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MAYHEM IN IGANGAN: Victims count losses in Oyo community after deadly attack by gunmen

By Gbenga Aderanti 

Anger, fear and anxiety have been the lot of the inhabitants of Igangan and the larger Ibarapa community since gunmen invaded the area Saturday night, killing no fewer than 20 residents. Some youths of the agrarian community who spoke with our correspondent after the deadly attacks were resolute in their resolve to defend their community against such attacks in the future in spite of the intimidation and destruction carried out by the gunmen.

Aside from the wanton destruction of the palace of the traditional ruler of Igangan and the loss of about 20 lives, many indigenes of the community were critically injured.

A prominent son of the town and Convener of Iganagan Development Advocates, Oladiran Oladokun, said it was difficult to estimate the community’s losses to the attack, saying that the people of the town were just beginning to count their losses.

He said although he was sure that a petrol station was destroyed, it would be difficult for him to value the loss because he was not an expert in that field.

He also confirmed that the palace of the Asigangan, the traditional ruler of the town, was destroyed, but he said it was difficult to know the value of the palace.

One of the victims, Ogunwole Mayowa, who until the attack was a transporter, said apart from the destruction of his family house, his two vehicles, which were the source of his livelihood, were lost to the attack. For now, he said, his economic life had been paralysed.

Mayowa said: “My two vehicles which I was using for transport business were burnt. Our house and five shops in the building were also torched.”

Asked to quantify the extent of the damage in money terms, he said: “Where do you want me to start from? Is it from the family house that was torched or the phone shop that had just been stocked or the gas shop?”

Mayowa, who until the incident was plying the route between Ibadan and Igangan, said the two vehicles he lost would cost about N2.5 million.

Appealing to the government to come to the aid of the victims of the attack, he lent his voice to the claim in some quarters that those who attacked the community were Fulani.

Like many others in the community, he believed that the attack was masterminded by one of the leaders of herdsmen chased out of the town because of his alleged romance with criminal minded herders.

Mayowa was full of praise for the local hunters and vigilantes in the community, saying if they had not put up a stout defence, the entire town would have been ruined.

While lamenting the death of Egbedi Lati, one of the gallant men who were said to have stood up to the invaders, he also appealed to the government to effectively arm the state government owned security outfit, Amotekun, in order to tackle the attackers.

Another victim of the attack and a mother of six, Sulia Adepoju, was a prominent dealer in plastic materials until her shop was torched by the gunmen.

According to her, a few days before the invasion, she had stocked her shop with plastics worth half a million naira.

Apart from being a plastic dealer, she was also a cocoa dealer, but the attack has ruined her business and she is left with virtually nothing.

As her shop was one of those that were torched by the invaders, she did not only lose her plastic business, her cocoa business was also affected.

Adepoju told The Nation that before the incident, the majority of cocoa dealers in the community depended on her three cocoa scales which she said were worth about N270,000.

She said: “I just bought plastics which I was selling to those who do events in the community. I sell in dozens. I had my shop in front of the Asigangan’s palace.

“Since the incident, I have not been able to do anything. Feeding my family is also now a challenge.

“I rarely stay in my house. My shop is my second home. Everything I had was in the shop.”

She also said her dresses and those of her children were kept in the shop, because she used to dress for her children in the shop. She said as far as she was concerned, she had lost her home.

“I want the government to assist me in going back to my business, ” the mother of six pleaded.

While he agreed with reports that the atmosphere in the community was tense, Oladokun faulted the claim that people were moving out of the town.

The Iganagan Development Advocate Coordinator said while it is normal for people to be apprehensive when faced with the situation in Igangan, it would be wrong to assume that people would leave their community because of an incident like that. Rather, he said, it was the people in some of the hamlets or villages in Igangan that were moving out of the villages because of the remote nature of their communities.

He said: “Ibarapa is made up of seven towns. Where they were reporting that people were moving out  was Ijere town, not Igangan town.

“Maybe they saw people coming out of hiding after the attack, and some people raised the alarm that they saw some Fulani, and people started running helter skelter.”

Recalling the incident, he said but for the efforts of the village hunters and vigilante group that resisted the attackers, the casualty figure would have been worse.

He said the soldiers, police and Amotekun Corps members surfaced only after the gunmen had been chased out of town.

He told our correspondent that the resistance of the invaders came at a cost as some of the hunters were killed in the process.

Another source told our correspondent that the gunmen also suffered some casualties. But he said it was difficult to ascertain the number because the gunmen went away with some of their members that were wounded or killed except for the five they could not go away with.

