…Cows in schools
The Joke is on the Edo state government in Nigeria who last week gave the world a photograph that could easily make it inside the Guinness Book of World records. It was the case of Herdsmen teaching their cattle the beauty of Western Education in a classroom while their collaborators have maintained their stance that it is evil up North.
Yet these are schools for which Mr Adams Oshiuomhole claimed to have spent billions renovating, rehabilitating or rebuilding with adequate security, in his eight year reign as the Governor of Edo state. And it did not start with the classes, the herdsmen have been occupying our Farms in the villages, killing, raping, maiming and getting away with these atrocities; now they have relocated to the city centre!
The Anegbette community in Edo North Senatorial district had asked the Nigerian Police Force to as a matter of urgency investigate and bring to book the killers of a widow Mrs. Victoria Ambrose Umoru, 52, who was murdered on a bush path in the village on February 1 2013.
Mr Johnson Oghuma who is the member representing Federal at the House of Representatives was in that year the member representing the area in the state house of assembly. Then he said that the community Was thrown into confusion since the gruesome murder, more so as the Police was yet to make any arrest.
He said he was informed that the woman met her death was on her way back from the farm with her toddler grandchild when some Fulani herdsmen allegedly armed with cudgels attacked, raped and killed her.
He added that the toddler child who was so terrified by the killing of his grandmother after the incident ran home to inform the family members that it was dare devil herdsmen that killed the woman, though attempts to apprehend them failed.
In 2013, the Edo state Police said it was handicapped over the incident because information about it has not been forthcoming, adding that the Police was not resting on its oars over the episode.
A top Police chief said that though no one is in Police net, murder is a serious case that requires thorough investigation adding that all hands are on the deck to get to the root of the incident and bring the culprits to book.
Nevertheless, Oghuma said that the incident called for urgent action on the part of the state government, the Police, the Directorate of State services in manner that should check the excesses of the herdsmen.
He said the Edo State Assembly then, was working on a legislation that will restrict the movement of the Fulani herdsmen and their cattle to designated grazing sites, as this was better for the safety of lives and properties across the state.
Edo people are waiting for that legislation, four years later. Oghuma is now at Abuja. However in 2014, the Palace of the Benin monarch began expressing concerns about the activities of nomadic herdsmen whose criminal activities such as grazing on farmlands, attacking and rape of women in Edo villages he said was gaining notoriety in parts of the state.
The Palace had warned the people of the state to be more security conscious and wary of the kind of persons they engage as farm workers or helps in building construction, adding that the palace is very concerned following security reports that the employment of these unknown persons as farm have caused a lot of havoc in many communities.
“Firstly, security reports available especially in our communities regarding the use of unknown persons as farm workers is most uncomfortable. Secondly, the herdsmen are dangerous. They destroy our farm land , rape our wives , and daughters, and in most cases kill them”, the Palace was quoted as saying then.
It went further, “We are here to tell our people Enigies as the representatives of Oba to be very alert , security wise. Get necessary information and data of people who enter your domain especially when these are people we are talking about” .
This was against the rape of some woman in farms at Igbekhue a community in Orhionmwon local government area of Edo state. Enogie of Igbekhue, HRH Samson Osemwengie had thanked the Palace for its concern and promised to convey an emergency meeting of chiefs and elders of his community to pass the message around.
He lamented recent issues relating to the herdsmen who raped women in the community and in some cases kill their victims, informing the Palace that he has set up a vigilante group to help check the wholesome activities of the people.
Two years later in 2016, former Edo state governor, Adams Oshiomhole addressing a stakeholders meeting of herdsmen and local farmers in Benin City, the state capital said they needed to maintain the peace or face the wrath of the law, saying the government will neither ban grazing nor ban farming.
He said, “Edo State government will prosecute any rapist, any kidnapper, any rustler who takes people’s cows. I think listening to all the stakeholders, whether royal fathers, farmers, Fulani herdsmen, everybody agreed that neither rape, robbery, destruction of farms, rustling of cattle is acceptable. And I think we are all committed to ensuring that we put an end to any of these practices so that all of us can continue to live together in peace, harmony and in security”.
