Claims and counterclaims trailed the arrest of 47 armed Fulani herdsmen in Ibarapa North Local Government of Oyo State by military operatives under the banner of Operation Burst.
The herdsmen were reportedly arrested on Sunday during a raid at Tapa/Igangan axis in Ibarapa North Local Government Area of the state.
Sources confided in Fedredsnews that the herdsmen were arrested when they were on a retaliatory mission to avenge the killings of some of their colleagues by the Oyo State Security Network Agency codenamed Amotekun in the area on Saturday.
But the Chairman of the Oyo State branch of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Ibrahim Jiji countered this in a statement on Monday. He said the 47 Fulani herdsmen arrested by operation burst are members of Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN).
Independent sources, however, told Fedredsnews that the clash between Amotekun and armed Fulani herdsmen in the area led to the death of at least three people. Amotekun commandant, Olayinka Olayanju, said his operatives went on a raid at a hideout of kidnappers in four local government areas of the state when the killings occurred. He said his officers engaged in a shootout with the armed herdsmen.
Some of the villagers told our correspondent that there was unrest in the Ibarapa axis on Sunday, a situation that led to the visitation of operation burst operatives and the subsequent arrest of the 47 armed herdsmen.
The arrest was also confirmed by the Director-General of Operation Burst, Oladipo Ajibola, a retired colonel, who said those arrested have been handed over to the police.
In addition, the Oyo State Police Command spokesperson, Olugbenga Fadeyi, said the arrested herdsmen have been transferred to the state CID in Iyaganku, Ibadan.
“Some Fulani herdsmen were arrested and they are currently in the state CID in Iyaganku, Ibadan. The Fulani herdsmen claimed that they were arrested when trying to also look for some kidnappers, who were about to collect ransom from relations of a kidnapped victim. That’s yet to be ascertained anyways but investigation is on-going on the matter.”
Alhaji Jiji, Oyo State Chair of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association insisted that the arrested herdsmen were not criminals but vigilante members.
“Those who were going to fight criminals are the set of the people they are parading as criminals. Those people are not criminals; they are the people securing us. They are registered vigilantes and they are working with the police and other security agencies.”
He said the herdsmen have been useful to the state for many years and they are not criminals.
“Thief is thief and not Fulani. Tribe is different from criminals. We are ready to work with the Oyo State government to stop criminality in the state. I am appealing to the state government to leave these people. They are not thieves. They are the people who are securing us because we may need them another time. Why we want them to include our members in Amotekun is because of language barrier. We appeal to the Oyo State government to include people from other tribes in Amotekun for the job to be efficient,” the statement read.