For Mrs Rachael Ilori, 63, widow of a hunter and farmer, Mr Emmanuel Ilori, 68, who was killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen on the night of June 28, 2019 at Orin Farm Settlement, Orin-Ekiti in Ekiti State, life has not been the same since the death of her husband.
The woman, who has yet to come to terms with becoming a widow unexpectedly, cannot forget her husband’s last moments and the hopes she had with him, all of which have been dashed by his sudden death.
As sympathisers continued to throng their residence at the Temidire area in the Ido-Osi Local Government Area of the state, Rachael, who retired from her workplace in Jebba in Kwara State to live with her husband in Orin-Ekiti in 2016 so that they could achieve their dreams together, said sorrowfully: “Death snatched him away from me unannounced.”
Narrating how the sad event occurred, Rachael said, “At about 10.45pm on Friday, we were together in bed when a call came in. The phone rang twice and he picked it up. After the phone discussion, I asked him who the caller was and he said it was Niyi, a hunter.
She said, “The hunter told him that some bandits were in the farm settlement, and perhaps dismantling some equipment there. My husband then called the leader of the town and some hunters. That was how he left not knowing that would be our last time together.
“He did not return throughout the night. Early on Saturday morning, I went to church and saw some people who told me that suspected Fulani herdsmen had abducted him. They said when they got to the settlement, he asked other hunters that went with him to stay at strategic locations.
“One of the hunters later explained to me that when they got to the farm settlement, Baba, as he was fondly called, asked the hunters to stay at some places while three of them – Baba and two others – went to the piggery where the bandits were.
“The hunter said that as Baba entered the place, the suspected Fulani herdsmen opened fire on him. He was not there to hunt as he did not hunt at night. Since I had been with him, he had only hunted in the daytime. They would go as a group of 30 or 40 hunters. But for this call, seven hunters went with him.”
Rachael, who is a mother of six, said the development could have been averted as her husband had been ill prior to the night he received the call and could have resisted the temptation to leave their home that night.
“He could not resist the urge to help; my husband sacrificed his life for the community,” she said.
It was learnt that the news was initially concealed from Rachael, which was why she was told that her husband had been abducted.
“When I heard that he was kidnapped, I was even the one consoling other people that they should rather support him with prayers so that he could regain his freedom. It was later I heard that he had been killed; I was devastated by the news.
“I wept bitterly because of the enormous things we still wanted to do together. I retired and came back home in 2016 so that we could live together in peace,” she said.
According to her, only last year, some suspected Fulani herdsmen grazed their cattle on her husband’s four-acre maize farm.
“When my husband went to meet the leader of Fulani herdsmen, Abashe, to complain about the incursion into his farm, he said that he would give him N50,000 for what was destroyed, but my husband did not collect the money. That was ridiculous for the damage done on four acres of land. Was that for chemicals, workmanship, fertilisers, seeds or what?
“He was depressed because of the destruction. I was the one who consoled him that since there was life, there was hope. All of us that are into farming, Fulani herdsmen have deprived us of peace of mind. They trouble us and our farms daily.
“Government should assist us. The Fulani herdsmen should let us have peace of mind on our land. We don’t want them again on our land. They are threats to peace and security of lives and property,” the woman said.
The eldest daughter of the slain hunter, Mrs Olanike Akinwumi, a civil servant, said the killing of her father, who she described as her ‘companion,’ was a devastating blow to her and the family.
“I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night to weep bitterly since my dad died. We were together on Friday night, the night before he died. I went to bed around 9pm, but around 5.30am, on Saturday, the following day, I heard when my mother was receiving a call from a brother that there was an announcement in the town that nobody should go to farm that day.
“It was when I overheard my mother telling the man that her husband had been in the farm since midnight that I knew he was involved. My mother said somebody called to inform her that there was problem in the farm and that he saw strange faces there.
“After receiving the call, she went to Mass that morning. About 10 minutes later, she called to tell me that there was tension in the town and that my father had been declared missing. So I went to town to see what was happening; people were everywhere. From there, I went to the residence of the head of the community, Chief Falua, to find out how to go about the problem.
“Surprisingly, he said he had heard about it since 3am and that they had informed the police. But till that time, about 6am, we had not seen any police. It was while I was on my way to Ifaki Ekiti that I met a police van. I had to alight from the vehicle to join the police van to the palace.
“When we got to the palace, the policemen said they were still expecting another detachment of police. Later, the detachment came, then some soldiers came. But disappointingly, the policemen, who they said had been contacted at about 3am, said they had no fuel.
