Not a few residents of Ketu-speaking villages in Yewa North Local Government Area, Ogun State were brutalised by soldiers who escorted herdsmen to graze in the communities, prompting residents and monarchs to cry out to the military and state government for help, The Nation reports.
Seye Mulero panted like a rat that had just escaped the claws of a ravenous cat. He could hardly acknowledge the sympathy offered by the kinsmen that surrounded him, urging him to take heart and seek medical treatment in hospital as he pulled up his shirt to show his badly hurt body at Ubeku village in Yewa North Local Government Area, Ogun State.
“Sorry,” said some of the women repeatedly in Yoruba as Mulero pulled up his shirt to show the wounds from the flogging on his muscular body, urging him to go to the hospital for treatment.
Mulero, one of the young men in the rustic village, had drawn the ire of some soldiers by speaking truth to them. The soldiers, numbering 10, had escorted some herdsmen on a mission to intimidate the villagers after they resisted an attempt by the herders to graze their cattle in the community after alleged repeated attacks and killing of farmers who dared protest the destruction of their farms.
The herdsmen, who had departed the village after their continued presence was rejected by the villagers, had suddenly resurfaced at about 2 pm on December 19, 2020 with a handful of soldiers from the 35 Artillery Brigade, Alamala, Abeokuta.
The soldiers headed straight to the palace of the traditional ruler of the community, Chief Olaleye Adigun, calling out the villagers and warning them against preventing the evicted herdsmen from returning to the village. It was in the middle of this strange encounter that Mulero told the soldiers that the herders would not be allowed to remain in the community because of their brutal killing of residents and the destruction of their farmlands in recent times.
Mulero said: “Everyone was frightened by the action and utterances of the soldiers but I summoned courage to tell them how a Geography teacher Mr. Yomi Akinola and two students of Community High School, Ibeku, among others, were killed by the herdsmen while our women were raped and killed on their ways to the farm.”
Mulero’s blunt comments enraged the herdsmen who immediately asked the soldiers to deal with him. The military men allegedly responded by promptly seizing, kicking and flogging the young man mercilessly, leaving him serious injuries.
Recalling the ugly experience, Mulero said: “Before I knew it, the herdsmen had motioned to the soldiers who immediately pulled me out of the audience and flogged me mercilessly with a wire whip. It was as if I stole something valuable.
“As I speak, my body still aches because of the wounds, even after I had been treated in a hospital.
“Numerous other villagers were subjected to the brutal act as the soldiers escorted the herdsmen from one village to another all in a bid to intimidate us into allowing them to graze on our farms.”
But Mulero and Ubeku village were not the only person and area that tasted the bile of the soldiers who escorted the herdsmen in a military patrol van from one village to another. Innocent indigenes of Iselu, Ibeku, Agbon-Ojodu, Asa and other villages were also harassed and assaulted by the soldiers at the instance of the herdsmen.
After leaving Ubeku, the herders and the complicit soldiers moved to neighbouring Asa, where they reenacted the Ubeku scenario, causing the hapless villagers to panic.
At Asa, the herders sighted Mulero’s brother, Gabriel Mulero, accusing him of being among the crowd that jeered them after his brother was beaten up. There and then, the soldiers seized the young man, giving him some deafening slaps and kicking him mercilessly before whisking him away to a neighbouring village, Agbon-Ojodu, where they dropped him off after elders of the community pleaded for his release.
At Agbon-Ojodu the hapless villagers would not utter a word, having heard how the soldiers harassed and assaulted the Muleros. But despite their foreboding silence, some of the residents received severe beatings from the soldiers for keeping mum.
Gabriel (Mulero) said: “I was returning from a party at Asa with one of our friends named Mathew Adaramaja when my elder brother told me on the phone that some soldiers had led herdsmen to our village and brutalised him.
“To avoid trouble, we stayed away from the scene and sat near some commercial motorcycle operators. Suddenly, one of the herdsmen named Ali led the soldiers to the spot where we were seated and accused us of being one of the people that were opposed to them.
“The soldiers descended on us with fan belts and flogged us severely. They tied our legs and pushed us into their patrol, van threatening to shoot us if we tried to jump down and run away. They said they were taking us to their barracks at Alamala. They accused us of preventing the herdsmen from grazing on our farms and vowed to teach us a lesson.
“However, when they got to Agbon-Ojodu village, elders of the community pleaded with them to free us. We were badly brutalised and we had to visit Ibeku Health Centre for treatment.”
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