By Ismaeel Uthman & Solomon Odeniyi
THERE was still tension and palpable fear in Erin-Osun and Ilobu after the peace accord reached by the traditional rulers of the two towns, Oba Yusuf Omoloye, Oyagbodun II and Oba Ashiru Olatoye Olaniyan II, following the deadly communal clash between their subjects last Saturday.
Obas Omoloye and Olaniyan, including the Olufon of Ifon-Orolu, Oba Almaroof Magbagbeola, Olumoyero II and other chieftains of the towns signed a peace accord with the Police and the State Government on Monday in Osogbo, after meeting the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Wale Olokode.
However, Residents of the two communities were on the alert, vigilant and suspicious of perceived reprisal attacks, after the relaxation of the 24-hour curfew declared by the State Government to restore law and order in the towns on Tuesday.
OSUN DEFENDER visited the communities on Wednesday and yesterday and noted that the youths of the communities were still much agitated and hostile to strange faces in their various environments.
Soldiers and mobile policemen were stationed at strategic places in both Ilobu and Erin-Osun. The popular Ojutu bridge was manned by soldiers and policemen with Armoured Personnel Carriers.
Passengers of mini-commercial buses, known as Korope and those of commercial motorcycles were asked to walk through the security checkpoints with their hands up.
Wreckages of burnt movable and immovable properties were seen on the roads and by the roadsides.
It was noted that normal life and activities were yet to take off, as sizeable number of residents of the communities, who had been repelled out of town during the hot crisis, were yet to return to their various houses.
Human and vehicular movements were so scanty on the roads in both Ilobu and Erin-Osun.
There was still palpable fear on the faces of the people, as they were afraid of the unexpected.
But semblance of peace has returned to both communities, not minding mutual suspicion that permeated the atmosphere.
Cause Of The Crisis
Findings by OSUN DEFENDER revealed that the communal clash was as a result of an ongoing Enumeration Area Demarcation in Erin-Osun and Ilobu by the National Population Commission.
According to verified reports, officials of the NPC in the State of Osun had visited Ireakari and Ahoro Afin areas being claimed by both Ilobu and Erins-Osun for the purpose of demarcating landed properties ahead of approaching physical head-count exercise of the commission.
It was gathered that crisis engulfed the exercise when residents of the area, who are majorly Ilobu indigenes, insisted that their landed properties could not be marked as part of Erin-Osun.
The disagreement, according to reports, degenerated into physical assault and pandemonium ensued afterwards.
Investigations by OSUN DEFENDER revealed that a family from Ifon originally owned the land before it was ceded to Erin-Osun by the State Government, based on the recommendations of an Administrative Committee into the Boundary Disputes among Erin-Osun, Ifon and Ilobu Communities in 2014.
The government’s gazette and reports of the committee is now a subject of litigation as the Olufon of Ifon, Oba Almaroof Adekunle Magbagbeola has challenged it in court.
Judgment was delivered on the Olufon’s suit registered HOS/40/2015 at an Osogbo High Court on July 13, 2018, by Justice W.O. Akanbi, who upheld the report of the committee and refused to declare it as unconstitutional, null and void against the plaintiff’s prayer.
However, Olufon has appealed the verdict and the suit is pending at the Appeal Court, Akure, Ondo State.
Speaking with OSUN DEFENDER in an interview, the State Director of the National Population Commission, Pastor Bayo Adejobi said the agency had no hand in the communal clash that erupted in Erin-Osun and Ilobu.
According to Adejobi, the commission had series of meetings with the three communities; and all gave it assurances of peace and security before embarking on the demarcation exercise.
Adejobi said: “We are not responsible for the communal clash, although we were there to do demarcation which is being done across the state and the country at large. We recently had a successful exercise in communities in Ife East and Central before moving down there.
“Ours is not to take sides with anybody. We would go there and mark it as a disputed area; it would not be counted for either of the communities, that is the standard. Theirs is not between local governments, it is within. The two communities could attest to the fact that we did everything to ensure peace is not breached.
We held about three meetings with them three weeks before the exercise proper. We emphasised on peace at these meetings and they actually assured us that there would be peace.
“We started the exercise until it took that sad turn. Three of our staff members were attacked but they are now recuperating. We hope that with the intervention of the Governor and the Commissioner of Police, they would embrace peace. “
Speaking on the matter, the Elerin of Erin-Osun, Oba Omoloye said the clash would have been avoided, had Olobu acted appropriately, claiming that he had earlier called Oba Olaniyan to settle the disputes on the land when the crisis was brewing, before it degenerated.
According to Oba Omoloye, the disputed parcels of land belong to Erin-Osun, as contained in the gazette of the state government dated October 13, 2014, adding that a State High Court in Osogbo had also upheld the gazette when it was challenged by the Olufon of Ifon, Oba Almaroof Adekunle Magbagbeola, as contained in the judgment of the court dated July 13, 2018.
