Blood On Farms: Tales Of Deaths, Sorrow In Ondo Community As Attacks By Herders Leave Many Dead Or Injured
This is ue to regular attacks by bandits who often set up roadblocks on the
road, kidnapping and robbing people of their hard-earned money.
It was a quiet evening on the road connecting Ifon to Okeluse community in
Ondo State, southwest Nigeria. The driver who conveyed Dataphyte’s reporter
noted that the once busy route had now become a shadow of its former self. He
noted that passing through the area showed courage and boldness.
This is due to regular attacks by bandits who often set up roadblocks on the
road, kidnapping and robbing people of their hard-earned money.
True to his words, when our reporter passed, neither any human being nor
vehicle passed through the road, which is federally owned.
The driver kept a high speed and cracked some jokes to subdue his
apprehension while intermittently muttering words of prayer that the journey
would not become a disastrous one.
Not being able to complain about his speed, the reporter and the driver
managed to reach the community situated in the Ose Local Government Area of
The duo were lucky. Barely an hour after taking the road, the dreaded bandits
terrorising the area kidnapped a former executive chairman of Ose local
government. This threw the whole community into pandemonium. It was a clear
escape from what could have been a horrible experience at the hands of
Okeluse and other communities in the local government area have been battling
with attacks by bandits. Many have locked themselves in their communities,
while others have abandoned their homes on account of deaths, property
losses, and burnt farms recorded there. These agrarian communities are
helpless, and their hope of surviving the onslaught is fading by the day.
To document the plight of these communities and detail how these “food
baskets” have become land of continual sorrow, Dataphyte’s Olanrewaju
Oyedeji spent four days in Ose Local Government Area of Ondo. He reports the
Staying four days was a dangerous sport
Okeluse community was thrown into mourning when the news of the kidnap of
the former Ose Local Government Chairman, Mr Bola Ojo, broke. Everyone was
unsure of what to expect. At around 6pm, an uneasy silence engulfed the
community. Doors were locked, the streets were silent, and lamentations were
the order of the day.
As of the time of filing this report, the kidnapped former local government
chairman was yet to be released.
A deserted street in Okeluse
Communities in Ose Local Government Area are not usually places to avoid.
Residents are predominantly farmers who cultivate food and cash crops such as
cocoa, plantain, yam, and cassava. Before attacks by the bandits, they had been
transporting bunches of plantain to sell to neighbouring states in large quantity.
Okeluse community used to have over 400,000 persons but many have fled
The remaining persons are some sons and daughters of the community who
believe that they would rather die than abandon their ancestral homes.
However, a few residents told Dataphyte that they were ready to leave should
the situation fail to improve.
Tales of attacks, deaths, kidnaps, rape
The Okeluse Community Association Chairman, Mr Tokunbo Okeluse, told
Dataphyte that the bandits, who he said were herders, suddenly began to feed
their cows in Okeluse/Sobe forest reserves after a law on open grazing was
enacted by the state government.
At some point, the herders started feeding their cows on the crops of farmers in
“The herders used to feed cows inside the reserves, especially after the ban on
open grazing. After a while, they started harvesting crops of farmers who were
farming inside the forest reserves to feed cows,” he said.
“Sometimes farmers get to their farms to see that plantains, maize, and other
crops have already been harvested,” he further said.
Okeluse noted that after exhausting the crops inside the reserves, the herders
then started going to farms in town.
“They left the reserves and started feeding on the crops of farmers outside the
farms at the reserves. They attacked anyone attempting to stop them and our
people became victims of kidnapping, killings, loss of properties, rape and
continual molestation,” he stated.
He told Dataphyte that he had not been to his farm for two years.
“The last time I sent my boys there, they told me that they met herders already
harvesting our crops and feeding their herd of cows with them. They had to run
for their lives.”
Over a decade ago, herders reared their cows in the streets of Okeluse and
surrounding communities, but they did not cause any trouble to residents. They,
however, started fomenting trouble about five years ago when the
Dataphyte made a trip to the Federal Medical Centre, Owo, where one of the
victims of the attacks, Mr Amuja Olawole, was being treated after being shot by
herders on his farm on March 28.
He lay on the hospital bed, with heavy metal equipment fixed to his leg, battling
Amuja has spent about N1 million, and undergone three different surgeries, in a
bid to survive and be able to walk properly.
A farmer with over 40 years of experience, Olawole had gone to his farm on the
day he was attacked. He told Dataphyte that his attackers wanted him dead but
he was lucky to survive.