“I was disappointed because I thought they were unmindful of the fact that there was a life at stake in the bush. At the time, I was thinking that he could still be rescued if there was early intervention, so I had to give them some money and the three vans were taken to Ifaki-Ekiti to get fuel.
“After getting the fuel, they went inside the bush. I wanted to go with them because I didn’t want to believe in hearsay. I told them that my brother, who had gone in search of his father, was still in the bush and I didn’t want them to just go there and start shooting.
“It was shortly after that my brother called me with my dad’s phone, saying he saw the phone beside his body. My brother had gone into the bush while everybody was shouting and nobody wanted to go there to look for his father.
“When my brother saw our father’s corpse, he had to call to tell me that he had been killed. He said the police were there with him. That was how the sad news was finally broken. We then arranged for the corpse to be moved to the mortuary at Federal Teaching Hospital, Ido-Ekiti around 10am that Saturday morning,” Olanike said with teary eyes.
She had, while addressing the governor who was on a condolence visit to the community, said the family was planning to have funeral programmes for the late hunter and farmer on June 25 and 26, hence the need for the police, state government and other appropriate authorities to release his remains to the family.
Meanwhile, hunters in Orin-Ekiti said that the hunter died in defence of the community as his death came following his response to a call in the night that there were some invaders in the farm.
A hunter, Adeniyi Ajayi, who was the one who called Ilori the night he was killed, said he saw ‘an unusual appearance’ in the farm while he was hunting that night. “I promptly put a call through to Baba as a leader. He called others on the phone and eight of us, including him, went to the place,” he said.
Other hunters, Martins Dada, Ogundele Omiata and Biodun Awomayi, who corroborated Ajayi’s story, said the deceased hunter called them to embark on the mission together, saying that while others stayed at different spots, Ilori and two others went to the spot where the suspected herders had been sighted.
According to them, Ilori was shot dead by the suspected Fulani herdsmen as he attempted to have a dialogue with them. They said the moment they opened fire on Ilori, the other hunters with him scampered for safety because of the superior firearms with the bandits.
The state chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, Mr Kolawole Rotimi, said: “I want to say that losing a brave farmer like Mr Emmanuel Ilori is disheartening and discouraging. You can no longer go to Orin Farm Settlement. This is part of what has bedevilled Yorubaland.”
Rotimi, who said there was fear of Fulani herdsmen everywhere, added, “I’m calling on our traditional rulers in Yorubaland that farmers no longer feel safe on their farms. We don’t want them (Fulani herdsmen) anymore. Sambisa Forest can take all the herders in the country,” he said.
Fayemi, had during his visit to the community on Monday to address residents who were protesting against the killing of Ilori, called on security agencies to find and bring the culprits to justice.
The governor urged the people of the state to collaborate with government and security agencies by providing information on suspicious movements and activities in their areas, adding that collaborative efforts by all security stakeholders in the state would help rid the state of banditry and other forms of criminal activities.
Fayemi had on the occasion directed that a police post be provided near the farm settlement and that security patrol be stepped up in the town to forestall any form of insecurity in the area.
“We have youths, hunters and Peace Corps who should collaborate with security agents. We cannot relocate Orin to another place for any reason. Government will provide adequate security in this community so that everyone can ply their trades without fear.
“This is your land. As the governor, I have authority over all the land in the state and I am assuring you that no one will take your land from you for any purpose.
“Whoever violates the law and is caught in the act will face the wrath of the law whether he is Yoruba, Fulani, Tiv or whichever tribe the person may come from. Anybody who commits crime will not go scot free.
“If we don’t give the security agents around us adequate information, it will be difficult to arrest and prosecute such an offender. That is why there is a need for us all to collaborate. We must play our own roles too and inform the appropriate security personnel (when we have information that can help them),” Fayemi said.
The community leader, who is the Eletin of Orin-Ekiti, High Chief Francis Falua, lamented the death of the hunter as he called on government “to protect the people of the town from further attacks”.
Falua urged the state government and security agencies “to ensure that the perpetrators of the dastardly act are arrested and brought to justice”.
Police Public Relations Officer in the state, DSP Caleb Ikechukwu, said, “What I can say now is that we will ensure that we apprehend those who perpetrated the act and other crimes generally in the society.”
Ikechukwu, however, said he could not ascertain that it was true the allegation that the police arrived at the community late and demanded money for no fuel.
“Anybody is entitled to their opinion. I cannot ascertain that; somebody can come up with a fabricated story.
“The police are partnering with the community to assist with information of any criminalities or happenings around them. The police have also availed the community of their control room number so that individuals and communities can contact them in case of anything that has to do with crime. The police have also commenced community policing around Ekiti State,” the police spokesman said. [THE NATION]