Social and economic activities have been paralysed between Kwara and Oyo states since Sunday following the invasion of Ilorin-Igbeti highway by suspected herdsmen.
Several travellers have fallen victims. The hoodlums reportedly kidnapped and collected huge ransom from their victims.
A businessman was said to have paid N70 million to the hoodlums described by residents as ‘strange faces’ who suddenly surfaced along the route.
Since Sunday, newspaper distribution from Ilorin, Kwara State, to communities such as Igboho, Kishi, Igbeti, Igbope, Iya, Yoyin, all in Oyo State, have been affected as commercial vehicles have abandoned the road. Several motorists, traders and farmers have not been able to travel on the road.
News of the invasion first emerged on Wednesday last week, according to a newspaper distribution agent, who said he had been forced to use only motorcycle to move his supply from Ilorin since last week. He said three vehicles were waylaid and passengers held hostage by the armed men, adding that female victims were released after being dispossessed while a ransom of N5 million was placed on each male captive.
He said: “In the recent past, there have been pockets of armed robbery and kidnapping within Olorunsogo, Irepo and Orelope local government areas but this one is on a large scale.”
However, a resident of Igbeti, who spoke with our reporter on the phone, said the desertion of the route by motorists was due to a security cordon in the area by a combined team of local vigilantes and policemen.
The effort, according to him, has already led to the arrest of about 30 of the armed men.
Asked how the invasion started, the source said: “We just began to notice an invasion of strange faces on the route. They camped on the Igbeti–Kishi Forest Reserve Road. Some days they would come out and begin to shoot into the air without touching anybody and run back into the forest. But on some other days they would stop vehicles and dispossess the passengers; they have collected N70 million from one businessman and N2 million from another victim.”
However, when contacted, the Kwara State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Ajayi Okasanmi, said the command was yet to be informed of the development.
Meanwhile, members of the state House of Assembly yesterday called on the state government to constitute Farmers/Herdsmen Committee in the 16 local government areas of the state to monitor their activities.
The call followed a motion by Alhaji Ahmed lbn-Mohamned, the chairman, Committee on Health and Environment, who attributed incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the state to lack of accurate data of the two groups.
lbn-Mohamned, who represents Kaima-Wajibe, argued that government had so far failed to implement a decision of the lawmakers on the issue by setting up a special committee to address the incessant clashes among the two groups.
The legislator said the committee would undertake the accurate data of the farmers and herdsmen with a view to curbing farms’ encroachment by cows and other issues that could lead to conflict.
Some of the members, who contributed to the debate on the motion, stressed the need for the implementation of the law by government to put an end to clashes among the two groups.
The Deputy Speaker, Mathew Okedare, while reading the resolution of the House on the motion, urged the Federal Government to commence concrete monuments and mapping of 5,000 kilometres of cattle routes across the country.