From Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
Fifteen communities in Edo State in collaboration with Civil Society Organizations, yesterday, barricaded the Lagos-Benin express road in protest over herdsmen activities which have resulted in killings, destructions of farm produce and forceful evictions from their ancestral homes.
The agfected communities are Odiguetue, Ofintebe, Igolo, Okokuo, Abumwenre I and II, Obarenren, Uhiere, Uyimo I and II.
The protest which lasted for several hours, led to severe gridlock in that axis.
Speaking for the communities and for the civil rights groups, Barr. Osagie Obayuwana, said they are worried about the looming crisis brewing in the various communities in the state, orchastrated by armed herdsmen stressing that urgent steps need to be put in place to checkmating them before snowballing into full blown crises in the state.
“We want the whole world to know the experience of our people have been for quite some time now.
“We are zeroing it on Ovia North East communities. About 15 communities have been under siege for some years. Farmers have been prevented from going to their farms, another planting season is going away, they have been sentenced to hunger, farmers and their families and this has an implication for the larger society.
“It is one of the reasons the price of food is rising beyond the reach of even those in the middle class.
“So far, we have not seen a serious efforts to address this issue. Our people have gone to various offices both the legislative arms and even traditional quarters and nothing seems to be coming out.
“Right now, the matter is degenerating to such an extent that people are being driven out of their villages.
“We are concerned that what had been happening in Benue and Plateau States will be coming to the shore of Edo State now where armed herdsmen drive people from communities, change the names of the communities and start to occupy the houses, we don’t want that”, he said.
On his part, the former Public Relations Officer of Edo State Civil Society Organizations (EDOCSO), Osazee Edigin, said the level of insecurity in Edo communities have gone from bad to worse and thus decided to join their voice with them to call on the governments to come to their rescue.
“We are here to support these communities that have been ravaged and sacked by herdsmen. We have seen it as a high level of insecurity in the state and we want the state government and law enforcement agencies to rescue them.
“We are here to amplify the voices of these locals so that the state government should intervene in this. If we don’t do it, we are going to have scarcity of food and more victims.
“We urged the government to rise to the occasion and protect lives and property.
“The primary purpose of government is to protect lives and property, and if they fail in that area, then they are giving room for anarchy, and we don’t pray it results in a state of lawlessness.
“The government should step in. When there is no peace in the land, life will not flourish and the economy will go down”, Edigin added.
Lamenting the atrocities of the herdsmen, Prince Aik-Ikhuokhuo Uwaifo from Uhiere community, said in the past, herdsmen and the people in his community were living harmoniously together so much so that they were even asking them (herdsmen) to give them their cows urine to grow their fingers while they will in turn give them foods.
He said the story has changed, adding that nowadays, the herders move into their farms kill, rape, maim, destroy their crops and forcefully evicting them from their community.
Another protester, Mrs. Rhoda Ogba from Odighi community, said cows don’t eat grass anymore, but yam, cassava and Coco yam, maintaining that they are now hungry as they can no longer go to their farms because of fear of being killed.
She said the federal and the state governments should come to their rescue.
The Edo State Commissioner of Police, Abutu Yaro, represented by the Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, James Chu, while appealing to the protesters to be calm, said the command share in their pains stressing that machineries have been put in place to curtail the excesses of armed herdsmen in the various communities in the state.
“The Commissioner of Police, we all know he is new, and he shares with you in this pain. We are all on the same page and all on the same reason to be here to talk to you.
“He has asked me to let you know that you know that he is a new person in Edo State. He has taken notes of all the incidence we have had in these various communities and other communities in Edo North.
“There are very critical strategies that are in place to ensure that the excesses of these men who are disturbing our villages are monitered and equally checked and stopped.
“I want to assure you that the police is not resting in this issue. I want to assure you that we are going to work in hands and gloves with the communities to ensure the essence of this gathering”, CP Yaro said.