…Accuse herders of killing, kidnapping, rape
…Youths give killer herdsmen 14 days to vacate Edo forests
…We pay compensation of N100,000 for any cow killed — Ikpeazu
By Samuel Oyadongha, Gabriel Enogholase & Ozioruva Aliu
Women and youths, yesterday, protested in Edo and Bayalsa states against killer herdsmen, who they accused of raping their girls and women and destroying crops in their farms.
In Edo State, vehicular movement was temporarily stopped on the busy Uromi Road in Esan North East Local Government Area of the state, as travellers from the northern part of the country to the East and those from East to the North were stranded on the road, following the protest by women in their hundreds, against kidnapping by suspected Fulani herdsmen, raping of their girls and women and destruction of crops in their farms by herdsmen.
Also in Bayelsa State, aggrieved women from Epie/Atissa communities in Yenagoa, staged a peaceful protest against what they described as the excesses of herdsmen in the area.
Meanwhile, following an alleged killing of three persons, including two vigilance members by suspected herders on Monday in Ugo N’iyekorhionmwon, Orhionmwon Local Government Area of Edo State, youths of the state have issued a 14-day ultimatum to the ‘killer herdsmen’ occupying farmlands and forest in the state to quit.
This came as Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State said the state pays compensation of N100,000 for any cow killed and farmland destroyed in conflicts between farmers and herders in the state, adding that infiltrators use perceived Federal Government’s protection of herders to commit crime and escape justice.
Uromi women protest
In Edo, the women blocked the entire stretch of the Uromi Road from the palace of Onojie of Uromi, HRH Anselm Aidenjie, and the police station, insisting that they be addressed by the Onojie and the Divisional Police Officer.
One of the women, Mrs Rosemary Ordia, told Vanguard: “We are tired of kidnapping in our communities by Fulani herdsmen. They don’t only kidnap our people, they rape our girls and women, others take their cows to our farms to eat and destroy our crops. How can we be living in our communities and we are afraid? It has never been like this in the history of this place.”
Edo youths give killer herdsmen 14 days to vacate Edo forests
Also, a group, Talakawa Movement, yesterday, called on security agencies to flush out the herdsmen so that the farmers can go back to their farms.
Addressing newsmen in Benin City, convener of the group, Kola Edokpayi, said: “You are aware of the notice to quit that was issued to the criminal herdsmen by the Ondo State government and other prominent citizens of the South West. Sequel to the notice to quit, the herdsmen have evaporated and condensed in Edo State. Their influx into this state is unprecedented.
“Few days ago, we heard the shocking news of the invasion of the farms of the good people of Ugo in Orhionmwon council, where some farmers, who were in their farms, were slaughtered by these herders, some of them were kidnapped to unknown destinations.
“Today, our farmers can no longer go to their farms, our mothers are raped by these unscrupulous elements, and our fathers going to the farms are attacked on a daily basis. Is it that these people have immunity? Is it that they are above the law?
“They have occupied our forest and move with arms like AK-47 rifle while our people, who are supposed to check them, carry sticks and cutlasses. The situation is degenerating on a daily basis to the extent that our people cannot travel from Benin to Abuja by road. Our forests have been taken over by these people.”
Police not aware of protest, Edo govt mum
Meanwhile, Edo State Police Public Relations Officer, Chidi Nwabuzor, when contacted, yesterday, said he was not aware of any protest by women in Uromi.
On the part of the state government, Secretary to State Government, SSG, Osarodion Ogie, did not pick calls.
The state governor, Godwin Obaseki is yet to appoint a spokesperson since his inauguration in November last year.
Ojuromi of Uromi appeals for calm
Reacting also, Ojuromi of Uromi, Anslem Aidenojie II appealed for calm and assured the women that he would take their grievances to the authorities.
He said: “Yes, the activities of the criminal herdsmen are worrisome and quite disturbing. They kidnap our people, rape the women, maim and do a lot of havoc. They don’t allow people go to their farms anymore. Their activities are terrible. But that does not mean that there are no good Fulani people because they have been living with us in peace in our kingdom.
“But these sets of Fulani that engage in criminal activities are strange and are not known to us. We condemn in entirety their activities but we are handicapped. We are trying to encourage the vigilantes, giving support to the police and that is the best we can do. We cannot tell our people to take up arms.
