About 18 persons suspected to be Fulani herdsmen have invaded farms in Lagun Village, Lagelu Local Council of Oyo State and shot a chief security guard, Jimmy Aido. They also robbed the residents of the farms, carting away an undisclosed amount of money in the process.
While Aido is currently recuperating at the Iwo Medical Centre in Iwo, Osun State where he was hospitalised, the workers have all deserted the farms for fears of a repeat visit by the attackers.
The gunmen were said to have first invaded ARDIS Farms, a large section of the area that belongs to the former Secretary to the Oyo State Government, Ayodel Adigun, ransacked it before moving to other settlements in the neighbouring villages of Adedokun and Alapata, both in the Lagelu local government area.
An eyewitness account had it that the invaders, armed with sophisticated weapons had earlier robbed unsuspecting motorists along the Iwo-Ibadan Road for some hours, before attacking the farms along the axis. They raided each farm and carted away heavy sums of money and food stuffs.
ARDIS Farms, which is situated on about 500 acres of land, began the production of palm kernel and livestock production in 1995. The large expanse has about 35 workers, both residents and non-residents.
The robbery operation was said to have lasted for about seven hours, as the marauders held the terrified farms workers to ransom between 8:00 p.m., Tuesday till the wee hours of 3:00 a.m. of Wednesday.
Narrating his ordeal to reporters at the farm yesterday, one of the workers on duty, Mr. Olanipekun Ogunkolade said the invaders ransacked all the rooms on the farm and carted away an undisclosed sum of money.
He said: “They said where is the money? Where is the money? I brought what I had on me, but they shouted, where is the remaining money? I told them that that was what I had. They now called another worker, whom we all call Baba Ondo. They forced him to take them to his room. They said ‘Oya, let us go to your room.’ They ransacked the place and moved to our rooms and they ransacked the whole place.
“They also went into the manager’s room and asked us about who held the key to the place and we told them he had left for Lagun village. They asked us all sorts of things like cigarettes, Indian hemp, but we told them repeatedly that we didn’t have all those things.
“When we told them we didn’t have the key, they became very angry and took their machetes and cut the mosquito net. They entered the room and they warned us not to come out and threatened that they would gun us down.
“One of the security men went to call the chief security officer, who unknowingly walked into an ambush laid for him. They shot him and left him there for dead and those of us on the farm did not know that they had shot him.
“We later organised a search party for him, with all of us shouting Jimmy! Jimmy!, until we heard him shouting in a certain part of the farm and we met him writhing in pain.
“He was shouting, ‘please help me o, help me.’ We now went to the area and found him lying down and was in great pain. However, the robbers fired some shots in our direction and everybody ran.
“It was around 3:00 a.m., after the invaders had gone that we came back and took Jimmy to the hospital. We first took him to Iyana Offa, but he was rejected, because of the bullet wounds. As we were going the Fulanis had already mounted a road block at Lagun. They intercepted us and they even took away my clothes.’’
On the invaders’ identity, Ogunkolade said, “Yes, I think they are Fulanis, they first put on masks, but later they removed the masks, they even asked me whether I knew them and I said I didn’t know them.
I know that they came in a large number. They were about 18, five entered the rooms with us. Eventually when they left us, they just went to the rooms and ransacked everywhere. They finished our eba, they were even asking for more fish and I said we didn’t have fish anymore.”
The Farm Manager, Mr. Emmanuel Ashava described the incident as one that took them by surprise, explaining that no such case had ever occurred, since the farm started operation in 1995.
He said the invaders must have known that the farm is the biggest and the most prosperous in the area and that this made them concentrate on it.
The owner of the farm, Mr. Ayodele Adigun told journalists that though he could not immediately ascertain the worth of the losses, they would be in the region of millions of naira.