“I went to the farm, as usual, to attend to my cocoa. I was on a tree when some
herdsmen numbering four came asking me if I saw one of their cows. They
claimed that the cow went astray. I replied that I did not see any cow and if the
cow had passed my farm, I would have noticed it because it rained that day.
Before I could say more, four of them surrounded me and one of the four shot
me in my leg. I pretended that I was dead,” he told Dataphyte.
Amuja Olawole at the FMC, Owo, receiving treatment
When the attackers felt his heartbeat and thought he was no longer breathing,
they said to themselves, “he dan die”, and left. They came back after 15 minutes
to make sure Olawole was dead.
“They came again, and when I heard their footsteps, I struggled to breathe, but I
still pretended that I was dead. They looked at me again and told themselves
that I was really dead before finally leaving.”
He noted that he was in a pool of blood for over three hours before his
community members came to rescue him.
“I thought I was going to die or my leg would be amputated. I was already in the
pool of blood and flies were all over me, but only God and the proactiveness of
my people saved me from dying,” Olawole said from his hospital bed
Another victim, Mr Badejo Oyeyemi, was conveying a woman who was just
returning from the farm on his bike. He told Dataphyte that his journey became
one of sorrow when he was attacked by rampaging bandits.
Kidnap victim, Badejo Oyeyemi
“Two people stopped us and shot into the air, I had no other choice than to stop
because three other people came out from nowhere. Then myself and the
woman were marched into the bush. While we were going, we crossed three
rivers. At some point, the kidnappers stated that I looked like a Fulani man and I
decided to play along by saying that my mother is a Fulani woman. That was
how they stopped beating us and even offered me their food (garri, Maggi
seasoning and palm oil), I also pleaded with them to stop beating others who
they had kidnapped and because they saw me as their brother now, they
Oyeyemi stayed in the kidnappers’ den for two days before he was released
after a ransom of N500,000 was paid to the kidnappers.
Yet another victim, Mr Oladimeji Destiny, popularly known as “Popular Destiny,”
used to live in the farming community of Okeluse. To make the movement of
farm produce easier, he decided to set up a fuel station in Okeluse. The
residents described him as “their savior in the midst of the crisis.”
Oladimeji Destiny killed by gunmen
He met his untimely demise when five gunmen attacked Okeluse in March,
2023. Oladimeji lost his life while one of his staff members was also killed.
His wife told Dataphyte that sporadic gunshots at the fuel station was what
drew the community’s attention.
Oladimeji Destiny’s wife
“We just heard gunshots and on rushing to the fuel station, we found out that
they had killed Oladimeji and his staff. He left three children before dying,” she
Dataphyte gathered that his female staff member was taken hostage by the
gunmen and was released after over N500,000 was paid as ransom.
Oladimeji also built a house in Okeluse but never lived there for one day.
Oladimeji’s house before he was killed
Venerable Samuel Olumuyiwa, who is a farmer and pastor, was returning from
Owo to his house in Okeluse. He told Dataphyte that about one kilometer to
Okeluse, he was stopped by herders who shot sporadically in the air.
Kidnap victim, Venerable Samuel Olumuyiwa
“The herders stopped our vehicle. They asked that my wife’s sister and my
grandchild leave while my son and I followed them. We crossed over three
rivers. At some point, I thought I was going to lose my life. The kidnappers
camped us in a place where we have huts and they used very sophisticated
weapons like pump action, and AK-47, among others. I have never seen those
kinds of weapons before in my life.”
He noted that he was released after three days and the kidnappers warned him
against constant use of that road.
“They asked for a ransom of N20 million, but I was lucky to be released three
days after I was kidnapped and after we paid some money. Also, when I got to
the farm, I realised that all my crops were already harvested and fed to cows.
When you see the herdsmen doing this, there is nothing you can do,” he said.
Odalume Stephen, Augustine Lucky and Kaporo were three youths of Arimogija
community in Ose Local Government Area. They were killed on their farms in
The Arimogija community leader told Dataphyte that youths had become
helpless in the face of attacks by herders who were taking over farms.
Accounts of different persons showed that Odalume Stephen, who was the
youth leader of Arimogija, before his death, had his skull cut and his brains
picked out at his farm. The sight was so gory that none of the villagers could go
to the farm to take his dead body. The Nigerian Army personnel were deployed
to retrieve the body.
The Chief Executive Officer of Japheth Bakery, Mr Michael Japheth, survived an
attack on his vehicle. He was going to deliver supplies of bread along Ifon Road
when he fell victim to the marauding attackers.
