torched the settlement of the Seriki Fulani of Igangan, Salihu Abdulkadir, accused by villagers of aiding several herders’ atrocities in the area.
But after chasing Abdulkadir out of the area, the battle appeared to have just begun as villagers noted that Wakili’s presence in the communities was dangerous to them. This much was affirmed by one of the children of the Seriki who reportedly posted on his Facebook page that the Fulani would return to wreak more havoc after lgboho left the communities. He was said to have added that Wakili was powerful.
Saturday PUNCH noted that many had the impression that Wakili is a young man whereas he’s an old Fulani man accused of making life unbearable for the villagers in cahoots with his children and family members.
After the Seriki fled, it seemed the intensity of havoc in the area increased. The Asawo of Ayete, Oba Emmanuel Okeniyi, told our correspondent that he was told that Wakili invited more armed Fulani to his (Wakili’s) settlement in Kajola village to continue his alleged atrocious acts.
Some farmers who spoke with Saturday PUNCH said Wakili used a red cloth to isolate a point where nobody dared pass in the settlement amid claims that he didn’t buy the about 400 acres of land housing his huts and farms. The farmers said they had pleaded with the security agents to flush out Wakili but were told that no government security agent went inside his settlement to challenge him. They noted that when the state governor, Seyi Makinde, visited some communities in Ibarapaland, they expected the governor to visit the place with his security but that didn’t happen. They also said the Amotekun Corps deployed in the area only stayed at the local government secretariat in Ayete and had never gone to Kajola area where Wakili and his men occupied.
Some of those who owned farms at Kajola, Dagbere, Konko, Baba Pupa, Afunnije and other areas said they couldn’t access their farms. They said the bold ones among them went in groups occasionally to pick a few things and return home.
It was learnt that some men from Odomofin compound once went to Kajola to serve Wakili a notice to quit but were allegedly attacked by Wakili’s men and fled for dear lives, leaving behind motorcycles which they said were allegedly destroyed by Wakili’s armed men.
The villagers thus resigned to fate until news filtered into Ayete and other Ibarapa communities on Sunday that the members of the Aare Ona Kakanfo, Gani Adams-led Oodua Peoples Congress captured the dreaded warlord. Their joy was however short-lived when they learnt that the OPC members were arrested by the police for capturing Wakili. They have, however, been released.
It was gathered that during the arrest of Wakili and his two sons, the OPC men were attacked by Wakili’s men but they were able to overpower them and carried out the arrests.
But speaking with journalists in Ibadan on Monday, Wakili said he was not a kidnapper and had no criminal record anywhere. He debunked allegations against him and challenged whoever had evidence against him to come forward with it.
Wakili, who the police said was taken to a hospital immediately he was handed over to them by the OPC men, said he went to Iparaku, Benin Republic on March 1 to treat an ailment and he returned to his base five days after.
He said, “Two days after my return from the hospital, I lay down because I was ill and suddenly some women rushed in and shouted that some OPC men were searching for me. I told them to run but I could not run because I was sick. Two men later came and picked me from where I lay. They threw me into their vehicle in my naked state. I fainted many times before they drove me to the police station in Igbo Ora. From there, they took me to Ibadan.
“I am not a criminal. My children are not criminals. I don’t know anything about kidnapping or any crime. I have many cows and I know they stray into farms at times but I don’t have a criminal record anywhere and this can be investigated. After they took me away from my home, a woman was killed. Sometimes last year, two of my children were kidnapped and I paid millions of naira as ransom before they were released. I am not a kidnapper.”
However, residents of Ayete and other villages in the area told our correspondent during a visit to Ayete on Wednesday that some of Wakili’s armed men who escaped the OPC raid had allegedly started attacking villages and farms, killing innocent people and destroying farms and other property to retaliate their leader’s arrest.
Though Wakili is in police custody, some of the farmers still live in awe of him and his men. Many of them recounted how their farms were destroyed. They spoke on condition of anonymity, expressing fears that Wakili might be released and would return to the area to continue what they described as his ‘criminal activities.’
Some teachers also told our correspondent that teachers and pupils have been asked to stop attending schools such as NBS, Sangodare, Ayete; L.A. School and Oke Arinsa. Two teachers who spoke on condition of anonymity said the government might redeploy them to some other schools and relocate the pupils to schools in other areas considered safe.
