Estimated reading time: 39 minute(s)
Over the years, communities in the Southwest region of Nigeria have received a series of letters of an impending attack by criminal elements. Palpable fear envelopes the residents whenever they wake up to see the letters pasted on some houses, schools and church buildings in their communities. The residents living in the region, including Ogun, Oyo, Lagos and Osun States never take the letter as a vain threat; some residents resolve to keep watch all night, while others abandon their houses in fear of the unknown.
In this report, QUADRI YAHYA writes on the terror these letters on walls pose to the peaceful living of residents.
At dawn, one Sunday in August 2022, a devoted Christian family, the Temilade Adegboyegas left their house in Alagada community in Obafemi-Owode local government area of Ogun State to attend a church service in Abeokuta, the capital city. At noon, when the family returned from church, news about a letter of an impending attack got to them. Even, before seeing the letter, they become restive; and more restless when they learnt it was sent by Fulani herdsmen.
A week before the letter of attack was pasted on some houses and church buildings in the community, the head of the house, Adegboyega, who is a peasant farmer had had a harrowing experience in the hands of some young Fulani herders.
Adegboyega’s edginess afterwards stems from reports of past deadly attacks by armed herdsmen on communities across the country. At the root of the crisis is the struggle over grazing land and scarce resources, which have spunned over the years into perennial and growing violent conflicts between indigenous Yoruba farmers and nomadic Fulani herdsmen. The attacks have displaced thousands of residents while thousands of people have died.
In recent times, there have been rising security challenges in the Southwest region. Kidnapping, banditry, robbery and cultism have been a source of sorrow for the residents,5including farmers and herders clashes, which have claimed 3,641 lives nationwide between 2016 and 2018, according to Amnesty International. The majority of the reported victims were indigenes.
On 30th September, 2021 in an obvious attempt to save farmers like Adegboyega from attacks by marauding herders, the Ogun state government – among other states ‐ signed an anti-open grazing bill into law. But, despite the existence of the law, armed herders’ attacks on local farmers have not abated.
Adegboyega recounted how he was attacked on his farm by about five young herders. He said the pastoralists attacked him when he was trying to send away some of their stray cows that invaded his farmland which he uses for planting cassava, maize and pepper.
He recalled that the herders had threatened him a few times in the past but on that particular day after an argument broke out between the farmer and the young herders, they started flogging him. Since then, he has been avoiding herders at all costs even when they destroy his farm.
But while the farmer was still gradually recovering from the pain of the merciless beating he suffered from the herders, the letter of the attack arrived in his community.
Back in the day letters came through from the post office and were dropped at the recipient’s mailbox; a functioning post office probably doesn’t exist any longer in Nigeria. But where and when are these letters, like the one posted on some houses in the Alagada community, from?
A copy of the letter pasted on some houses in Osun
The residents were bewildered upon seeing the letter. They said some of the letters were only dropped in people’s compounds while some were glued on the walls of houses. The message in the letter received in Alagada, according to Adegboyega and other sources, was not written in Yoruba or English language. They said it was written in a language they didn’t understand at first.
The farmer said the elders in the state had to use a translator (Google) to read the content of the letter.
And the letter, which came a few days after the father of three was flogged on his farm, heightened the farmer’s fear.
“The letter is causing us fear in this community. Herdsmen have turned themselves into terror to us, residents of this community,” the farmer said. “If you complain when their cows destroy your farmland, they will threaten to machete you. The Fulani herdsmen are the ones frightening us in this community. If you plant cassava, their cow will feed on it. If you challenge them, they’ll threaten to cut you with their dagger. We’ll run for our dear lives. There was a day some Fulani herders flogged me. I was able to collect the stick from one of them before they went away,” the farmer said.
Adegboyega displays the stick used to flog him
The Alagada community is one among many other communities in the Southwest region of Nigeria that had received such letters of attack either reportedly written by unknown herdsmen or armed robbers. Residents’ accounts stated that the letters are pasted in strategic houses.
Series of Planned Attacks in Ogun, Osun…
The letter spread panic in the Ogun community and heads began to roll as chiefs summoned an impromptu meeting to alert the security agency about the letter. But it was not the first time such a letter would cause anxiety to residents in the state.