He explained that the government ceded the land to his town and gazetted it based on the recommendations of Administrative Committee into the Boundary Disputes among Erin-Osun, Ifon and Ilobu communities.
Oba Omoloye said when the disputed land was later being sold to Ilobu people by Ifon, he objected to it, but later remained calm because of the peaceful nature of his town and the belief that Erin-Osun owns the land and whichever community owns the land owns everything on it.
The traditional ruler told the medium that peace had returned to the two communities and that they are committed to the peace accord signed with the Police and government.
However, a Prince from Olusookun royal house, who claimed to have witnessed the genesis of the crisis, Alhaji Sulaimon Azeez, said: “When the demarcation was about to start, the Elerin had called Olobu that the land they were occupying would be counted as part of Erin-Osun.
“Olobu sent four of his chiefs. Elerin did same. The delegation went to inspect the land and agreed to feed their monarchs back. Elerin was expecting Olobu’s call but the call never came. On Saturday, February 06, we proceeded to the Moje-Eweta area, alongside officials from the NPC.
“We were expecting the representatives of Olobu there too, because we had requested them so there won’t be dispute. While waiting around Sawmill area, we saw armed men numbering 25, with guns, wearing hoods. We all scampered for safety. One Mr. Fatade, a staff of NPC and one other lady with him fell and got injured.
“Before we knew what was happening, the Ilobu people had launched attack on Erin and attempted to raze the Elerin Palace, but for the timely intervention of the vigilante and hunters. It was a sudden attack on us. They burnt out houses and killed many people.”
Explaining his community side to the events, the Otun-Jagun of Ilobu, Chief Goke Ogunsola described the communal clash as provocation from Erin-Osun, but assured that peace have returned to both communities.
Ogunsola, in a telephone interview with OSUN DEFENDER said: “There are two communities in Ilobu. The first one is Oke-Ayepe, Ilobu; while the other one is called Ayedaade, Ilobu. In the areas where these two communities are located, some plots of land were sold to the inhabitants of the place by the Afin family of Ifon-Osun. Those who bought parcels of land there are mainly indigenes of Ilobu. As a result of the fact that there is a dispute between Afin family of Ifon-Osun and the Olobu royal class, those who bought the land decided to repurchase it from either Afin family or Olobu’s family whenever there was crisis.
“Suddenly, on the 6th of February, 2021 around 1pm, we discovered that some gunmen went there to chase people, mostly women away. We were at the palace then. The distress call of those women made us to send people to the place to go and check what was happening. On getting there, they discovered that the people of Erin-Osun had come to the place, shooting sporadically and in the process destroying a car and houses.
“The owner of the destroyed houses came to the palace and we appealed to them for calm; and that the matter was being handled. But they could not wait to keep witnessing further destruction of their property and as a result went back in anger.
“They took whatever they could lay their hands on and chased those people away across a river called Awesin, near the sawmill in Ilobu, back to their communities. The Erin-Osun people, who were chased out of Ayedaade and Oke-Ayepe, now resorted to attacking Ilobu indigenes who were coming from their farms.
“Around 8am in the morning of Sunday, when we were at the palace deliberating on how to resolve the issue amicably, Ilobu people residing at Ire-Akari ran to the palace that Erin-Osun people came to the area, chased them away and burnt their properties .
“It was at that moment that we could no longer put in check the emotions of our people at Ilobu. We contacted the Governor about the issue and he sent security agents who came to appeal to the youths not to engage in war against one another.”
Asked why the Ilobu and Ifon people would be laying claim to the area when the State Government had ceded the place to them, Ogunsola said: “Government cannot give what it does not have. If government wants to give the land, it will first of all acquire the land. The government has never acquired the place. You will acquire the land and pay compensation to whoever is due to make them do whatever they want to do with it.
“However, everything they want to do must be in the interest of the public, not in the interest of a particular/private person.
“The families that lay claim to the land from Ifon chose to challenge the decision of the committee to seize the land from Erin Osun in court and at present, the case is at the Court of Appeal, Akure, where the appeal is still pending.”
Ogunsola also refuted the claim that the NPC officials were assaulted on the land, saying: “There was no NPC official on the land. I think the plan of the people of Erin was to scare away the population census officials. The officials were not even on ground at the site when the people came.
“There is no place called Eweta in Ilobu. Eweta is in Orolu Local Government. There is no place called Eweta where there is dispute between Ilobu and Erin Osun.”
Asked how true was Elerin’s claim that he called Olobu to intervene on the matter before it degenerated, Ogunsola said: “It is an insult on Ilobu people for Erin or Elerin to say that its own part of Ilobu should be demarcated to Erin-Osun. The whole land called Erin-Osun today was ceded by Olobu to Elerin of Erin Osun. It is an insult on us for Elerin to call on Olobu that a part of Ilobu should be demarcated in favour of Erin Osun.”