Oladokun disclosed that two of the natives were still receiving treatments at Olugbon Hospital, Eruwa.

Reacting to the attack, the group Igangan in Development Advocates said that setting the Oba’s palace ablaze meant setting the town’s headship and soul ablaze to capture the entire town, saying it amounts to committing a costly taboo.

The group said when situated against the fact that sophisticated weapons like AK-47 being brought in through the porous land borders surrounding lgangan, Oke-ogun and Ogun State was widely publicised and consistent alarms were raised on the mass infiltration of Igangan and lbarapa with armed terrorists, “it leaves a permanently bitter taste in the mouth of any right thinking person that no proactive step was deemed fit by the state government to forestall the impending doom that became a reality today.”

The group said that lgangan did all within her powers to see to her own security by herself as folks had been contributing money and other resources to the administration of local hunters’ security architecture which held the fort during last Sunday’s attack.

“But for these poorly armed local hunters, the story would have been different as the town could have been completely razed in utter realization of continuous threats by a Fulani leader to do so.

Avoidable attack

At the time of filing this report, nobody had claimed responsibility for the attack, even though majority of the natives finger a prominent herder evicted from the town because he was accused of being sympathetic towards kidnappers.

To make matters worse, a son of the herdsman made some incriminating posts on Facebook before the attack.

In some of the posts made available to The Nation, the son of the herder had threatened to unleash terror on the community.

Part of the posts read:  “You will soon be displaced too. You think a town can do what you people did and have peace for life? Impossible.

“We will never forget this. Expect yours soon. You must be evicted too by fire by force. Go and tell the Commissioner of Police. No threat, it’s a reality. Don’t worry we are coming.”

While some of the residents are heaping the blame on the evicted herder and his children, they claimed that they don’t have any problem living peacefully with non- natives.

A source told The Nation that unknown to many, some of the Fulani who live in the area do suffer the same fate at the hands of criminally minded herders.

The source said: “They complain about these kidnappers too as some of them had been dealt with in the past. They don’t even like them.”

He noted that some generations of Fulani had been living peacefully in the community for ages without any fear of molestation.

“They have their quarters here, and even at the height of the crisis, nothing happened to them.”

He recalled that a day after the attack, the son of one of the evicted herders had the temerity to go to a radio station in Ibadan for a radio programme. “It is an insult to the people of Igangan. I wonder what the radio station would achieve by allowing him into their station.

“The radio station is very insensitive. I wonder why they allowed that when people were still mourning.”

Evicted Sarkin Fulani reacts

The man fingered by many as the brains behind Sunday’s attack on Igangan, however, said he had no hand in it.

According to an online report, the Sarkin Fulani, Alhaji Saliu Abdulkadir, said that he had no capacity to do so, adding that if he had mercenaries as was being claimed by some people, he would have defended himself when he was attacked.

He appealed to the security agencies to arrest the people behind the attack on Igangan.

He said: “They killed my people, destroyed my properties. I know nothing about the attacks.

“If I had the mercenaries, I would have defended myself when my palace was invaded by Sunday Igboho and his men.”

Foreknowledge of attack

There were indications to the effect that even before Sunday’s attack, the people of Igangan knew that the community was going to be attacked, but the day and time were shrouded in mystery. Perhaps, the casualty figure would have been less if the people of the community had known that the sound of the gunshots they were hearing were from the enemy’s camp.

Sources in the community said a lot of the members thought it was the local hunters that were shooting into the air when they began to hear gunshots. It was only when they started hearing the sound of explosions that it dawned on them that the community was being attacked. But by that time, serious damage had been done. Some houses had been torched and people had been killed.

A youth in the community said: “Many had thought that the attack would come during the day. This could be attributed to the literacy level of our people. Less than 40 percent of our people living in the village are literate.

“Even despite the warnings, most people were still going about their normal business without being apprehensive or cautious.

“They did not even know what to do.

“I don’t know why our leaders did not take drastic steps when it was made public that some communities would be attacked.”

He lamented that three members of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) who arrested one of the leaders accused of aiding kidnappers were still being detained while the suspect had been released.

He believes that as a lawyer, the representative of the constituency at the House of Representatives ought to have made a case for the members of the OPC that are currently being detained.

Efforts made to prevent attack

Oladokun said that efforts were made by the community to reach out to the state government when the news of the impending attack was made public. He told The Nation that the community wrote to the state government and recommended that they should empower local hunters. “We also told them that we have every reason to believe that we would soon be attacked, so that they could put more security in place whenever it happened.

