Residents of towns and villages along the Opara Forest Reserve in Oyo State and Imeko Forest Reserve in Ogun State are living in fear following the invasion of the two reserves by herdsmen.
Some residents of Imeko, Iwoye and Jabata told SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday that the development had been a major source of concern them, alleging that the herdsmen allowed their animals to destroy people’s farms while grazing in the areas.
One of the residents of Iwoye, Adeyemi Olaosebikan, told our correspondent on the telephone that inhabitants of Jabata village in the Imeko Afon Local Government Area of Ogun State had deserted their community following the killing of some indigenes during an attack.
He said residents fled the community in May after four persons were killed in the community, adding that residents of other border communities were now living in fear.
Olaosebikan stated, “Herdsmen from many countries in West Africa have taken over the Opara Forest Reserve in Oyo State and Imeko Forest Reserve in Ogun State. Their presence there is causing fear among the people.
“In fact, resident have deserted Jabata Village which is in Imeko Afon. Imeko Forest Reserve should be twice the size of Ibadan. It is 378 square miles. The Opara Forest Reserve is almost three times bigger than Imeko Reserve.
“Government is watching herdsmen from Bukina Faso, Mali and other countries taking over an area that is that large. The forest reserves belong to the Federal Government but state forest guards are the ones taking care of them. However, it is obvious that the forest guards are not doing anything there. So, this invasion is a time bomb.”
Corroborating the claim, a resident of Imeko Afon, Joseph Ogunwale, said the herdsmen, who invaded and occupied a tomato factory, being built by the Oodua Investment Company Limited had yet to vacate the place almost two months after.
“Government took over the forest between 1908 and 1930. The forest reserves are in the Nigeria-Republic of Benin border. These two reserves are very large. Imeko Forest Reserve is bigger than Ibadan and Opara Forest Reserve is almost three times bigger than Imeko Reserve,” he said.
One of the prominent sons of Imeko, Prof. Anthony Asiwaju, a former lecturer at the Department of History, University of Lagos, told SUNDAY PUNCH that the occupation of Imeko Forest Reserve by foreigners was a security threat.
Asiwaju said, “Many of them have taken residence in uncared for, unguarded forests reserves along the international boundary. They cross from northern part of Benin Republic to Nigeria. The government there does not allow them to stay and they cross to Nigeria and move into the forests.”