Femi Atoyebi, Kamarudeen Ogundele, Femi Makinde, Gbenro Adeoye, Tunde Ajaja and Peter Dada
Some monarchs in the South-West have condemned the police arrests of only persons of Yoruba descent in connection with the recent clash between Yoruba and Hausa communities in Ile-Ife, Osun State, describing the action as bias.
The monarchs, who questioned the rationale behind the arrests of only persons from one of the two tribes involved in the clash, also warned the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration and the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, against moves capable of fuelling ethnic crisis in the country.
According to them, the manner in which the police swiftly arrested only Yoruba persons and paraded them in the Federal Capital Territory, hundreds of kilometres away from Ile-Ife, had aroused their suspicions.
They asked why the various killings by suspected Fulani herdsmen across the country had failed to attract a similar response from the law enforcement agency, while noting that ideally, the police should have arrested suspects from the two sides engaged in the clash.
The police have been the subject of criticisms for arresting and parading 20 Yoruba persons, including a monarch, over the clash, while not a single Hausa/Fulani person was detained, even though both groups involved in the clash were said to have had casualties.
However, this would be the first time that many Yoruba monarchs would be voicing their opinions on the issue.
For instance, the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, Oba Rufus Adeyemo Adejuigbe, the Aladesanmi III, said ethnic bias would compound Nigeria’s problems.
He said, “It is when you introduce ethnic bias that the problem festers. When the arrests are one-sided, it raises tension.
“The security agencies should do their work dispassionately. Nigeria is facing a lot of challenges presently and we should not add ethnicity to that.
“This (One-sided arrests) is a dangerous trend and the authorities should be wary. The security agencies and the authorities concerned should handle the matter with care so that their actions are not counter-productive.”
The Deji of Akureland, Ondo State, Oba Aladelusi Aladetoyinbo, also condemned the action of the police, saying that thorough investigation should be done to fish out the real perpetrators of the clash instead of embarking on the arrest of members of only one tribe.
The monarch said, “I don’t agree with the one-sided arrests. I agree with the Inspector General of Police that criminality has nothing to do with ethnicity or tribe.
“However, two sides were involved in this fracas, so there was no way only people from one side should have been arrested.”
Also, the Ogoga of Ikere-Ekiti, Oba Adejimi-Adu Alagbado, asked why suspected Fulani herdsmen “notorious” for killing residents of host agrarian communities and destroying their farms had yet to be arrested and paraded in Abuja by the police.
According to Alagbado, the handling of the Ile-Ife crisis by the police left much to be desired.
He said, “We understand that a woman was molested in Ile-Ife and that led to the crisis. Who molested her and why was she molested? I understand that the police even arrested the woman that was molested, but I have not heard anything about the molester. Was the molester arrested?
“What was behind the idea of parading of 20 Yoruba persons in Abuja? How many Fulani herdsmen have been paraded over there? All these issues raise questions.
“Even in my domain, I have herdsmen causing problems all over the place. I hope the IGP will look into this. They should not let people have the impression that the Nigeria Police, that is funded with public funds, is taking sides.”
The Olubadan of Ibadan, Oyo State, Oba Saliu Adetunji, also described the police as bias in their approach to the crisis.
Director of Media and Public Affairs to the monarch, Adeola Oloko, who spoke on his behalf, said the Olubadan would not condone any act of violence but when there is a crisis involving two parties, the police must be seen to be neutral.
The Olubadan said, “Whoever will act as a mediator must be neutral and this is where the police come in. We were not there to see what happened when the crisis began but from what we have heard and read in the media, the police took sides, which is wrong.”
He urged the police to “do a thorough job because one side cannot fight against itself.”
The Orangun of Oke Ila , Osun State, Oba Adedokun Abolarin, said the denial of fairness could lead to anarchy.
He said, “They should be fair and ensure justice. There should be no sacred cow; those who violated the law should be arrested.
“We must not be partial in dealing with this kind of matter. Whoever was involved in the crime should be arrested and prosecuted irrespective of their ethnic group.”
The Ogiyan of Ejigbo in Osun State, Oba Omowonuola Oyesosin , urged the police to desist from actions capable of causing further crisis, saying none of the perpetrators should be spared.
The monarch lauded Governor Rauf Aregbesola for setting up a panel of inquiry into the clash.
Oyesosin said, “The setting up of the panel of inquiry will enable everybody to know what transpired, how it happened and who the actors were.
“The bias is condemnable and the actors from other sides should also be arrested and prosecuted.”
In a similar vein, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, had on Wednesday, described the arrests as one-sided, but called for caution in the handling of the matter by Yoruba and Hausa leaders.
Speaking in Yoruba, the Ooni said, “A kii fa’ri apa kan (It is not proper to shave one side of the head and leave the other unshaved).”
He, however, called on every party to exercise restraint so as to avoid aggravating the situation.
The Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, advised all ethnic groups to eschew evil and embrace peace.
“We should accommodate ourselves and efforts should be made to get to the root of the matter. The issues should be resolved so we can all continue to live in peace,” he said.
Also, the Osemawe of Ondo, Oba Victor Kiladejo, sympathised with the Ooni of Ife over the disturbances in Ile-Ife, which he described as the historic city of Yoruba people.
He added, “We welcome the commission of inquiry set up by the government to investigate the causes of the conflict. We also urge that the conduct of the investigation should be holistic and credible to prevent such intra-communal crisis in the future.”
When contacted, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, told one of our correspondents that he would soon release an official statement on the matter.
Meanwhile, activities have resumed at Sabo area of Ile-Ife, Osun State, the scene of the March 8 clash between Hausa and Yoruba communities.
One of our correspondents, who visited the scene on Thursday, observed that owners of shops burnt during the clash had yet to return but some others had resumed trading activities.
A supermarket in the area, Salamullahi, was open when our correspondent visited the area and a salesgirl at the store, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said business was gradually picking up in the area.
A shop owner, who identified herself as Mama Oyinbo, said she had to resume trading activities since peace had been restored and because of the presence of security agents in the area.
She said, “We are here now by the grace of God. The Yoruba and Hausa people here are one. The mother of this child with me is Hausa but he is very comfortable with me. I have been carrying him since he was 11 days old and his mother leaves him in my shop even when I am not around.”
A tailor, Mr. Joshua Oladosu, also said he had since returned to his shop.
However, some buildings that were destroyed during the clash were still in ruins.