“We also told them to convert the small police post to a divisional headquarters, so that we can have a DPO with police officers with him.”

He added that the community also advised the state government to allow local hunters, Amotekun and police to work together because the work would not be successful without the integration of local hunters with the state security network that they might have.

Oladokun also corroborated the report that it was the local hunters that resisted the gunmen that invaded the town.

According to him, a member of the Amotekun Corps was among those who resisted the gunmen. It was because he felt he would not allow the town to be destroyed by the invaders and not because he was a member of Amotekun.

“No Official security was deployed to the area during the attack. If they were deployed, they didn’t get here till the attack was over.”

Oladokun recommended that the state government should set up something like an operation burst which would comprise soldiers, policemen and civil defence members.

“If Amotekun is not working, let the state government set up a joint task force specifically for this operation.

“Set up a joint security outfit comprising local hunters, Amotekun, and possibly some ex-Yoruba military men,” he said.

The invasion

Contrary to some reports, a source said “it was the local hunters that repelled the attackers. If they had better weapons, they would have been able to curtail them better. Even with the small weapons they had, they still resisted them.”

He said the gunmen, numbering about 50, invaded the town on motorbike with AK-47 and other sophisticated weapons.

Unknown to many, he said, those two hunters that died were not killed by bullets as bullets could not penetrate them. They were hit with something hard. The gunmen outnumbered the local hunters.

The source said while they outnumbered the local hunters, the hunters chased them out of the town, while the gunmen ran away on bikes.

Another source told The Nation that aside from the gunmen that were dead after the attack, “I’m sure there could be more because some of them that were wounded or suspected killed were whisked away on motorbikes by their colleagues, who moved into the bush in different directions.”

Oladokun said immediately the community came under attack, he was the one that called the police and the Amotekun corps but their phones were switched off.

While not blaming the two security outfits, he explained that their phones were off, probably they had nowhere to charge them as the power supply in the community is very erratic.

“I’m not saying that they are complicit in the attack. I’m just saying none of them were available to intervene in the attack. I wouldn’t know whether they eventually came out.

“The local hunters and the vigilante men are the ones to be praised.

A source disclosed that the attackers had been chased out of town before Sunday Igboho and his men arrived in the community, saying “their presence bolstered the confidence of the people in the community.”

According to another source, both the Oranmiyan group and the OPC also came, and were joined by the OPC in Ogun State, the Fasehun faction of OPC.

“With the security system in place now, “it would be suicidal for the gunmen to come back to the community,” the source told our correspondent.

Reacting to the local security that has been put in place, Oladokun warned that unless serious security measures are put in place, the gumen could still invade the community.

He said: “Inside the town, I’m sure they would be getting feedback. If they call their informant and they are told that the security has been relaxed, they would still come back, because they have not achieved their mission. Their mission is to cause total desolation of that place. That is what is going to satisfy them.”

Community makes demands

The community is asking the government to foot the bills of the two victims of the attack who are currently on admission at Olugbon Hospital, Igboora, Oyo State.

“They cut a large part of the flesh on the head of one of them and his hand was also cut, but they are not yet dead. It was a day after the attack when the people started searching the bush that they saw them. They are at the Hospital in Igboora. They need better care and treatment.

“The state government needs to swing into action, by transferring them to a place like University Teaching Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State. This is the only way for us to know that the state government feels our pains.

The family of the victims should be compensated,” a member of a pressure group in the community told The Nation.

The group said further that the children of the vigilante man that sacrificed his Life for the town should be given scholarships and that the state should take them from Igangan and put them in a school at Ibadan.

Ditto other people who lost their loved ones, the state should try as much as possible to compensate them.

“We can also assist the state in reaching out to the local hunters in putting security in place. There is no more playing hide and seek; there is insecurity here.

“We are not going to get credit for it. It is the state that will be praised if there is security.”

“If Igangan is to survive this present siege that keeps laying waste her people and their means of livelihood, then it must be reiterated that for the fact that in the heat of the attack, the local hunters were the last man standing, let the state rise up to the proposal submitted to it by the Igangan Development Advocates (I.D.A.) and via the I.D.A., empower the local hunters whose list had been compiled, with the required logistics. The state should also see to

the immediate arrest and prosecution of Kadiri Saliu, Seriki Fulani and all his sons and especially, Ibrahim Saliu who had been all over the media, both conventional and social, to issue a series of threats to raze down Igangan.”

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