On the 30th of August, panic enveloped residents of Ishara and Ogere in Ikenne and Remo-North Local Government Areas of Ogun following the threat of attack by suspected bandits.
A resident said, “I was in a prayer group yesterday when we were told that bandits wrote a letter of planned attack to Ogere and Ishara communities in Ogun state.”
Similarly, on December 18th, a group of suspected criminal cattle herders wrote to some communities; Asa, Agbon, Ibeku and Oja-Odan communities in the Yewa-North Local Government of the state, threatening to attack the residents.
PLATFORM TIMES saw a copy of the letter which was written in English and Hausa Languages.
The notice reads: “Attention! Attention!! Attention!! to all following communities; Asa, Agbon, lbeku, Oja-odan and its environs.
“You think you can send away our people from the land they bought in Nigeria, our fathers land, you kill our people, you kill their cows, you take over all their properties, you think you can go scot-free. It’s high time we come for revenge.
“All the above-mentioned communities’ leaders should prepare for the war between December and January. We are coming to take back our father’s property.”
… Residents Flee Homes
As said earlier, not only the Ogun State residents receive letters of threats by armed robbers or suspected armed nomads.
As far back as 2021, residents of Osun State often wallow in a state of fear following a letter by an armed robbery gang.
In June of that year, one of such letters also caused anxiety in residents of Olopa Estate, Ofatedo Area, Egbedore local government of Osun State.
The handwritten notice which read, “Notice, this is to inform you that, we, thieves are coming to rob every house in your community or you should contribute the sum of N20 million and keep it with your community Chairman for us to pick up when we come.
“We are coming with full force and we will kill any of your securities that intend to disturb us.”
Also, the security agencies in the state sue for calm. But the audacity of the suspected criminal groups continues to terrify the residents.
As on October 7, 2022, inhabitants of the Onibueja community in the Egbedore Local Government Area were left in absolute trepidation from notice of planned attack to their homes by armed robbers.
The notice was written in the language the people understand: Yoruba; and pasted on the walls in some strategic places within the community.
“This is to inform you of our planned visitation to your community and to expect our arrival. We are armed robbers, keep our money. We are aware that you have a strong person that can arrest thieves, tell the person to expect our arrival. 05/10/2022. We will rob your homes before the end of this month. Be expecting our visitation before the end of October,” the notice read.
It also happened in 2020 that some residents, including landlords and tenants of Dejuwogbo community, Oke-Ota Ona, Ikorodu, in Lagos State were forced to Flee their homes after receiving a threat notice posted in the neighborhood by gunmen suspected to be robbers.
Lagos residents flee homes in 2020.
‘One Million Boys’
Nigerians will never forget the terror caused by a dreaded gang in Lagos state, named ‘one million boys’.
In early 2016, the name of the notorious armed gang spread shivers down the spine of Lagosians residing in communities in the Badagry area.
In recent times, while some notices had been vain threats, that of the Lagos notorious gang was not. Many houses were invaded, casualties were recorded and belongings carted away.
Picture from one of the break in of ‘One Million Boys’
PLATFORM TIMES recalls that the notorious group was said to have planned to strike in Aradagun, Mosafejo, Ibereko, Ikoga and Ajara, all communities in Badagry.
One of the victims of the nefarious group, Shola Odunade, had said their mode of operation was to seek assistance from their target area and will rob those who listened to their pleas.
Odunade added that the hoodlums usually attacked their victims with machetes. “I was in my house when I heard some people shouting for help and I opened my door so that I could render help,” Odunade said.
“That was when they descended on me. They stole my money, cellphone and laptop and they still inflicted injuries on me after they had robbed me of my valuables.
Another resident had said, “Badagry is now like a war zone now. The One Million Boys are terrorising our neighbourhood.”
The armed gang terrorised residents of Lagos state until July 2020, when the leader of the notorious gang was reportedly gunned down by Oyo State police Kudeti area of Ibadan.
