BENIN CITY – The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has assured that bandits who disguise as herders to perpetuate violence, kidnapping and robbery will be treated as criminals, as the state firms up its security architecture to flush out criminals from its domain.
The governor disclosed this during a town hall meeting at Odighi community in Uhiere Ward of Ovia-North East Local Government Area of Edo State, as part of a fact-finding mission to address the clashes between herders and farmers.
He commended inhabitants of the community for their peaceful disposition and organising themselves to secure the community and ensure a peaceful atmosphere for all.
Obaseki said, “We must separate the issues of security and politics and never accept the issue of criminality. We have always lived with herders and those we know act responsibly. The ones we see today are different and act otherwise. These ones that cause violence, kidnapping, robbery are criminals and must be treated as such.
“I am glad you said you have always lived with the Fulani people for long in this community. This means that co-existence is not the problem but the criminal elements that cause us sleepless nights are the real problem.”
He assured the people of the community that his administration will collaborate with relevant security agencies and vigilante groups in the area to clear the criminal elements from the community, adding, “Your security is my priority and concern. I will ensure that this community is secured. I am here to appeal to you to continue to maintain peace as we would not leave you alone but work together to secure the community.”
The governor said his administration will give priority to the Independent Farmers Initiative and support farmers in the community, adding, “I will continue to protect all of you in this community and the state. We will pay special attention to our women.”
The Enogie of Odighi Community, His Royal Highness, Prince Osaretin Akenzua commended the governor for his prompt response as the Fulani herdsmen are ready to take farmlands, the source of livelihood for members of his community.
He said that the community has pledged to cooperate with any action that will be taken to get these criminals out of their forest.
Former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Hon. Monday Osaigbovo, said: “We are wondering why the herders continue to stay in the bush. You directed that they should leave the brush last year and they left and our people were very happy. But to our surprise, they came back three months later. Just yesterday, a farmer who was going to harvest over 500 bunch of plantain lost them to cattle. The herders led their cows to eat them up.”
“The farmer has to run back home. We are happy to have you here with us, Your Excellency, as well as the Commissioner of Police and heads of other security agencies. We want to appeal to them to join our vigilantes to restore peace to our land. We don’t want to fight anybody. We want them to leave our forest.”