Ekiti communities write Tinubu, Oyebanji, calls for protection from armed groups

By Samuel Ogunsona

Host communities where two traditional leaders were killed late January have, for the first time spoken on their plight.

In letters addressed to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Ekiti State Governor, Abiodun Oyebanji, the communities expressed their deep feelings on the lingering problems of mostly unreported killings and kidnapping that have held the people captive for close to one decade.

Under the auspices of Ekamefa Peoples Congress, (EPEC) the six ancient communities of Iyemero, Irele, Oke-Ako, Itapaji, Ipao and Ijowa Ekiti said the killings of the three traditional rulers only brought to national limelight the dark atmosphere of insecurity that descended on the communities many years ago unabated.
‘We wish to express our gratitude for your condolences. While there has been various responses and condolences, it is important to also listen the voices of the communities affected by the savage killings.These are our voices from the real victims-our true feelings, the cry of the people that live in these communities, who feel the pain, the anguish and the flow of innocent, royal blood’ the six communities said.

The letter with the heading MURDER, KIDNAPPING AND THE CONTINOUS TERROR SIEGE AND THREAT TO LIVELIHOOD IN EKAMEFA COMMUNITIES OF EKITI STATE’ was signed by Evangelist Sam Bello (Irele Ekiti); Mr Jacob Erinfolami (Itapaji Ekiti); Mr Samuel Medayedupin (Ijowa-Ekiti); Mr Femi Bodunde (Oke-Ako Ekiti); Mr James Odeleye (Iyemero Ekiti) and Mr Ige Oluwasegun (Ipao-Ekiti).
For immediate solututio to armed banditry in the area, the congress called for the establishment of one police station each in Iyemero, Itapaji, Ipao, Oke-Ako, Irele and Ijowa Ekiti, special consideration for indigenes of Ekamefa recruitment in the proposed Community Policing system,Security Outposts to be cited in all the border towns of Iyemero, Ijowa and Irele Ekiti, the provision of patrol vehicles for our local hunters to enable them perform effectively and the building of Hunters’ Outposts supplied with Day and Night Vision googles to detect intruding armed groups for prompt SIGNAL TO the necessary security operatives.
They also called for the reconstruction of the Irele-Ayedun, Ijowa-Ogbe road, Itapaji-Oke Ako road and Itapaji-Iyemero-Eruku road to checkmate the menace of terrorists who are fast building strategic cells in this very important forest.

‘As we write to your sir, our heart is broken, our eyes are weary and full of tears; our shoulder is heavy with a huge burden that you are capable to lift’ the communities said. EPEC said Ekamefa communities have existed for over 900 years, the community where two traditional rulers, the Elesun of Esun-Ekiti, His Royal Highness, Oba David Ogunsakin and the Onimojo of Imojo, His Royal Highness Oba (Dr) Olatunde Olusola were killed on Monday, January 29, 2024. The third traditional ruler, His Royal Highness, Alara of Ara Ekiti, Oba Adebayo Fatoba escaped from the kidnappers.’

The communities said few days later on Thursday February 01 another Oba, the traditional ruler of Koro, General Segun Aremu-Cole (rtd) was killed right in his palace. Koro, though in Kwara State is located in the same vicinity as Ekamefa communities. This represents one of the saddest moments in Nigeria history. The congress said the killing of the three Obas in the same area was not the first time that lives have been lost constantly in the area in the past 10 years. ‘In the past years, our people have encountered armed banditry on a constant scale.

Sometimes, women, children, old and defenceless people are attacked almost on a daily basis. Last year alone, at least there were no fewer than 15 cases of either abduction, murder or violent attacks by armed groups whose identities indicate that they are not from the South West region’ the congress said. It noted that in the year 2021, a member of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Hon Rafiu and his friend Jacob Olugbade who hail from Ipao Ekiti were kidnapped on their way to Abuja; Rafiu later died after his release by the abductors. Earlier, a female proprietor of an Ethanol factory at Itapaji was kidnapped in 2019 and held captive for two weeks. At the same Itapaji-Ekiti, a couple, Mr and Mrs Emmanuel were kidnapped. Also at Itapaji, Wasiu Omotoyinbo, a young boy was killed when armed herdsmen invaded Itapaji in the night.

‘At Itapaji, the armed men invaded the town in April 2023 and kidnapped eight people who had visited the community for a marriage event. They were released only weeks after ransom had been paid. At Oke-Ako in the year 2014, a young man was killed right in the community. At Ipao, a young man who was on his way from the farm was mauled down. The man died.’

In our community, a member of the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps, NCDC was attacked and killed between Irele and Oke-Ako Ekiti. The cases of harassment, intimidation and rape are numerous, the EPEC said.

The communities wrote ‘We are a forest dependent people. Our communities are blessed with vast, lurch green forest that extends over 1000 square kilometres from the end of Ekiti state to Kogi and Kwara States. This green belt is home to rare plant species flavoured with Ele and Oyi Rivers making the place an agriculture delight.

Our people from time immemorial depend on the forest for our health, for our medicine and for our spirituality.’ According to the communities, with the invasion of their once tropical evergreen forests, indigenous values, environmental heritage, sacred groves, farms have been violently and viciously violated.

‘The invaders not only burn down the forest, they cut down valuable trees, plants and animals leaving us vulnerable and at the risk of losing all our indigenous resources which nature had nurtured for centuries. Our fear is that if the armed groups sustain their stronghold in our vast forest, which is the outpost to Ekiti, Kogi, Kwara and the entire South West, the economic and industrial hub of Nigeria, the bandits would have completed a 360 degree encirclement of Nigeria’ EPEC said.
The group noted that at present, the people can no longer go to their farms.

‘Our hunters are restricted so is our fundamental right to movement, food and water restricted by the armed groups who have made our ancestral home their dominion. Water resources for our people have been polluted while adequate access to genetic resources is obstructed. The biological food chain has been broken. The economy of night lives in the villages has receded to zero level. Our children are afraid to go to their schools. Our family members no longer visit homes which means total distortion of our age-long everyday family value system.’ The communities said the killing, kidnapping and rape are aided by certain factors chief of which are the lack the lack of security presence, bad roads and isolation of the communities from the mainstream of national development.

‘We wish to inform you that some of these communities have never had police stations. How do we police such strategic flashpoints when police stations are not available?

The next police station to Irele for instance is some 25 kilometres away while the next police station to Iyemero is some 25 kilometers away.’
EPEC said the last time any of the community ever had police station was in the year 2001. ‘No sooner after the police station was established at Irele Ekiti than the Station was removed on the excuse that some herdsmen attacked one of the police men on duty with a cutlass. The sin of the herdsmen was visited collectively on the innocent community.’ The communities identified three solutions: the construction
EPEC said the Ekamefa communities have consistently made personal sacrifices through financial contributions to ensure repair of roads, empowerment of local hunters, but there is a limit to which our efforts can reach.

Related Articles

Back to top button