“I have asked the women to remain calm that I will communicate their grievances to the appropriate quarters. I have spoken to the DPO and the Area Commander and will also reach out to the governor to let him know the situation we have at hand.”
Bayelsa women protest against herdsmen invasion of farmlands
The protesting women waving fresh leaves massed at the strategic Edepie roundabout axis, the gateway to the university town of Amassoma in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area and communities in Ogbia council of the state.
The protesters also barricaded the road causing serious gridlock on the usually busy route to press home their demand for the herdsmen to leave their farmlands.
The women were chanting “Enough is enough, herdsmen should leave our farmland” and pleaded with the state government to protect them and their crops from the herdsmen.
One of the women said: “We cannot continue to keep quiet over this issue. We cannot labour only for our crops to be destroyed and our means of livelihood destroyed.
“Our very existence revolves around our farmlands. We don’t want cattle in our area again. It is time for government to act and save us from their impunity.”
The state government during the administration of former Governor Seriake Dickson had allotted a section of the state-owned Palm Estate at Elebele near Yenagoa to the herders as part of strategy to prevent open grazing in the state capital and in the process avert herders/farmers clash.
Also, “no grazing signposts” were erected around farmlands in Yenagoa and its environs to warn the herders against trespassing on farmlands while a committee was set up comprising representatives of the security agencies, the locals and cattle dealers.
But nothing was done to sanction non-compliance as some herders could be seen moving their cattle on major roads in the state capital and even obstructing traffic.
The farmers were also not spared as some of the herdsmen grazed their cattle on their farmlands, destroying their crops.
We pay compensation of N100,000 for any cow killed —Ikpeazu
Governor Ikpeazu, who appeared on a live television programme, yesterday, said the payment was part of a mechanism used by the state whenever there’s a conflict between farmers and herders.
He said: “Before now, Abia has not been on the front burner regarding this herders and farmers conflict. The reason is that we have a strong mechanism through which we deal with the normal and usual cattle herders.
“I give you an example. We have what we call Farmer-herder Conflict Resolution Committee from the state where the Commissioner of Police is chairman, to the local governments where the chairmen of various councils chair.”
The governor said the members of the committee include “Miyetti Allah, DSS and DPOs of the various councils.
“We pay compensation of about N100,000 for any cow that is killed on account of a misunderstanding between the farmers and the herders. And we pay compensation of same amount of money for farmlands verified to have been trampled or destroyed by strayed cows.
“We have used that to make sure that at least we give some succour and buffer to frayed nerves so that when people disagree, they can wait for that committee to look into the matter before taking law into their hands.
“That is not to say that we have not experienced a spike regarding these criminal elements that come in and abduct, rape, destroy and kill farmers. More often than not, some of these criminal elements don’t even have a cow. They are just infiltrators and they use the cloak or what they perceive as some sort of protection for the herders that seems to be the body language at the centre to commit their crime and get away with it.”
Ikpeazu said the criminal elements were taking advantage of the hospitality provided to them by the people of the state.
“They are taking advantage of this good nature to unleash mayhem. We have noticed that and we are on their trail and we are targeting those people,” he said.
Govt not interested in profiling any tribe
He also said the state government was not interested in profiling any tribe but clamping down on criminal elements violating the open grazing law in the state.
“Abia State was one of the first states that came out with legislation banning open grazing and our argument is that Abia State is perhaps the smallest state apart from Lagos in land area in Nigeria and we have a lot of minerals and crude oil beneath the soil.
“God did not endow us with sufficient land to permit open grazing and leaving our land for cattle grazing. Our interest is not to generally profile the Hausa orFulani. We are interested in the criminal elements,” Ikpeazu said.
According to the governor, the problem of farmer-herders clashes can be solved after proper diagnosis and when the federal, state and local governments come up with a joint policy to tackle the problem.
“Nigeria is supposed to do a proper diagnosis of the problem and treat it accordingly. We are not diagnosing the problem properly; we are just diverting the attention of serious-minded people in this country.
“We have people who are interested in creating anarchy and confusion so that opportunist anarchists like ISIS who are interested in destabilising the country will come in.
“The Federal Government down to the local government should come on one page and have a policy to deal with criminal elements wherever they may be found irrespective of the state of origin or background.”