By Anayo Okoli & Vincent Ujumadu
RESIDENTS of 10 communities in Awka North local government area of Anambra State have lamented the destruction of their farmlands by suspected herdsmen.
The affected people say the destruction had become a daily occurrence for sometime.
Former chairman of Awka North local government area, Chief Shedrack Anakwue said yesterday that the herdsmen’s menace in the area was becoming increasingly worrisome, adding that the action had led to astronomical rise in the prices of agricultural produce which is the main source of income for the people of the area.
According to him, the herdsmen had left many families in pitiable situation as their source of livelihood, which is their farmlands, had been totally destroyed.
Anakwue accused the leadership of one of the communities of allegedly striking a ‘deal’ with the herdsmen, thereby allowing them to operate unhindered in the community.
He said: “When you confront the herdsmen, they tell you that they have settled the leaders of the community.”
President General of Ebenebe, one of the affected 10 communities, Mr Paul Nnatuanya, said the inordinate activities of herdsmen had become very worrisome, claiming that between September last year and now, farmers in the community had lost over N100 million to herdsmen.
“Herdsmen are destroying our farmlands. All the towns in Awka North are not free from their dastardly acts.
“They even come to graze their cattle in people’s houses and when you tell them to move, they will be looking at you as if you are talking to the cows,” he stated.
Igbo Union blames S-East govS for herdsmen menace
Following the activities of these herdsmen, Igbo Union, an organisation of citizens and residents of Igbo extraction in the United States of America, has blamed the South East governors over the rising attacks by killer herdsmen in the zone. The group accused the governors of being insensitive to the murderous activities of the herdsmen.
According to the group, the governors are “insensitive to the threat and terrorisation of Igbo by suspected herdsmen roaming Igbo villages with their cattle and Ak-47 rifles.”
The union’s position came on the heels of last week’s killing of 65-year-old farmer, Mazi Ozoemena Iriaka from Umuekpu-Agwa community in Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State and attacks on farmlands by suspected herdsmen.
Iriaka’s killing has also been roundly condemned by various Igbo groups, including Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, Association of South East Town Unions, ASETU, and many individuals and civil rights groups, calling on the governors to wake up and protect the people of the zone by setting up a zonal security outfit that will work and share intelligence on the activities of herdsmen.
Igbo Union in a letter to the governors told them that such killing of Igbo citizens by herdsmen was routine and the order of the day and accused them of unsatisfactory “response to the influx of Fulani militia into Igboland which skyrocketed during the COVID-19 lockdown.”
The Igbo Diaspora union urged the governors to emulate their South West counterparts that have set up a regional outfit, Amotekun to protect their area.
Govs kick, say they are working on joint outfit
However, the South East governors have rejected the accusation of not being sensitive to security problems in the zone, saying that they are working to have a regional security network in addition to other measures being put in place to safeguard the zone.
Reacting to the accusation, the Director, Media and Communication of the South East Governors’ Forum, Michael Ike Udah said that contrary to the position of Igbo Union, USA, “the South East governors are as committed to the welfare of Ndigbo and other law-abiding Nigerians as ever.
“The South East Governors’ Forum is pained each time Ndigbo are killed, raped, manhandled or appear to have been short-changed,” Udah said.
According to Udah, the South East governors are also committed to the welfare of Ndigbo and other law-abiding Nigerians and explained that the governors are working to have a regional security outfit.
“Each state in the region has already got its own security outfit, Forest Guards in Enugu, Neighbourhood Watch in Ebonyi and Operation Kpochapu in Anambra. The scenario is the same in Imo and Abia States. The governors are working to harmonize the operations of these security agencies.
“There are some legislative and logistical issues involved here and they will be sorted out over time.
“The governors are in constant dialogue with the Federal Government of Nigeria as well as their counterparts in other geo-political zones/regions in our country. It is necessary to add here that such dialogue is also extended to Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the umbrella Igbo socio-cultural group; Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association; South East National Assembly Caucus; South East Traditional Rulers’ Council; Igbo Leaders of Thought; Igbo Clergy; among others are not left out by the South East Governors,” the governors explained.
INC wants govs to pass anti-open grazing law
The Igbo National Council, INC, yesterday also called on the five governors of the Southeast states with their state Houses of Assembly to without delay pass into law their anti-open grazing law in their respective states.
The President of INC, Chilos Godsent in a statement to newsmen in Owerri, said that without the passage of the anti-open grazing law, their governors could be tagged enemies of the Igbo.
He pointed out that the anti-open grazing law would strengthen the operation Lion walk, which was launched by INC against killer herdsmen in Igboland.