In Ebonyi state, everything is being done to nip the menace of herdsmen/banditry in the bud as AMARACHUKWU EGWUAGHA, in this report, writes.
The issue of attacks by herdsmen on both farmers and rural communities across the country has continued to assume an increasingly dangerous dimension.
In the South-east geopolitical zone, for instance, the problem has caused a major decline in farming activities as the dare-devil marauders have taken over the available farmlands. Anyone or community attempting to stop their devastating presence faces the risk of full blown war with the dire consequences of rape, unabated killings and other forms of vices they are allegedly associated with.
Probably, the most disturbing aspect is the difficulty in dealing with the menace by government before now. Investigation shows however that it has been difficult to embark on a dialogue with them.
A visit to Onicha local government area of Ebonyi state reveals how herders have terrorised the area and how they were able to achieve existing peace among them.
Oshiri and Ukawu communities in Onicha LGA were among the communities that often experience this ugly incident which is mainly about rape of women and girls on the farm, destruction of crops and inflicting of physical injury on farmers.
Recently in Oshiri autonomous community
about four weeks ago, suspected herders attacked people of Umuorie village in the community, abducted two brothers, Mr Uchechi Ugbala and Maduabuchi Ugbala, and inflicted matches cuts on them.
Narrating the story to Blueprint, President General of Oshiri Town Union, Chief Obasi Ebele, said he received a distressed call on that fateful day that his people were attacked by suspected herdsmen, saying upon getting to the place, he discovered that the victims were seized by Fulani herdsmen who tied and inflicted serious injuries on them.
He disclosed that the uprising was prompted by the action of herders who were not happy over the collective decision of the entire villagers whom after recounting numerous losses they had encountered both in their farms and premises with the presence of cattle’s on the area, ordered them to relocate.
Also on February 17, 2019, herders ran into a traditional marriage ceremony in Ukawu community at night and obstructed the event inflicting injures on the people which led to the killing of a cow by the natives. The state government, however, mandated the community to pay for the cow.
These and lot more have caused the people so much harm.
But taking the bull by the horn, the local government council boss, Engineer Felix Igboke insisted on profiling of herders which he believes would bring to an end this ugly menace.
He said, “It is not easy to deal with this people because whenever you call for such meetings, it is always their leader that would come and we have been emphasising it that whenever we call such meeting, they should equally go and call meeting of their people, the laborers and tell them the decisions of government.
“Our governor has done so much in this issue of herdsmen to the extent of even bringing down the national president of Miyetti Allah for a town hall meeting here in Ebonyi and there was a law that will guide farmers and herdsmen in the state of which the national chairman of Miyetti Allah signed.
“One of these laws is that they are not allowed to migrate at night. Again, they are not also allowed to migrate on foot to any place at all to the state. If you are coming into the state you will have to notify the state government and security agencies that you are coming to settle at designated place, among other laws.
“Of course, the farmers are warned not to kill the cows of the Fulani’s; the same way the Fulani’s’ are warned not to destroy the crops of our farmers because if you kill a Fulani cow, you would be arrested and made to pay damages, vis-a-vis when a Fulani allows their cattle to destroys the farm of a farmer.
“We have incidences of rape in Onicha local government area; I’m sure one of the Fulani’s is still in the prison because of that, some of them ran away. When you ask their oga, they would say he is a laborer that he has run away.
“And that is why we said we have to know every Fulani herdsmen residing in Onicha LGA.
“The profiling we are talking about is going to help us a lot because sometimes, we have looked and we don’t even know where they are settling, until a problem arises that is when we know they have a hut.
“Just like the recent issue that happened between them and Oshiri people; they just went into the land without telling even the town union president or the government; they didn’t talk to anybody; they just saw a land and went and build hurt and settled there.
Now, the owners of the land said they want to make use of their land and asked them to leave it now became a problem; that was what caused the misunderstanding that just happened but by the grace of God, we have been able to handle it, we don’t want crises, fight any troubles at all with the herdsmen or anybody.
“So we came up with this idea that even though His Excellency had directed before that anywhere they are, they should be profiled. It is part of the law, but they are finding it difficult to be profiled. We have made all the forms available; we have involved all the DPOs, OC SARS even the CP is aware because it is contained in Ebonyi state law of farmers/herdsmen.
“The last meeting we held by the grace of God they have accepted to supply every information needed for the profiling. A committee has been set up for it with the DPO; in fact, every security outfit within Onicha local government area is involved. The town union president, traditional ruler nominees and our own nominees are involved. That’s how we formed the committee to go to communities and find out where they are settled, go to them and profile them. What we want is just your name, state of origin, the location you are settled, how long you have been in our LGA and how long you intend to stay then we have your passport and phone number.
“So that if anything happens, there would be no need making much calls; i will simply bring my file and search the particular settler there and call his attention to it. That makes it easier to settle issues.
“At the same time, we also agreed that if there is any Fulani herder that wants to enter our area, we would be notified and know where he intends to go with his cattle because before they enter any place, they would first of all carry out a survey of the place and choose a location before coming with their cows; by so doing, we would be able to know the area they want to settle and we would look for the land owners, traditional so that we would find out if they are not using the land for farming at the period.”
The activities of these herders, according to Blueprint investigation reveals that they have affected the farmers so much that many of them finds it difficult to farm this days because the Fulani and their cows always destroy the crops.