Abudu – There has been continued attacks by armed herdsmen in search of grazing routes for cows in Edo, Delta, Anambra, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and others in the South of Nigeria. The armed herdsmen enters farmlands with their herds of cattle to graze on farm produce, resulting in frustration and grievances that has led to incessant clashes between locals and the herdsmen, dating back to early 2000.
In recent times, the violent clashes has intensify, resulting in the destruction of lives and properties in the mostly agrarian communities in the country’s southern states thereby creating untold hardship, pains and difficulties for the harmless farmers who are forced to abandon their farmlands for fear of being attacked by the armed marauders. The locals of some of the worst hit communities – in Orhionmwon local government area of Edo state and Ika-South local government area of Delta State have raised alarms and called on authorities to protect them against the marauding armed men.
Their activities however prompted The House of Representatives to passed a resolution on the 9th March 2022, calling on security agencies “to beef up security operations in Ologbo-Nugu, Umoghun-Nokhua, Orogho, Urhehue, Evboesi and Evbonogbon communities” of Orhionmwon, “which have been under alleged frequent invasions by armed herdsmen.”
Barely a month after the house resolution, suspected armed herdsmen ambushed vigilante operatives at Evbuoesi community (as reported by this newspaper on 4th April 2022). The operatives were about to park at their base around the Ugo-Evboesi-Abraka axis of Benin-Abraka road to commence daily security duties when the attackers opened fire at their vehicle.
They managed to drove off unhurt, but one of the vehicles was not speared as the glasses and back windscreen were shattered with bullets.
Though farmers and herders problem is also prevalent in a number of West and East Africa countries, the activities of marauding armed herdsmen in recent times have become more organised, sophisticated and complicated, but the South South leader of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Alhaji Abubakar Haruna Gusau believed that the herdsmen militancy can be checked if only the Miyetti Allah are “given authority” by governors to police everything that has to do with cattles and herders coming into the region.
“We do not have problem here (south); even in Edo. The only problem we have are those people transporting cows and herders from the north which amongst them are criminals who bring along with them dangerous arms and ammunition in the guise of being herders. They commit all sorts of crimes and people will be blaming law abiding fulani herdsmen.
“We have been asking for approval from the state government to have authority to screen whoever is coming with cows to the South especially through Edo State which has not been granted. We’ve had several meetings with the state governor (Obaseki). Those coming in to Edo through Kogi, we can easily detect criminals amongst them, because we have our records of herders and their cows. I always feel bad whenever someone is killed or kidnapped and they will say Fulani. We want peace, and not anything that will disturb our business”, Alhaji Gusau maintained
The 54-years old Miyetti Allah South South leader who spoke with The Nigerian OBSERVER at Abudu last Friday, lamented that pastoralists had lived peacefully with their host, until the armed marauders started committing havoc across the region in the name of herding cows.
The soft speaking Gusau blamed criminal groups especially in the southeast who he claimed act under the guise of vigilantes and biafra agitation to “attack innocent herders” and their herds “even when they don’t enter people’s farm”.
The Fulani leader who spoke through an interpreter appealed for peaceful coexistence amongst the various tribes and religion, saying, “let pray for peace this period. We don’t want problem, we don’t want war. Everybody should pray and live peacefully whether you are christian, or Muslim. Igbo or Hausa.”
According the International Crisis Group, the federal government’s National Livestock Transformation Plan mapped out to curb the movement of cattle across the country and reduce deadly herder-farmer clashes has earned the endorsement of state governments, but both are struggling to implement it as the Plan still faces significant challenges that hinders progress.
The group maintained that if the Plan fails as previous initiatives to modernise livestock management did, herder-farmer violence could escalate, advising that Federal and state governments should do more to publicise the Plan and win the support of both herders and farmers.