Controversy has trailed the arrest of 47 armed ‘Fulani’ herdsmen in Oyo State by military operatives under the banner of Operation Burst.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the operatives arrested the herdsmen on Sunday during a raid at Tapa/Igangan axis in Ibarapa North Local Government Area of the state.
Military sources in the state told our correspondent that the herdsmen were arrested when they attempted to retaliate the killings of some of their colleagues by the Oyo State Security Network Agency codenamed Amotekun in the area on Saturday.
The clash between Amotekun and armed Fulani herdsmen in the area led to the death of at least three people.
Amotekun commandant, Olayinka Olayanju, said his operatives went on a raid at a hideout of kidnappers in four local government areas of the state when the killings occurred. He said his officers engaged in a shootout with the armed herdsmen.
This newspaper, however, gathered that there was reported unrest in the Ibarapa axis on Sunday which led to the visitation of operation burst operatives and the subsequent arrest of the 47 armed herdsmen.
The arrest was also confirmed by the Director-General of Operation Burst, Oladipo Ajibola, a retired colonel, who said those arrested have been handed over to the police.
In addition, the Oyo State Police Command spokesperson, Olugbenga Fadeyi, said the arrested herdsmen have been transferred to the state CID in Iyaganku, Ibadan.
“Some Fulani herdsmen were arrested and they are currently in the state CID in Iyaganku, Ibadan. The Fulani herdsmen claimed that they were arrested when trying to also look for some kidnappers, who were about to collect ransom from relations of a kidnapped victim. That’s yet to be ascertained anyways but investigation is on-going on the matter.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association in Oyo State, Ibrahim Jiji, in a statement on Monday said the 47 Fulani herdsmen arrested by operation burst are members of Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN) securing people in Ibarapa land.
“Those who were going to fight criminals are the set of the people they are parading as criminals. Those people are not criminals; they are the people securing us. They are registered vigilantes and they are working with the police and other security agencies.”
He said the herdsmen have been useful to the state for many years and they are not criminals.
“Thief is thief and not Fulani. Tribe is different from criminals. We are ready to work with the Oyo State government to stop criminality in the state. I am appealing to the state government to leave these people. They are not thieves. They are the people who are securing us because we may need them another time. Why we want them to include our members in Amotekun is because of language barrier. We appeal to the Oyo State government to include people from other tribes in Amotekun for the job to be efficient,” the statement read.
Oyo, like many other states across Nigeria, has been beset with kidnappings for ransom, some of which are carried out by armed herdsmen.