Security Agencies’ Efforts
PLATFORM TIMES observed that a local security guard, vigilante, has been the first call of point whenever the ‘letter’ arrived. Also, security agencies usually deploy men to local areas threatened in an effort to counter any attack.
PLATFORM TIMES also observed that the armed robbers or suspected criminal herdsmen threatening to attack retreat due to the vigilance of security agencies.
In response to a recent threat, the police spokesperson in Ogun State, Abimbola Oyeyemi, assured the communities that police will fish out those behind the letter.
“We are not losing any sleep because no information is too small to take note of. We are not neglecting it. We are working on it to unravel those behind it.”
No Security Threat Is Baseless, Protect Yourself With Whatever Means- Security Expert
A Security expert, Jackson Ojo has advised Nigerians not to take threats from herdsmen or any gang for granted, noting that they should protect themselves with whatever they have.
Ojo, who is also a fellow of the International Institute of Professional Security ,(IIPS) said Nigeria lacks political willpower to fight the criminal herdsmen.
The security experts who called Nigerian ‘Unsafe Territory’ advised Nigerians to protect themselves in any way they could.
He also advised the governments to make strategic plans to fight insecurity by protecting every corner of the country and noting only areas under threat.
According to Ojo, the letter is more than capable of causing terror. It will always cause panic in the environment where the letter is sent to.
“There is nobody that will see the letter and not panic. If they didn’t come won’t the same day or time, it doesn’t mean they won’t come again. But whether there is a letter or not, are we preparing to cross these people?
“It took us a long time as a country to declare them terrorists. Some people have to take the Federal government to court before they were declared terrorists. But Sunday Igboho and others that are just ordinary agitators were dealt with.
“The first thing to do in a sane country when there is a threat either by writing, action, and inaction of the terrorist, hoodlums, or bandits or by action or attitude, is not for the government to provide security for Ibadan just because there is a security threat in Ibadan and leave Iwo alone.
“This these because we already know a threat in Ibadan is a threat to Iwo. If these people know that you already provide security in Ibadan and they know they have no way to defeat your security apparatus, they will go to another area. Their own Is security anarchy.
“They cause trouble and they want to get popularized for their evil acts. If these people write a letter that they are coming and nobody has acted, nobody has investigated or tried to falsify the area they wrote that they are coming to, that means we lack total security and as a result, you can call Nigeria an unsafe territory.
“Before these people attacked Kuje prison, there was information that they would be attacking the prison.
“These are the people that passed the information that they were going to kidnap the president and a particular governor. And before you know it, the presidential convoy was attacked and two days later Kaduna airport was attacked. Also, three days later, the Kaduna airline was attacked and after a few days they attacked Kuje prison.
“What other signal are we expecting from these people? Their actions are enough signals for us to take the issue of security very seriously across the country.
“But nobody is doing that. Instead of us to be proactive in the issue of security, we are always reactive. But we are not proactive to nip the situation in the bud.
“In a situation like this, we can not tell the citizens to resort to self-help. Because when citizens resort to self-help, it means they have lost confidence in the state’s actors. When that happens, people resort to self-help and this can lead to a very serious uncontrollable anarchy.
“Security is the business of everybody. Gen. T. Y Danjuma Rtd said some time ago, “go and get whatever you have to protect yourself” and the present Minister of Defence said the same thing in Minna, Niger state. He said, “you people should rise to protect yourself”.
“So, to me, with their local hunters and traditional means (Spiritual means) let them rise. Those that could pray should and those who believe in the traditional means and others should rise. We should not be asleep so that we will not become victims of self-destruction.
“Look at what happened in Ekiti state under Fayose. He invited the local hunter to go spiritual in the native means. At the end of the day, did we hear about the attack on Ekiti state again?
“You will use what you have to defend yourself because everybody in the country today is defenseless. We all know there is nothing the Federal government or any state governor could do. So, nobody should relax for them to be killed.
“There is no political willpower to fight these people. We should not be deceived.”
Estimated reading time: 1 minute(s)
FOOTNOTE: Do you want to share a story with us? Do you want to advertise with us? Do you need publicity for a product, service, or event? Contact us on WhatsApp +2348183319097 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org