A cattle rearer from Ilorin, Kwara State, Mr Adebayo Owolabi, popularly known as Baba Sule, whose cows recently died en masse at his base in Akungba Akoko, Ondo State, tells PETER DADA the circumstances surrounding the incident.
You have Yoruba names, but some people say you are Fulani while others say you are Bororo. Can you clear the air?
I am not a Bororo neither am I a Fulani. I am a Yoruba man from Tanke family in Ilorin, Kwara State.
Your cows, about 30, were reportedly found dead recently in mysterious circumstances. How did it happen?
The incident happened between 5pm and 6pm on Monday ( March 29, 2021). I was not around that day. I came back and I went to the mosque to pray; it was my son who took the animals to graze that called my attention and said the cows ate poison. Later, another child of mine came and told me that over 20 cows were dead already. On getting to the scene, I met 52 cows lifeless. That night, policemen came; some people also came over to sympathise with me. As we left the scene, some unknown persons went to steal some of the dead cows. It got to a point that some people were fighting with the sanitation officers of the local government that came to inspect the scene and some people took a cow. I had pleaded with the government officials that I wanted to sell the dead cows, but they stopped me.
News reports put the number of the cows that died at 30 but you mentioned 52 now. What is the correct figure?
The cows were over 30; there were actually 52 cows that died.
You said your son told you the cows died of poisoning, but some people are saying the cows died because they grazed on certain sacred land. What did your own findings show?
We have done our own findings and we discovered that the cows did not die mysteriously; they died of poisoning; we discovered that they were poisoned by some unknown persons.
Who do you think could possibly be behind the poisioning?
We don’t suspect anybody, but we know that some people perpetrated the act and I am sure that our colleagues that sell cows cannot be responsible. If it had happened in the forest, I might suspect that some farmers were responsible, but the cows ate and drank water nearby – in fact, it was around Bunmi Harmony Nursery and Primary School (in Akungba), which indicates that my sons grazed the cows within our settlement.
Have you also considered the possibility that the cows might be suffering from a disease?
The cows were not suffering from any disease; I am very sure all of them were healthy.
Did anyone complain that your cows destroyed their farm?
Our cows have not destroyed the crops of any farmer because we don’t even have farms in the vicinity here where they graze.
What kind of relationship do you have with the people in your host community?
I have a peaceful relationship with the people of the community. I could recall that my brother was accosted a few years ago by someone who came with a poisonous chemical threatening to kill our cows, but we resolved the issue amicably and since then I have not had any encounter with anybody around. We have been living cordially.
For how long have you been living in Akungba?
I have been living here for over 20 years, doing my business and I have been obeying the laws of the land.
How old are you now?
I am 50 years old.
With your cows dead, what is the way forward?
I want the government and the people to help me out. The loss is huge for me; this is my only source of livelihood. I am pleading with the government and well-meaning Nigerians to help me; I am pleading.
What did you do with the dead cows?
The environmental officers of the local government were the ones that disposed of the carcasses so as to prevent a disease outbreak in the community.
Can you quantify your loss?
I have lost more than N10m because some of the cows were worth between N350,000 and N400,000 each.