For the second time, soldiers from 35 Artillery Brigade, Alamala, Abeokuta, Ogun State, have visited some villages in Yewa North Local Government Area, Ogun State, where they had earlier brutalised residents at the instance of some herdsmen.
In a report exclusively published by The Nation penultimate Saturday, the soldiers had reportedly escorted some herdsmen to some of the villages on December 19, 2020 and flogged many of the residents for refusing to allow the herdsmen to graze their cattle on their farmlands.
About 29 villages in the area had been attacked in recent times by terror herdsmen who were said to have camped at Eggua, a neighbouring town, from where they led their cattle to destroy farmlands within the Ketu-Yewa communities, which share borders with the Republic of Benin.
The affected villages include Ateru, Moro, Ologun, Agbon, Igbota, Ogunba-Aiyetoro, Oke-Odo, Ibore, Gbokoto, Iselu, Ijale, Ohunbe, Igbeme, Ijoun, Owode-Ketu, Igan-Alade, Lashilo, Oja Odan, Moro, Ologun, Iyana Meta, Igbooro, Egbeda and Kuse.
The story has not been refuted by the Nigerian Army or the federal authorities many days after it was published.
Worried by the development, some traditional rulers in the area had written a petition against the soldiers, the state government, and the police in the state.
In a bid to silence the victims of the brutality, about six soldiers led by one Captain John Onyebuchi, visited some of the villages in the Yewa North Local Government Area of the state again at about 2 pm on Friday, January 29, 2021.
At Ubeku, in the presence of the Baale (village head) Chief Olaleye Adigun, a youth leader Peter Koposhu and other villagers, the soldiers asked one of their victims, Seye Mulero to recant his statement published in the petition and reported by The Nation. According to a four-minute audio recording of the event that transpired during the visit and obtained by our correspondent, Captain Onyebuchi revealed that the Army headquarters was worried by the petition it received and news report over the allegation that men of 35 Artillery Brigade, Alamala, Abeokuta escorted herdsmen to the affected communities where they brutalised some villagers for refusing herdsmen to graze their cattle on their farmlands.
In the said audio recording, Onyebuchi was heard frantically asking Mulero to make a video recording of the retraction to save the Army from embarrassment. The victim, however, refused to retract his statement, insisting that he was flogged and badly wounded.
Disturbed by Mulero’s stance, Onyebuchi said: “The story says ‘Soldiers escort herdsmen to Ogun villages… At that point, the soldiers seized him and beat him mercilessly…’
“See, this is a big allegation and we will not take it for granted.
“The (Nigeria) Army got in touch with Alamala (35 Artillery Brigade), which in turn sent me here. I have to write a report on the investigation because I must report back to the person who sent me here.
“…I want you (youth leader) to video him (Seye) because your name is what we have in the petition. Your name is what we have, so you (youth leader) will record him now, he will call his name and say that nobody touched him.”
Onyebuchi then asked that Mulero be filmed while refuting the story that he was beaten by soldiers who escorted herders to the village.
“He will call his name as you are recording him and say that all these are false. Nobody touched him and whatever he said, nobody forced him to say; he said it out of his freewill in the presence of the Baale and the youth leader and, of course, members of the community.
“Are you getting me? Go ahead…if that is done, I think I am okay with it.”
The soldier however warned that the failure of the victim to make the retraction might force the Army to return to arrest him as well as shun any distress call from the community.
He said: “Let me tell you what this thing means. There’s a need to clear this air. If you don’t clear it, next time when they call, the Army will not respond because you people have alleged and penned the name of the Army in a bad light (sic) and the Army will not respond when there is an emergency in this place.
“If they don’t respond, you can’t blame them. So, the need to clear this is very important. If I were you, I would come out clear because your name is everywhere in the petition they wrote; that you were beaten mercilessly, and look at you here.
“Say it that whoever is doing it is doing it on his own; that you didn’t send anybody.
“If you like, pretend to feign lack of understanding by saying ‘mi o gbo, mio gbo (I don’t understand)’, that is your problem… If tomorrow they come here and pick you up that you were using the name of the Army anyhow, you will go in for it. So, the earlier you clear the air, the better for you.”
Mulero, however, refused to be intimidated, saying: “…I was flogged. You can see the wounds on my back and I am still feeling pains. The soldiers beat me up, kicked me, and dealt blows on me. Even parts of my body swelled up.”
Mulero’s younger brother, Gabriel, who was also flogged by the soldiers, said the second coming of the soldiers had heightened fears among the villagers.
He said: “The soldiers wore red berets, which suggested that they were military police. They left around 4 pm. They met with the Baale, the youth leader Peter Koposhu and other villagers.
“They came in a military van and left disappointed after my brother refused to do what they wanted of him.”