Magnus Eze, Enugu
Aleze Nweze, an indigene of Ufuoke Owom Oshiri, in Onicha Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, sometime in July this year, raised the alarm that their family house at Agu Ufuoke Owom Oshiri had been overrun by Fulani herdsmen who came in their numbers and occupied the vast land. He said that they built tents directly behind the wall of his compound; “forcefully jam-packed the compound with motorcycles and behaved as if the land belonged to them. They looked fearful, thereby traumatising my aged mother; she lives in fear and panic.”
“All the farm crops my old mother sweated to cultivate have been destroyed by these heartless people and their cows,” he said.
In a matter of days, Nweze’s fears came to pass, as the herders attacked some youths of the community whose farm crops were destroyed by cattle. The youth had confronted them and demanded that they leave their community and, in the process, the herders caught two of them and lacerated their bodies with sharp knives after fastening them to stakes.
Daily Sun learnt that it took the timely intervention of the council chairman, Felix Igboke, who alerted security operatives in the area and with the help of the Divisional Police Officer, and the ‘captives’ were released. They were immediately taken to hospital for treatment.
Even though no life was lost in the incident, other communities in the local government also resolved that Fulani herders in their areas must leave to avert the Oshiri episode repeating itself. This automatically led to tension in the local government, with rumours of impending attacks by the Fulani on the people of the various communities becoming rife.
However, with the intervention of the local government chairman and support of security agencies, especially the SARS, both the communities and the leadership of the Fulani herders in the area arrived at an agreement, which led to both sides embracing one another with a resolve to live peacefully.
An indigene of Oshiri told our reporter that the people of the five communities that make up the council area, Onicha, Isu, Oshiri, Ukawu and Abaomege, have successfully settled the rift between them and the Fulani herders.
A series of meetings culminated in a peace accord by both parties in the local government after a five-hour dialogue at the council’s banquet hall in Isu, on August 26, 2019.
The meeting was attended by representatives of all the security agencies in the local government, including the Nigeria Police, representative of the Department of State Services (DSS), and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC); while the officer in charge of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Ebonyi State Police Command, led a team of operatives to the meeting.
The communities were represented by their traditional rulers, town union presidents, youth leaders, political leaders of the various electoral wards, councillors and other government appointees.
The Fulani community was represented by their leaders from the different zones of the state, including a national officer of the Myetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN).
The reconciliation was the last in the series of such meetings that had already been held at community level to resolve the crises between farmers in the local government and Fulani herders, which was becoming a recurrent problem there.
The highpoint of the peace meeting was the agreement of the Fulani herders to abide by the laws of the state prohibiting the movement of cattle in the night (a major cause of the crises) without the knowledge of the host communities and security agencies in the areas, the prohibition of child cattle herders grazing cattle unaccompanied by adults, that no herder should graze in any community in the local government without first informing the leaders of the community and that before any new herders settle in any part of the community, leaders of the host community must be informed.
In his appreciation speech, leader of the Fulani community in the local government, Mallam Abdulahi Ardo, thanked the council boss for his relentless effort to ensure that there was peace among his people and their host communities. He appealed to the leaders of the various communities to assist them in locating fallow portions of land to graze their cattle, while assuring the leaders of the communities of their maximum cooperation.