The incessant loss of lives via herdsmen/farmers clashes is capable of igniting war if not carefully addressed, the Ebonyi State Government and the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria have warned.
Governor David Umahi and the National Chairman of Myetti Allah, Bello Bodejo, gave the warning in Abakaliki during a security meeting called by the governor.
Messrs. Umahi and Bodejo called for caution in handling the crisis.
Suspected herdsmen had attacked some farmers in Enyanwu Igwe Igbeagu community of Izzi Local Government on Monday which left at least four persons dead with two others in critical condition.
Leaders of cattle herders in the South-east and South-south states, residents of the troubled community, as well as all the security chiefs in the state attended the meeting.
Describing the killings in Enyanwu Igwe village as unprovoked, the governor ordered herdsmen around the area to ”leave the place until he can calm the embittered villagers.”
”It is unprovoked killings, life is so sacred. You can’t kill people as if they are fowls. Izzi people are warriors. I physically held them not to go for retaliation. The herdsmen there in Izzi have to leave the place for now until I can calm everybody down. The way we are going, it can provoke national war and it will not help anybody,” the governor said.
”The lives of every Ebonyian is very dear to me. God forbid, I can’t withstand where 76 people were killed like in Benue, I can’t withstand it. Some people may be fighting to die but we fight to live, let’s use wisdom and handle the matter,” he added.
He regretted that agreement reached between the state and herdsmen in the area for peaceful co-existence ”had been destroyed”.
“We banned under-aged herders, we banned night grazing in the state. We have no grazing routes in Ebonyi which means that nobody has the right to ‘carry’ cattle by route to Ebonyi State and we agreed on that. We also agreed with the herdsmen that the first offender must be prosecuted. We also said that no farmer should go to farm with gun and no herdsmen should rear cattle with gun or machete, it is stick. We must abide by these rules.”
Mr. Umahi’s postulation was also corroborated by Mr. Bodejo who argued that the incessant killings in the country can cause chaos.
He said the state has been very accommodating to the herdsmen, warning that this should not be abused.
“Ebonyi state is very peaceful and it is accommodating to our members. It has been so accommodating to our members even more than some Northern states of the federation and we condemn these killing in this state. There are minors and migrants who are causing these problems. There are also criminals moving as cattle herders who are causing these havoc. The chairmen of Myetti Allah of various states in the South-east and South are all here and we are not happy with
what happened, we condemn these killings in totality,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bodejo said the leaders of the herders across the region will meet with all herdsmen in the state for two days.