Fear as herdsmen flee South East, invade Benue communities
Fulani herdsmen hitherto grazing in the South Eastern part of Nigeria, have reportedly fled the zone and are now settling in some communities in Ogbadibo, Okpokwu, Ado and other Local Government Areas of Benue State.
The invasion may not be unconnected to the current unrest in the Southeast birthed by the activities of the Eastern Security Network, ESN which was established by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB to stop the activities of herdsmen in the region.
The recent resolve by the Southern Governors who banned open grazing in the region may have also triggered the sudden relocation to neighbouring communities.
A News Agency reports that the communities in the aforementioned Local Government Areas are neighbouring villages to some parts of Enugu and Ebonyi States.
Ogbadibo and parts of Okpokwu are bordered by Udenu Local Government of Enugu State while parts of Ado, particularly the Agila community is bordered by Ebele village, Ngbo in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.
Our correspondent gathered that the herders are currently settling in some of the communities, triggering tension in the areas.
An opinion leader and head of a community in Owukpa in Ogbadibo, Chief Akogwu Agada told DAILY POST correspondent that some parts of the community have been occupied by the herdsmen.
“They are everywhere here in Owukpa but their major base is in Ankpa. They have clashed with our farmers several times due to the destruction of crops by their cattle.
“We will be glad if the government can come to our aid to chase them out of our land before they resort to attacking and killings us here”, Chief Akogwu noted.
A member of the recently disbanded vigilante group, Mr Apochi Adams who spoke with our correspondent from Ichama in Okpokwu Local Government, narrated a similar incident.
According to him, there is no part of the community that the herdsmen are not using for grazing.
“We have clashed with them several times trying to send them away from our land but they always resist”.
Similarly, A farmer, Mr James Adoga who spoke with our correspondent from Orokamu in Ogbadibo, lamented how his casava plantation was destroyed by the herders who grazed on his farm.
Adoga revealed that the herders stormed the community recently with their cattle, family and other property to settle in some of the villages.
“We are helpless in this place. Farming is the only business we use to survive and the Fulani men have come to destroy our only source of hope.
“When we see them on our land, and we complain, they threaten to kill us and due to news we have been getting from far places, we have no courage to confront them,” he stated.
A News Agency reports that the development is coming despite the efforts of the state government to enforce the open grazing prohibition law across the 23 LGs of the state.
Recall that the state governor, Samuel Ortom in 2017 signed the Anti-Open Grazing bills into law as a measure to end the incessant crisis between farmers and herdsmen.
However, the herders who were angered by the law, have continued to unleash terror on residents of communities in relatively all parts of the state.
Recently, there was a surge in the deadly attacks as many residents have been butchered while over one million others were displaced across the three senatorial districts in the state.
A News Agency recalls that armed men suspected to be Fulani militias, on Thursday night killed 36 residents of Shikaan Mbagena Kpav community in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of the state.
The armed men invaded the community and slaughtered scores at midnight when residents were fast asleep. 36 bodies were recovered while an unspecified number of persons sustained various degrees of injuries.
Recently, gunmen suspected to be herdsmen also attacked the Tse Amgbem community near Aondoana in Gwer West Local Government Area of the State, killing 11 persons as residents deserted the community and increased the number of Internally Displaced Persons camped across the state.
The Gwer West Local Government Chairman, Mrs Grace Igbabon who confirmed the incident to A News Agency, lamented how his people were sacked from their ancestral homes by the militias.
Similarly, a few weeks ago, about seven persons were confirmed dead, with many others injured, after armed Fulani herdsmen attacked Abagena community housing Internally Displaced Persons camp in Makurdi Local government Area of the State.
Subsequently, the youths, who were angered by the killings, stormed the Makurdi-Lafia road with the lifeless bodies of the deceased to protest incessant attacks on their communities.
Reacting, the State Governor, Samuel Ortom in a statement, described the attack on the IDPs camp as inhuman, barbaric and unacceptable. The Governor called on President Muhammadu Buhari to live up to his responsibility of protecting lives of Nigerians.
Same week, more than 17 persons were confirmed dead while many others injured after militia herdsmen attacked Tse-Ayeli village, Tse-Gborigyo and Udam in Mbayer-Yandev in Guma Local Government Area of the State.
Recall that on March 20, 2021, the governor narrowly escaped death when militia herdsmen launched an attack on his convoy while returning from his farm at Tyo-mu along Makurdi – Gboko road.
Efforts by DAILY POST correspondent to speak with Terver Akase, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor on the recent influx of the Fulani herders in some parts of the state proved abortive as he was unable to take his calls and could not respond to text messages forwarded to him.
Similarly, when contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Catherine Anene Sewuese was unable to speak, but requested that a text message be sent to her. She did not, however, respond to the text message forwarded to her.
However, Ortom had a few days ago, told residents of the state to defend themselves with Dane guns and other weapons not prohibited by the law, when attacked by gunmen.
Ortom gave the directive at an inter-denominational church service held at the government house in Makurdi, Benue capital on Sunday, May 23.
“I will no longer announce the deaths of those killed by Fulani herdsmen, rise and defend yourselves with weapons not prohibited by law, bows and arrows, spears and knives.
“Get a licence for Dane guns from local government chairmen and use them to defend yourselves.
“God assured me some time back that as long as I lived within the circle of his presence, no weapon fashioned against me shall prosper,” he said.