One of the men who took the notice to quit message to Wakili from Odomofin compound, Ganiyu Oyerinde, claimed that Wakili’s men shot at him and two others, adding that the bullets didn’t penetrate their bodies because they were at the time, “chewing kola nuts which our forefathers gave us to eat in such a situation.”
He added, “Three of us went to the settlement to give them the letter. I told others that they could not attack us while there but they might do so when we were leaving. Immediately we turned to leave, they fired at us but I thank God that we didn’t die. We ran because if bullets didn’t have any effects on us they could catch up with us and use other means to attack us.
“We didn’t go there with guns or any other weapons, so we had to run. But they vandalised seven motorcycles belonging to some of those who followed us and stood at a distance. We later mobilised and returned to retrieve the motorcycles for repairs.”
Oyerinde also said nobody sold the land Wakili was occupying to him, adding that he exploited the villagers’ hospitality to take over the land, presumably became a terror and started oppressing them.
He said, “Nobody sold the land to him. He just came and settled there and when we asked him where he came from, he said the land belonged to God. We felt we could still allow him to occupy part of it. But he has now turned himself to the landlord there. He cannot do that. He mustn’t return there. His return will be dangerous for the villages. We don’t want him. He should go to his birthplace.
“We earlier made the move to evict him and because we do not want to do anything against the law, we dragged him to the high court at Igbo Ora. The judge who presided over the matter said he should leave and we should give him another land. We were shocked to hear that but even at that, Wakili has refused to vacate the land. The Odomofin land, part of which he is occupying, is 720 acres. We will not allow a stranger to chase us away from our ancestral land.’’
Oyerinde said some of the villagers were really not afraid of Wakili and other Fulani, but only being careful not to be against the law, adding that but for that they would have ejected trouble-makers from Ibarapaland.
He added, “The partiality from the top is evident to everybody, so we don’t want to use force. What evidence do the police need to prosecute him? He and his men attacked our people, raped and robbed them. They destroyed farms and continued doing that. We used to report their atrocities to the police but the police are biased. They would detain complainants and money would be used to secure complainants’ release. That is why we concluded that the police are against us and supporting the herdsmen. About four years ago, a case was reported and two policemen went to the Fulani settlement over the matter. One of the policemen popularly called pastor was killed. He was not shot dead. He was tied and murdered.”
A popular farmer in the area, Mr Taiwo Adeagbo, who is popularly known as Akowe Agbe, said Wakili and the then Seriki Fulani worked together. Adeagbo accused the duo of engaging in the destruction of farms among other criminal activities.
Adeagbo said, “Wakili’s sons grazed their cattle on a water melon farm. The case was reported to the police and on Tuesday October 20, 2015, the cop, Akinwale Akanfe, was killed at Kajola via Ayete. The policeman was among those that went to investigate the case. He was tied and slaughtered like a cow.
“Also, 25-year-old Balogun Oluduro, and his 60-year-old father Olukosi Oluduro were mercilessly matcheted at night in Kajola, on February 14, 2015. On August 23, 2019, one Ganiyu Nurudeen was killed at ldi-emi, Kajola by the killer gang.
“On March 29, 2015, two herdsmen snatched a motorcycle at Kajola. The motorcycle belonged to one Muraina Ogungbenro, an indigene of Ayete. The second day, the motorcycle was taken to a younger brother of the owner for repairs and that led to their arrest. It was the then Seriki Fulani who went to the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, secured their release and returned them to the lbarapa North Local Government Area. After their return, they became more vicious. It was not long after that Ogungbenro was maimed on his farm at Ominigbo village via lgangan, in 2015.”
A young farmer, Saheed Jimoh, has scars on his head and shoulders. He said the scars constantly reminded him that he would have been dead for long but for God’s mercy.
Narrating how he got the scars, he said was furious in January 2020 when he got to his farm at Baba Pupa and saw cows eating the crops he hoped to sell and use the money to buy some things.
He said, “I got to the farm that day and saw cows destroying my cassava. Wakili’s children brought the cows there and I asked them why they did that. They became angry that I had the courage to challenge them. They brought out cutlasses and attacked me. I was the only one on the farm that day. I screamed but nobody helped me. I fainted and they left thinking I had died.
