By Victor Osehobo
Suspected herdsmen have been on the rampage across Edo state in the oil rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria destroying farms crops with their herds and killing farmers.
In one case a farmer and a policeman in were killed on the same day in Owan community, in Ovia North East Local Government area of Edo State.After the unidentified farmer was killed the community called in the police to help retrieve the body but the herdsmen were said to have shot at the officers and killed one of them.
Another victim of the herdsmen attacks was a relative of the farmer.The development was said to have infuriated residents who were forced to mount barricades on the busy Benin-Akure Highway, in protest as they demanded the intervention of the government.Motorists and passengers were stranded for several hours following the incident with one resident, Moses, saying the herdsmen have been killing and raping women in the community before now.Besides he said farmlands with growing crops were being destroyed by the hoodlums.
“We called in the police so that we could retrieve the body but they attacked again and killed a policeman. The government should come to our aid. They are terrorising us. We need help so that we can go to our farms.”In another Edo community, it was protest galore as farmers took to the streets to protest the destruction of their yams and cassava farms and other crops by herdsmen.A leader in the affected community, James Iguando, said, “We are afraid. We cannot take the law into our own hands. We don’t have plantain, yam and others again. We are now hungry as the Fulani herdsmen take their cows to the farms to eat our produce.”However some community dwellers are taking laws into their hands to protect their farms by setting up local vigilantes.As it were in December last year, local vigilantes shot and killed some herdsmen in a shootout.along the Uhiele Egoro Na Oka road in Esan West local government area of the state.
The Fulani herdsmen were said to have attacked the vigilante group who were on patrol duty along the road at about 7.30 pm.One witness said there was an exchange of gunfire between both sides, which left one of the herdsmen-attackers dead. In the process, the herdsmen were repelled.The vigilantes were said to have reported the incident to the divisional Police Officer, Ekpoma Division who ordered them to write a statement. The police later visited the scene of the incident.A double-barrel gun abandoned by the attackers was recovered by the police. No arrest was made.Two persons were also reportedly killed, in a clash between farmers and herdsmen in Sobe, a village in Owan West Local Government Area of Edo State.The clash followed the alleged killing of an 11-year-old boy, who had gone to fetch firewood for his family.One report said the boy, whose body was found inside a bush, was killed by the herdsmen whose herd were seen grazing on the farm by the boy.The community dwellers had mobilised for a reprisal attack, went after the herders, and killed one of them in the process.Chairman of the local government, Mr Frank Ilaboya, while condemning the killings, appealed for calm in the community.He said Police was already aware of the killings and had requested for reinforcement to deal with the incident.“There is the need for everybody to remain peaceful and calm in the community,” he added.
Till date no arrest was made as Herdsmen can be seen daily in most communities across Edo state grazing on fallow farmlands.In many farming communities in the state residents are living in fear as they cannot go to their farms.The development has prompted some National Assembly members to call on the Federal Government to step up security in the affected areas.A traditional chief, Deke Yakubu Kanoba says suspected terrorists armed with AK47 rifles are lurking in the forest within his community.Konoba spoke during a meeting with the Commissioner of Police.But the Police in Edo state say they are on top of the situation, with several incidents, ongoing investigation and few arrests if any!Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has said that the suspected herdsmen reportedly raping and killing in the state were terrorists who had fled from fighting in Nigeria’s North-East.Obaseki, last year visited some families of victims and described the incident as a threat to national security.He said, “We have set up a special task force made up of the Nigerian Army, the Nigeria Police, the Department of State Services, hunters and vigilance groups to comb bushes and dislodge squatter camps of killer herdsmen and ensure that no grazing takes place in Odighi, Odiguetue communities and their environs.”He said separate herdsmen see different from cattle rustlers, who are only interested in stealing cattle, invading farms, raping women and killing people.“Before now, Fulani herdsmen were known for carrying sticks around to control their cattle. Today, some of them have become criminals”.Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari also reiterated readiness to end the menace of terrorists, and herdsmen afflicting the country.He said, “In different parts of the country, there are challenges that the army has had to intervene in, in many occasions.“We assure all Nigerians that these challenges are being seriously tackled by the federal government working with the states through a multi-pronged approach, working with the Nigerian Army and all our security forces and law enforcement agencies.“Nobody will be allowed to maim, kill or commit other crimes and escape. It is our duty to apprehend and punish these criminals and we are doing that and we will continue to do so,” he said.