At last, governors of the South-east have taken the bull by the horn in tackling the threat posed by the rampaging herdsmen who have taken over the forests in the region. CHUKS NWAEZE writes on the steps taken.
An Igbo adage says that a man whose house is on fire does not chase rodents. That’s exactly what the governors of the South-east have resolved to do with regards to the spate of insecurity in the zone allegedly brought about by the activities of Fulani herdsmen.
To that extent, they have begun moves aimed at ending the incidences of killings, rape, kidnappings, armed robbery believed to be perpetrated by these people who have in recent times been armed to the teeth with sophisticated weapons unlike their traditional sticks and knives for which they were known for.
The antecedents of killer herdsmen
The unholy activities of these herdsmen have been going on but were brought to the open in April 2016 when they went into Ukpabi, Nimbo in Uzo-Uwani local government area of Enugu state and massacred a lot of men, women and children.
Blueprint learnt that in the wake of the deadly assault by Fulani herdsmen on the people, as insignificant as a mere bark at a cow, it could result in outright death or serious injury on whoever tries to prevent it from grazing on a farm land.
It could be that in the past, some persons may have killed a cows for destroying farms or could have attempted to drive them away from grazing on a land or for whatever reason, no one can say, they however carried out mass killings that sparked outrage in all Igbo land and beyond in 2016.
However, since the 2016 massacre at Nimbo, the armed herdsmen have not ceased from carrying out one heinous crime or the other such as kidnapping, raping of women in their farms, armed robbery and outright killing of people indiscriminately in Igbo land.
For instance, just recently, a priest of the Roman Catholic Church, Rev Fr Paul Offu, was gruesomely killed at Awgu local government area of Enugu state. Not too long ago, another Catholic priest, Rev Clement Ugwu, was killed at Ezeaugu local government area. All these, according to investigations, were attributed to the hand work of Fulani herdsmen.
The gruesome murder of Mrs Regina Mba on her farm at Nchatancha, Nike, Enugu-East local government area recently rented the air. While the people were yet to recover from her dismembered body after raping her, the body of a lady was discovered floating on a river at Nkwubor also in Enugu East LGA of the state also linked to this same dimension of killing by the same people.
Just as the killings were going on, so also were kidnapping and armed robbery going on in Enugu and other states in the South-east region.
Probably unable to bear the unholy acts any longer, the South-east governors have decided to take the bulls by the horns by taking far-reaching decisions in order to nip the dastardly act in the bud.
When the governors met
In July, the governors, in an extended meeting that included elders and leaders of thought as well as leadership of the apex Igbo cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, met in Enugu and decided to set up forest guards that would take charge of the forests against criminals who retire into the forests after kidnapping, robbing and killing people.
The governors also resolved to clear the bushes along expressways in the zone up to 50 metres from the roads so that motorists can have a clear view of the road ahead in line with other states had done. The aim is to dissuade criminals from hiding in the bushes along the road to carry out their nefarious activities.
When the measures seem not to be having the desired effect, the governors met again in Enugu on August 31, 2019 and took yet far-reaching decision to tackle the herdsmen menace in particular.
The chairman of the forum, Chief David Umahi of Ebonyi state, who spoke the mind of his colleagues, enumerated the resolutions they arrived at.
“In our discussion today, we agreed to have a joint air operation to flush out bandits from all forests in the South-east and this is going to be a continuous one.
“We also agreed that we have to put measures in place to restrain movement of herdsmen and their cattle from one state to another which is a source and point of conflict with the natives and farmers. And also restrain the movement of cattle and herdsmen from coming to communities across farmlands.
“We commend Enugu state governor in establishing forest guards which was a decision of the South-east governors. And we encourage the remaining governors in the zone to launch theirs.
“South-east governors have banned herdsmen who move about with AK 47 guns and cutlasses and we want our security agencies to implement same.
“As South-east governors, we already set up a security committee. We shall inaugurate them today, one per state and they will play major roles with our security chiefs and also play roles in this airport closure and diversion of flights,” he said.
Those were the decisions the governors took which when implemented to the letter, they hope it would bring the Fulani herdsmen menace to an end or reduce the incidences of fracas between herdsmen and farmers to the barest minimum.
The governors noted that moving cattle from one place to the other in communities in the zone has been the bone of contentions and if the ban of movement of cows is strictly carried out, the issue of killings, kidnapping and armed robbery attributed to the herdsmen would end.
One of the important decisions taken at the meeting is to stop the herdsmen from being armed with guns and knives with which they have been maiming the people at the slightest provocations. However, this would become effective if the security agencies would aid the vigilante groups and neighborhood watch groups as well as the forest guards to enforce the ban on arms carried by the herdsmen.
A community leader, Chief Ogbonna Ede, expressed the view that the governors have taken proactive measures that could check the Fulani herdsmen excesses in the zone.
“The governors acted judiciously. I hail their decisions to ban the herdsmen from carrying arms. Before now, Fulani herdsmen used to move about with their cattle and no one has molested them. We used to buy raw cow milkand kunu from their women; we never had problems with them. It is only now that they started carrying arms that we began to see what we are seeing now. I believe that if those decisions are implemented, we shall have peace in our land again,” Chief Ede said.
Speaking in like manner, Convener of Voice from the East (VEAST), an Igbo interest organisation, Comrade Kindness Jonah, applauded the decision of the governors to end the Fulani herdsmen menace.
“It is marvelous; the decisions are superb. If the decisions are implemented, we shall have peace in our land again. My fear is that they may not have the political will to enforce the decisions they have taken,” Jonah said.
All eyes have been on the governors and Igbo leaders to do something about the unbridled Fulani herdsmen menace. It is believed that if the governors would walk their talk, peace would return to the South-east enclave once again after being ruffled during the Biafra-Nigeria Civil War of the 60s.