“I stood up later and staggered towards the road until I met some people who took me to the hospital. I spent about four months at a private hospital at Tapa. I thought I would die but God saved me. I have started farming again because I don’t have anything else to do. On Monday, some Fulani went to our buildings in the village and set fire to them. I don’t think there is anything left on the farm now. I am happy to be alive because a dead man has no hope. Wakili’s return to the area will restart fresh oppression of the villagers. They have carried out many bad acts in the area.’’
Also, narrating her ordeal at the hands of those he described as Wakilu’s men, a 70-year-old woman, Funmilayo Biliaminu, who buys cashew nuts from farmers in Ibarapaland, said herders attacked two of her daughters on their farm. She insisted that the herdsmen were Wakilu’s men.
Biliaminu said, “My daughters are victims of the man’s wickedness. His men attacked my two daughters on the farm and robbed each of them. They are not the only ones. That woman there is a chemist and also buys cashew and cocoa (Pointing to a woman nearby who refused to talk for fear of molestation, Wakili’s men went to Afunnije where she owns a store and destroyed her freezer, poured salt in her generator, stole 10 big bags of cashew nuts, two bags of cocoa and looted her drug store. Those who went to her store to help her pack returned with drugs that could hardly fill one of her palms. I don’t think such a man should return to the communities to continue criminal acts with his gang.”
Another villager, Zainab Williams, also told our correspondent that her farm was destroyed before the crops on it were ready for harvest.
She said, “I am hungry now. I have not eaten anything today (Friday) because I don’t have food or money to buy it. My farm was completely destroyed. I spent over N200, 000 apart from my labour and everything is gone. They are wicked people and have rendered many farmers in the area useless.”
The current Odomofin of Ayete, Chief Saubana Oyewole, also said the family didn’t give any land to Wakili. He further said that though he wasn’t a victim of Wakili’s alleged atrocities, he had been inundated with tales of his acts by his victims.
He said, “Wakili came to this place about 18 years ago and has been claiming that God is the owner of the land. I agree with him but the same God put some people in charge of the land. Is God not the owner of the land in the North? Why can’t he go there and occupy the land there. We took him to court and the judge advised us to settle the case amicably because of the herdsmen crisis which was at its peak then. The judge said we should give him another place but Wakili has refused to leave where he is.
“He is a pain to our people. They would farm and he and his children would not allow them to harvest what they laboured for. His cows were usually taken to farms to eat up crops. But on farms owned by the Fulani, they hardly allow cattle to graze there. That is the irony of the whole thing. Food is expensive now. If farmers are hungry here, what do you think will happen in the cities?’’
The Odomofin of Ayete said a meeting was held in Ayete on Tuesday and the elders unanimously agreed that Wakili should not be allowed to return to the area.
He stated, “The people are tired of him and I stand by their decision. He cannot come here and be causing pains to our people. I don’t have a farm that he can destroy. I am an old man but the farmers are hungry. They cannot go to their farms because of fear of being raped, maimed or killed. For how long are we going to be subjected to this kind or horrible experience from one man and his children?”
When contacted by our correspondent, the spokesperson for the police in the state, Mr Olugbenga Fadeyi, said he was not aware of the killing of a policeman in Ibarapaland. Fadeyi said he was not the state police spokesperson in 2015 when the policeman was allegedly killed and thus couldn’t comment on it.
He also denied the allegation of partiality against the police by the Ibarapa indigenes. Fadeyi added that it was unfortunate that some persons could still be claiming that the police were biased despite efforts to ensure safety of all ethnic, religious and social groups anywhere in the state.
He said, “The first thing is that I am not aware of the killing of the policeman you said. I was not the PPRO in 2015 and I am not aware that such an incident happened.
“Some people do not see anything good in whatever the police do. Police work every day and every night to ensure the people are safe. But it is unfortunate that despite the efforts to secure the lives and property of the people, they still come up with this kind of allegation. But despite that we will not relent, we will continue to do our best to secure the lives and property of law-abiding people. That is our duty and we will not relent.
“We have said that anybody who has any complaints against Wakili should come forward and we will investigate them one after the other. This is the time for them to come up with their complaints against the man rather than claiming that the police are biased. We will not rush to charge the man to court. People should come out if they know he has done anything bad to them.’’
He reiterated that the police were not impartial and wouldn’t support one group against the other, adding that they would continue to work according to the constitution and the Police Act.