The Abia State Government has accused herders of being responsible for kidnapping in the South-east state.
The Commissioner for Information in the state, John Kalu, said in a statement on Monday that the Abia State Government condemned “without reservations, the activities of criminal herdsmen suspected to have masterminded recent brazen kidnap of innocent citizens around Abia North Senatorial Zone of the State”.
Mr Kalu said the herdsmen have also destroyed farmlands in the state, with their cows “grazing openly in violation of extant laws of the state and Nigeria”.
“Government also frowns seriously at the wanton destruction of cows by yet to be identified individuals whose aim is to exacerbate already existing tensions.
“Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has directed security agents in the state to bring to justice all those involved in the criminal activities,” the commissioner added. He urged residents not to be afraid to go out for their legitimate businesses.
The state government, he said, was on top of the situation and would “spare nothing in protecting Abians”.
The IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, recently warned that the IPOB security arm, the Eastern Security Network, would soon enforce the ban on open grazing in all the states in the South-east, apparently to check the activities of criminal herdsmen in the region.
“In less than two weeks, #ESN will commence the full enforcement of Nigeria’s Anti-Grazing Law in the East,” The Punch newspaper, Tuesday, quoted Mr Kanu as saying. “Turn into a cow then and see what shall become of you.”
Tension in Oyo, Ogun, other states
Criminal herders have also been accused of destruction of farmlands and other criminal activities in the South-west states of Oyo and Ogun and other states in Nigeria recently.
A self-styled Yoruba freedom fighter, Sunday Igboho, made headlines when he travelled to Ogun State on Monday, with the claim that he was in the state to expel problematic herdsmen.
“We are here in solidarity with our brothers and sisters. Fulani herders are killing us in various South-west states, and that’s why we, the youths, came out to demand our rights,” Mr Igboho told reporters.
“That is why I am saying all Fulani herdsmen should vacate Yoruba land. There is peace now in Igangan and that’s not the only place I want peace to reign. We are going to all Yoruba land. I appreciate Ogun governor, he loves his people and that’s why we are in Ogun State today.
“We are going to Yewa now where Fulani kidnappers are terrorising Yorubas in Ogun State,” Mr Igboho said.
Also, the Benue State Government, about three days ago said there was an influx of heavily-armed herdsmen at its border withNasarawa State, Nigeria’s North-central region.
“We have been able to ascertain the fact that there appears to be a massive deployment of herdsmen with their cattle on the brink of River Benue but on the Nasarawa State bank.
“And we also observed that a good number of these herdsmen are heavily armed; many of them with Ak-47 rifles,” the Deputy Governor of Benue State, Benson Abounu, said, according to a Channels TV report.
“As if this was not enough, we have been able to apprehend a good number of them in a village called Kaseyo, Guma local government of Benue State.
“On the 23rd of January, 150 cows belonging to these herdsmen were apprehended.”
Seventy-one people were killed in Benue State in one week in 2018 during clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
Dispute over ownership and usage of land has remained the major cause of the violence conflict between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria.
Herdsmen in 2018 killed more Nigerians than the terrorist organisation, Boko Haram, according to a global report on the impact of terrorism.
“In 2018, Fulani extremists were responsible for the majority of terror-related deaths in Nigeria at 1,158 fatalities. Terror-related deaths and incidents attributed to Fulani extremists increased by 261 and 308 per cent respectively from the prior year. Of 297 attacks by Fulani extremists, over 200 were armed assaults.
“Over 84 per cent of these armed assaults targeted civilians,” the report said.
An association of cattle breeders in Nigeria, otherwise known as Miyetti Allah, said providing a settlement for herdsmen in different parts of the country is the best solution to the perennial conflict.
“We are already agitating for a solution to this problem – settlement, let the Federal Government come with the settlement model.
“The pastoralists cannot continue moving, looking for pasture; that era is coming to an end considering the increase in population against the land that does not increase.
“There has to be planning on the part of the government for both pastoralists and farmers to coexist. Part of this is to create a model that will settle pastoralists in one place,” Miyetti Allah leader, Baba Usman said, according to a report by Sahara Reporters.
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