Magnus Eze, Enugu
Afikpo community in Afikpo North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State has resolved to boycott the consumption of beef (cow meat). The decision, Daily Sun gathered, was caused by the recent killings and destruction allegedly linked to Fulani herdsmen in the community.
No fewer than four persons were recently killed in farms in the southern parts of Ebonyi State in a space of two weeks. The situation heightened tension in the area as many farmers abandoned their farms for fear of being harmed.
A couple, Mr and Mrs Joseph Onya Oko, who went to farm, was gruesomely murdered in their farm at Amuzu Nkpogoro community in the local government. Their lifeless bodies were discovered the following day by a search party of youths. Causes of the deaths had not been made public but people suspected herdsmen and boundary dispute.
State Commissioner of Police, Philip Maku, confirmed the incident: “We have an incident where a man and his wife went to farm but could not return. We are investigating to find out who did the act. Anybody with useful information on the perpetrators should contact the police.”
The resolution by the Afikpo General Assembly was taken by the body of age grades including Onikaras, Ekpuke Essas, Ekpuke Etos and Isielias in conjunction with the Afikpo Town Welfare Association (ATWA). The assembly discouraged the buying and selling of cattle meat in any of the community’s markets particularly the Eke-Ukwu Market, Afikpo.
According to the custom of the people, the traditional executive arm of the Elders’ Council, the Ekpuke Etos officially disseminated the information in the Eke Ukwu Market Square on October 26, 2020. It was in reaction to the numerous violent acts including raping of their females, assaults of kinds and killings meted against their people by suspected Fulani herdsmen who forcefully invaded their community farmlands.
President General of ATWA, Dr Vincent Abani, said the gathering was for the five autonomous communities to find solution to the incessant menace of Fulani herdsmen in the area. Represented by his vice, Dr John Ibe, he particularly made reference to the recent incidence of a young graduate farmer, Onya Oko, who was hacked to death together with his pregnant wife at Uzo-Amata Ozizza farm location in Afikpo.
He stressed that the herdsmen were strongly suspected to be the culprits of the heinous act. He mentioned several other reported killings of that nature in the farmlands. The resolution presented by the Okabue (Speaker) of the Traditional Council of Elders, Chief Christopher Abagha stated:
“That with effect from October 26, 2020, the people of the area would seize to neither patronise cattle meat sellers nor engage in consumption of cattle meat.
“That butchers in their markets be discouraged from sales of cattle meat just as the people of the area were also enjoined not to buy nor use cattle meat for ceremonies.
“That the Traditional Council shall within a short time carry out traditional search to determine and fish out the correct identities of the gruesome murder of the young farmer and his pregnant wife, as well as other such killings.”
Although there was no fine imposed, defaulters of the directives would be somehow appropriately sanctioned.
Chairman of the state Universal Basic Education Board (UBEB) and a stakeholder in Afikpo, Chief Hycianth Ikpor, informed the elders of government’s plans to find lasting solution to the Fulani herdsmen’s menace. He advised the people to exercise patience to know the outcome of a proposed meeting in which resolutions adopted in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the herders would be adequately stepped down at the community levels for better understanding of the government stand on the issue. Also, chairman of local government, Oby Oko-Enyim, in a meeting with Afikpo stakeholders urged the herdsmen to steer clear of farmlands.
Government recently disclosed that it would establish ranches in its 13 local government areas as solution to the wanton destruction of farm crops and other problems.
Prior to the Afikpo incident, the police command had on October 1, recovered a decomposing body of one Joseph Isu, 53, who was recently declared missing during a boundary clash between Ezeke Amasiri community and its Amata Akpoha neighbour, both in Afikpo North LG. Police explained that the victim’s body was found inside the Amasiri River, stuffed in a cellophane bag with a heavy stone hung around his neck.
At about the same period, a fisherman, Okoro Ogbu (Anamaja) from Umunuka Okposi in the neighbouring Ohaozara LGA was found dead in a farm area at his Umunuka village. The throat of the 60-year-old man was slit like a fowl by yet to be identified persons around the Asu Umunuka River when he went fishing. Nobody knew his whereabouts till October 1, when a search party found his lifeless body.
In April, suspected herdsmen migrating from Amasiri through Umunuka attacked people of the area, killing one Dennis Agwu Nwite, after they had issues with some sand dredgers at the Asu Umunuka River. Farmers in the community had suffered intermittent attacks by marauding herders, especially during the dry season.
Some women farmers had on September 28, staged a protest against the regular destruction of their farmlands and crops by herdsmen. The women were from the four communities of Nkpoghoro, Ugwuegu, Ohaisu and Itim in Afikpo North LGA.