ORHIONMWON – The activities of cattle herders has become a source of worries to communities in Orhionmwon local government area of Edo state, as the inhabitants who are predominantly farmers, has been forced to abandon their farms over fears of attack by the herdsmen.
Speaking with our correspondent on Saturday, farmers in affected Communities of Abudu, Iru, Ugboko-niro, Oheze-naka, Igbanke, Ugo-Inekorionmwon, Iguelaba, Evbuobanosa, and Oben, expressed apprehension over a looming food shortage in the area.
According to the Head of farmers association in Ugo-nirokorionmwon community, Pa Simon Agbonavbare, the herders had threatened them to stay away from their farms.
“we went to borrow money to do farm, to have money to eat and train our children. Our yams and cocoa yams that have been harvested they (herders) give it to their cows to eat and the ones they cannot eat they destroy.
“they stopped us from going to our farms because of their cows they said was killed, that if they could not find those who killed the cows, they will not allow anyone to go to the farm. So we are on risk”, Pa Agbonavbare told our correspondent.
He explained that, they do not go to their farms during the community’s ‘Èkaba’ festival (24th – 1st March 2020) according to tradition, hence they have not encountered the herders recently.
“if not this Ekaba festival, clashes may have come up, and i think the clashes may come up after the festive period when people start going to their farms.
“the herdsmen fell wood across the farm road, at pipeline area so no one would go to their farms”, he further said
Also at Abudu, the administrative headquarters of the local government, a farmer (now food vendor), Mrs. Mary Odigie said she had to quit farming, over incessant destruction of her crops by the herders.
“after dem destroy my five hectares of cassava wen neva even strong, i stop. I try continue the farm work, but i no fit go die”, Mrs Odigie said in pigin English
The development was not different at Evbuobanosa where both farmers and palm wine tappers in the community lamented the notorious activities of herdsmen.
It was gathered, the herders usually cart away already harvested ‘palm wine’, from every farm they entered, as the community is a major producer of the natural liquor.
“dem no go only scatter your farm with their cow, dem go still thief our palmie wit d galon join”, one Mr Osazogbe Okunbor (Ohen Owa) said in pigin
Following the menace, the council chairman, Hon. Silvester Okoro asked the cattle herders to leave the area, even as he accused them of sinister plans to take over farmlands.
According to his Chief Press Secretary, Roy Osariemen, the chairman has “vehemently rejected them, that he does not want them again in the local government”, as a result of their havoc in the council.
But, a leader of herders in the area, Alhaji Abdulahi Sule AKA ‘Seriki Abudu’ has appealed to the council boss to rescind his decision.
Alhaji Sule told our correspondent that, the state government had directed every (hausa/fulani) leaders to identify every cows and herders in their area to check criminals amongst them.
“if any farmer let us know say dem destroy im farm, wen go reach the farm go see everything. After then we go tax ourselves, so instead of pay ₦10,000, we give you ₦5,000 or ₦3,000.
“e don tay wen we don dey live together with farmers for Orhionmwon. Make chairman no because of one or two persons begin vex for everybody. We dey beg am, na im get everybody for Orhionmwon”, Alhaji Sule said in pigin English
Stakeholders drawn from Edo South senatorial district had in a recent public hearing in Benin City, put together by the state government called for legal backing for vigilante groups, to monitor activities of cattle herders across the over 2,400 communities.