Micheal Japeth, Survivor of a gun attack on vehicle
“When I got to the road, I saw roadblocks and immediately sensed danger,
because I was going in a convoy of three vehicles, I signaled to my colleagues to
Japeth’s bullet ridden vehicle
“Before we knew it, we were shot from different corners, I barely survived, and
you can see the vehicle. This is not something anyone should witness,” he said.
When another victim, Mr Oke Ayeni, was abducted, he spent three days in the
kidnappers’ den before he was released. He borrowed N500,000 to pay his
ransom, and he was yet to pay it back.
Kidnap victim, Oke Ayeni
His farm was burnt afterwards by herders who he said fed all his crops to their
farmer, Banwo Hannah, standing in front of her burnt farm
Each day he finds something to do. However, he does not work for self-
sustenance but to pay back the loan he took to save himself from kidnappers.
Few women are still in a community named Omolege. They told Dataphyte
how herders raped farmers relatives, forcing them to run away from the
“Recently, two of our women went to the farm. Herders met them there and
after collecting all their crops, they wanted to rape them. One of the women
was lucky to escape but they raped the other woman before we got to the
scene. That’s what they have been doing to our women for years now, raping
them. We cannot even go to farm as women.”
The same account of rape was given in other communities such as Elerinla 1.
Dataphyte also understands that these herders raped a man to death, forcing
his family members to abandon the community.
Farmers abandon communities
Accounts by different residents point to the fact that the invasion of Ose Local
Government communities was fuelled by the feeding of cows by herders.
There were only two persons in Elerinla 1 when Dataphyte visited the
Before the attack by herders, the community had over 400 persons. According
to one of the two residents remaining in the community and who spoke to
Dataphyte, the attackers started off by harvesting crops planted by farmers and
feeding these crops to cows.
Nwachukwu Martin in front of burnt Baale (community king’s) house
“We started having challenges when the herders would harvest all our produce
and feed them to cows, we would go to farms but here would be nothing left
during the harvest,” Nwachukwu Martin noted.
He noted that the last incident that led to the evacuation of the community by
residents was the burning of the local king’s (Baale’s) house.
“The herders harvested all our crops and fed them to cows. The next day, they
came to the community itself and pursued everyone. Some youths who stood
their ground got machete cuts. After everyone ran away, the herders burnt
almost all the houses in the community. As you can see, no one wants to come
back here, I am left here with one other person, and we still come around once
in a while to see what we can do, but we never sleep here.”
The two residents left at Elerinla 1
No single soul lives in Elerinla 2 and 3 due to the attacks and burning of houses
The situation at Omolege Junction area in Ute was more pathetic. Dataphyte
gathered that the attackers harvested farmers’ crops and fed them to cows. The
attackers afterwards came to the community and killed two persons.
A once habitable community now taken over by bushes
Security sources within the community narrated how two police officers came to
Omolege Junction after the attackers had left to retrieve corpses. The officers
could not come with a security vehicle due to the non-functionality of the only
vehicle at Okeluse district. Officers came with machetes to defend themselves in
case they were attacked while retrieving the corpses.
Remaining residents close to Omolege Junction
Different accounts and physical evidence seen on site confirmed that a day after
killing two persons, the attackers came back to the community and burnt all
Odalume Leonard, brother of one of the murdered persons at Omolege
One of the kidnap victims, who had spoken to Dataphyte earlier, recounted how
those who kidnapped him made him and other victims sleep on beds and mats
abandoned by residents of the Omolege community.
“They used beds, mats, plates, and every other thing left by residents who ran
away from the communities. At least when I was kidnapped, some of the places
we went to were in these areas.”
Accounts of different kidnap victims further showed that after paying ransoms,
the kidnappers usually dropped them off at Omolege Junction axis for their
families to pick them.
Farmland taken over by bushes
A farmer in one of the affected communities stated that the attackers were
eager to find pasture for their cows before the incident escalated to kidnaps,
deaths, and rapes.
The Iyaloja (Head of Markets) of Okeluse community, Ms Felicia Oladunni, told
Dataphyte that she used to do business of up to N3 million a day and would
also pay many farmers supplying her, but she now begged to eat. Oladunni said
like many others, she had been forced to abandon her market spot and run for
“I dealt with farm produce running into millions but since these incidences
escalated, people hand out N500, N1000, to me,” she noted.
Schools have also been abandoned.
A school owner, Mr Kenneth Olaolu, told Dataphyte that herders came at night
to warn a nightguard to stop coming to the school.
“The herders came one night to warn our night guard to stay away from school
premises. We thought it was nothing much to worry about. They came back
again and took all his working tools. After then, he resigned. We have been
unable to continue teaching and students have all left.”
