By Tony John, Port Harcourt
Ogoni women in Rivers State have lamented the invasion and attacks by herdsmen on their farmlands, bringing hardships to their families. They said they suffered following incessant attacks by the herdsmen who entered their farms with impunity claiming they have rights to any part of farm and bush in the area.
They raised the alarm at a sensitisation programme on security defence, by Lokiaka Community Development Centre, Port Harcourt. Mary Amanikpo, a native of Lueku in Nyo-Khana, Mercy Glory of Sogho in Khana Local Government and Yeye Nkani, a native of Eleme, in Eleme LG, spoke of their ordeals in the hands of the killer Fulani herdsmen.
Glory said: “Since the herdsmen came into my community last year, they have been destroying our cassava farms to the extent that we could not bear it again. Sometime ago, my son approached them and pursued them out from the farm. But, they threatened my son with their dagger and matchets. My son narrowly escaped being killed.
“We went to the community and reported to the youth leader. We went back to the farm the following day. I personally asked one of the herdsmen what happened to my cassava that they have destroyed. I don’t have anything to harvest for food or to sell for my children’s upkeep. He told me that my community chief has collected money from them and they will stay till their money is exhausted.
“All efforts to make our representatives to help drive away the herdsmen and restore peace proved abortive. Our local government chairman and our representative at the state House of Assembly are aware of this, but have not done anything to help us.
“We, the Ogoni women, are all farmers and it is what we profit from farming that we use in training our children and doing all we want to do as livelihood. Government should send these herdsmen away from our land and empower us to return to active farming.”
Martha Agbani, Executive Director, Lokiaka, said: “We brought women together, especially Ogoni women farmers, who have been facing violence from herdsmen, women whose crops have been destroyed severally, women who have been molested.
“We gathered some women who were raped by herdsmen in their farms in Ogoniland to train them on how to have some level of defence for themselves while in the farm.
“We took them on security tip. Government needs to be more sensitive about issues on local areas because that is where we noticed today that violence takes place. There is more insecurity at the grassroots than we have at the urban areas.
“Government needs to beef up security on that regards and for these women who have been facing this. They have been complaining but government has been adamant about that.
“Government needs to start listening to what is happening at the grassroots. We need more security stations at the grassroots; there is need for them to increase their security force there, so as to monitor these things.
“Government should also come up with more enlightenment campaign and make people know what to do as we are doing today. We are taking up what government should have done by sensitising the woman putting them on guide to protect them.
“For those who have already faced this challenge, government should give them some palliatives, most of them are subsistent farmers; most of them borrowed money to buy fertilizers, stems and some seeds to cultivate with the hope of selling and returning the loans they took.
“Where there is no farmer, there is no nation and there is no food. Government needs to come up with subvention to assist them because we know they contribute heavily to the economy and the living standards of the people.”
Assistant Commandant, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Rivers State, Dr Iyekolo Gbemisola, who took the women on the security tips and condemned the activities of herdsmen on the farms:
“One of the permanent solutions is border control whereby it is only those who are permitted to come into the country or into states that can come. Where you have these herdsmen walking on foot, they know these forests very well; they don’t care about the harsh conditions and wherever they reach, they believe they have taken possession of that land, which is wrong.
“That permanent solution is in the hands of the Federal Government and the government is trying to do their best, to take control of these herdsmen and we are hopeful that soon, these problems will be under control.”