“In every conflict, you will find someone you can describe as their oppressor. Somebody might be blamed, but every conflict can be resolved if all the parties approach the solution with honest intentions and whatever agreement reached, we faithfully try to implement. That way, there will be peace. There will be no war without a quarrel, but what matters is the capacity to resolve those quarrels and to continue to live in peace.”
He said, “It is clear to me that Nigeria can only explore ways and means of living together; not ways of how not to live together and create small islands. It’s not going to happen. And even if we isolate the Fulani herdsmen challenge, we still have other pockets of boundary issues in various communities, even within the Benin Kingdom, within the Esanland, within Afemai, others versus others. So, it seems to me therefore that we cannot expect a world without conflicts, but we can develop the skills to manage and to resolve conflicts when they arise. And that is the purpose of this meeting”.
The stakeholders’ meeting was attended by security chiefs in the State including the Commissioner of Police Mr. Chris Ezike, the Commandant, 4 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Brig. Gen. Farouq Yahaya, the State Director of State Security Service, local government chairmen, traditional rulers, community leaders, youth leaders, Fulani herdsmen among others.
This meeting was barely over when herdsmen raped a woman and beat her husband to stupor at a farm at Ubuneke-Ivbiaro in Owan East local government area of Edo State. This was in May 2016. The husband of the victim, Umoru Agunu, said the suspected herdsmen who were armed, numbering about six invaded his farm in the morning and raped his wife in his presence. He explained, “As soon as we arrived at the farm, we saw six armed herdsmen who demanded for my phone. But when I told them I don’t have any, they beat me up and took my wife to a distance and raped her.”
A community leader, Yakubu Ibrahim, said suspected armed herdsmen have laid siege to the community and constantly kidnapped, raped women, and assault residents while going and returning from markets. He, however, called on state and federal governments to deploy security personnel to the communities, as over 50 women have been allegedly raped while many have been kidnapped and ransom paid.
Interestingly one year later, last month, activities of Fulani herdsmen in Edo communities took a turn for the worse as two women in Ewu Community were raped and strangled to death by herdsmen.
The Nigerian Senate which condemned the criminal activities of the herdsmen following the revelation on the floor of Senate by Senator Clifford Ordia, who expressed dissatisfaction over the criminal activities of Fulani herdsmen in the community asked security Agencies to halt, apprehend and bring to justice these criminal elements posing as herdsmen who derive pleasure in destroying lives and properties across Nigeria.
The Senate also observed a minute’s silence for those who lost their lives in the herdsmen attacks in Edo Central Senatorial District and all other previous attacks across Nigeria.
Senator Ordia representing Edo Central at the Senate said: “The heinous and criminal activities being perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen, who are in the violent act of ravaging communities, depriving persons of right to life and prosperity, raping, defiling women and destroying farms crops amongst other criminal activities across the country.
“On the 22nd of May, 2017, these ravaging Herdsmen entered into farmland located in Ewu Community, Esan Central Local Government of Edo State raping two women, Mrs. Martina Emoyon and Mrs. Ariu and strangled them to death, destroyed crops and sacked a lot of persons from their various farmlands”.
He said, “As a result of criminal activities of the Fulani Herdsmen, the youths of Ewu engaged in a peaceful protest to draw the attention of the Federal Government to the problem, sadly one Ehimen Donald Abuya was shot and the victim is presently lying critically ill at Irrua Specialist Hospital. Since this destructive attack, it has been observed that no farmer in the communities have engaged in farming activities for fear of being killed.”
Senator Ordia was forced to raise the bar on the menace of herdsmen in Edo since Mr Governor Obaseki in his capacity as Edo state governor, who said that the Edo State government is to ban grazing at night in a bid to protect farming communities in the state from encroachment by criminally minded herdsmen who use the cover of darkness to visit mayhem on them has not been forthcoming.