Health services have also suffered. Fewer number of people now visit the health
centres in Okeluse and neighbouring communities owing to these attacks.
A health centre in Okeluse
The health centre also lacked manpower. At the maternity centre in Okeluse,
the health centre had just one official, who paid one other employee from her
purse to support women delivering babies.
No police presence
Dataphyte gathered that Okeluse community district police outpost, which
serviced other neighbouring communities, had only two officers. Of these two
officers, one was a constable.
The police outpost in Okeluse also lacked a working vehicle, findings by
Dataphyte showed. Security sources in the community said that this had forced
the police in the community to seek financial support to repair the vehicle to
patrol some parts of the affected areas.
Okeluse Police outpost
Venerable Samuel told Dataphyte how his church had to donate some money
to the police with the hope of fixing the only available vehicle there.
Residents lamented that whenever the government deployed soldiers to the
community, which happened if a kidnap led to protests, the security officers
would leave after a few days.
True to their words, a day after the former chairman of Ose Local Government
Area was kidnapped, soldiers were seen patrolling the area for a while before
leaving. Okeluse shares a border with Edo State. A river links the community
with Edo, and residents said it helped the attackers gain entrance into the
The affected communities do not have the presence of the state-formed
Amotekun or any other security formation.
Arimogija community chairman
The community leader at Arimogija community, Mr Samuel Obode, also told
Dataphyte how community members lived in fear owing to the situation and the
absence of any formidable security structure.
As of September 2021, N457 million was spent on the Amotekun Corps, while
in the 2022 full-year budget performance document, the state spent N1.459
billion on its state Amotekun Corps. Despite these, no Amotekun formation is
present in Okeluse or its environs to tackle the insecurity ravaging the area.
In the first quarter of 2023, the state spent N250 million on Amotekun Corps.
Nigerian Police expenditure has also been on the rise.
Ondo police deny crises in affected communities
The Police Public Relations Officer in Ondo State, Ms Odunlami Ibukun, denied
that there were crises in the area. She told Dataphyte that there used to be a
crisis in the area in the past, but that was no longer the case.
“Okeluse and adjoining communities had crises in the past. There were also
some kidnappings, but there is no crisis again. You cannot link these crises to
herdsmen. However, I cannot say those who are responsible for the issues,” she
Ibukun noted that there was adequate security presence in Okeluse and
adjoining communities, noting that while there was a police division in Ifon,
there was usually a call for reinforcements from the Okeluse outpost.
“We have an adequate police presence in the affected communities; Ifon to
Okeluse is just a ten-minute drive and straight road. We usually patrol the area
every time and ensure the adequacy of security. We also have emergency
numbers,” she stated.
When informed that the only vehicle in the Okeluse outpost was non-functional,
the police spokesperson also denied these occurrences.
The claims of the Ondo State Police public relations officer, however, negate
During Dataphyte’s reporter investigation in Okeluse, there was no police patrol
in the community, and accounts by residents and different security sources in
the communities visited confirmed an absence of police presence.
Despite the crisis rocking Ose Local Government where Okeluse and the
affected communities are located, the incumbent governor, Mr Akeredolu
Rotimi, got 15,122 votes from there during his second term bid, representing 64
percent of the total 23,543 votes cast in the area.
Nigeria’s agriculture sector threatened
In 2022, crop production as a factor of Nigeria’s gross domestic product stood at
N17.260 trillion. This represented 21.41 percent of the country’s GDP for 2022.
The constant insecurity around the country, especially attacks on farms, has
proven to be a key challenge for the agricultural sector, especially crop
The agriculture sector contributes 34.97 percent of the country’s employment.
Nigeria has continued to record attacks on farms by herders. The country’s food
basket, Benue State, has also suffered from casualties, with many reported
killed from time to time by suspected herders.
Different parts of the country have recorded deaths, destruction of properties,
and injuries due to the incessant attacks by herders and bandits.
Different state governments have introduced policies to contain the spread of
attacks on farmers or clashes between farmers and herders. Still, the continual
killings and insecurity suggest that they have been unsuccessful.
The spokesperson to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, Mr Richard Olabode, told
Dataphyte that the Ondo State governor was committed to ensuring adequate
security for the people of the state.
He also noted that the state had been supporting security agencies to tame
insecurity and would continue to do so.
Attempts to get the comments of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association
proved abortive as the National Secretary of the association, Mr Alhasan Salah,
noted that he was unaware of developments in Ondo.
He promised to reach out to the Ondo State coordinator of the group. When
called again, he pointed out that the Ondo State coordinator was unaware of
developments, asking our reporter to send the locations to him. Locations were
sent to him but he gave no rere