ON Thursday, July 1, 2021, the Soka, Ibadan home of Chief Sunday Adeniyi Adeyemo (also known as Sunday Igboho) was attacked for the second time in six months. The first was on January 26, 2021 when hoodlums burnt the same house in what was seen as a retaliation by suspected Fulani assailants.
Three weeks earlier, Igboho and his men had evicted the families of a Fulani leader, Abdulkadir Salihu, from Igangan in Oyo State, over accusations of masterminding attacks, rapes, kidnappings, murders, destruction of farms, harbouring hoodlums and negotiating ransoms for kidnappers.
While speculations were still swirling as to who carried out the second attack on Igboho’s household, the Directorate of State Services, in a statement issued by its spokesman, Dr. Peter Afunanya, claimed responsibility for it.
The DSS said it acted on an intelligence report that Igboho had stockpiled arms in his home. According to the statement, on approaching the residence at 1.34am, the DSS operatives were fired on by nine men suspected to be Igboho’s guards.
According to the statement, “six of them were armed with AK-47 guns and three others with pump action rifles. In the course of the exchange, two of Igboho’s armed men were gunned down while the rest were subdued and arrested”.
The Service also said that seven AK-47 guns, three pump action rifles, 47 AK-47 magazines with 5,000 rounds of ammunition, five cutlasses, one jack knife, Igboho’s passport, one pair of binoculars, two whistles, three voodoo charm jackets/traditional body armour and other items were recovered.
We consider the manner of this nocturnal raid very disturbing because there is very little that differentiates it from the methods deployed by hoodlums and bandits in attacking innocent people. By staging this operation in the wee hours of the night, the DSS operatives gave the guards in that building legitimate reasons to try warding off the attack in the belief that the hoodlums who had earlier attacked the place were back.
When the same DSS staged what it described as a “sting operation” on some judges in Abuja in October 2016, it was widely condemned as an unnecessary act meant to intimidate the suspects when the same objective could have been achieved through the civilised, due process of obtaining a court warrant.
In this raid on Igboho’s residence, there was also no reported indication that it was done with a court warrant. The problem this poses is that the DSS agents were the only persons at the scene to process it and report of items recovered. There was no way of confirming the veracity of their claim that Igboho “stockpiled arms”.
Furthermore, there is no reported evidence that the DSS took any action when Abdulkadir had allegedly established a commune which was guarded by armed men in Igangan and carried out his alleged criminal activities. Even when hoodlums attacked Igboho’s house, there was no known action from DSS to unravel the assailants. It was only the Police which said they were on the heels of the assailants, but up till date, never disclosed the outcome of their investigations.
The Directorate had also carried out actions early in this administration which questioned its impartiality in the discharge of its duties. In April 2016, the Service, through its erstwhile spokesman, Tony Opuiyo, had issued a statement which read as follows: “Service has uncovered the heinous role played by the members of the Indigenous People of Biafra in the abduction/kidnap of five Hausa-Fulani residents, namely: Mohammed Gainako, Ibrahim Mohammed, Idris Yakubu and Isa Mohammed Rago at Isiukwuato LGA in Abia State. The abducted men were later discovered at the Umuanyi Forest, Abia State, where they were suspected to have been killed by their abductors and buried in shallow graves amidst 50 other shallow graves of unidentified persons”.
That raised the question of how the DSS was able to only identify the five bodies of “Hausa-Fulani” ethnic origin without telling the public the identities of the other 50 bodies. This manner in which the Service has sometimes performed its functions under the current regime also resonates with the Muhammadu Buhari government’s worrisome refusal to declare the armed pastoralists as terrorists.
Meanwhile, the Global Terrorism Index, GTI, since 2015 had rated them as the fourth most murderous terror group in the world after ISIS, Somali Al Shabbab and Boko Haram. Since then, the armed herders have taken their terrorism to all parts of the Middle Belt and the Southern geopolitical zones,establishing camps in forests, killing people, raping, destroying farms, kidnapping for ransom and even collecting tolls in parts of Delta State before allowing farmers into their farms. Rather than declare them terrorist and protect innocent and law-abiding Nigerians from them, the government inappropriately describes their nefarious activities as “farmers-herders clashes”.
Just last month, we did not hear a word from the DSS when a group of self-styled “Fulani Jihadists” threatened to attack Asaba and Agbor in Delta State unless Governor Ifeanyi Okowa “rescinded” the ban on open grazing imposed throughout the 17 Southern states by their Governors after a meeting in Asaba. Nobody has been apprehended to reassure the public that such threats cannot be tolerated by the government of the day.
These uneven-handed approaches to the discharge of the Service’s functions do not augur well for faith in the country by Nigerians who feel at the wrong end of it. If anything, it will boost the camps of the aggrieved who seem to have totally lost their faith in Nigeria as their country capable of and willing to protect their lives and property.
We call on the President to caution the Service. The DSS must conform strictly to the universally-established rules of engagement while performing official functions. Government agents maintained with the taxpayers’ money cannot be perceived to compete with hoodlums in their modus operandi. Civilised, professional and lawful conducts on their part will earn them respect and acclaim among the people and restore faith in Nigeria. These are what we ask of them.