By Chinonso Alozie, Owerri
It was like a time to put the record straight concerning the spate of attacks and destructions of farms said to have been carried out by Fulani herdsmen.
This time, the top leadership of the herders known as Miyetti Allah, had come out boldly to take a remorseful position on the unwanted activities of the cattle rearers.
South-East Voice, was at the Imo Police Command, Owerri, Imo State, where the Imo State Chairman of Miyetti Allah, Audi Diko, apologised to the farmers.
The meeting, orgarnised by the Imo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Ezike, had in attendance, Imo monarchs, farmers, leaders of Miyetti Allah, herders and some government officials.
Damages caused by Fulani herdsmen
In Imo State, some of the reported attacks by Fulani herdsmen included invasion of farmlands, rapes and mayhem visited on host communities.
Among the various locations, one of which took place in 2013, an attack on Umuekune village of Irete community in Owerri West Local Government Area, where many were said to have been injured and their farms destroyed.
While in 2017, in the same Owerri West LGA, over 200 farms in Amakohia Ubi community, were confirmed to have been damaged by herdsmen.
According to the President- General of Amakohia-Ubi community, Mr. Cyril Ndumanya: “What we are experiencing in the hands of these herdsmen is causing us unforgettable pains.
“Last month, we reached an agreement to stop this ugly trend but you can see that they have started again. This time around, they have destroyed goods worth millions of naira. No issue of rape or killings but the level of destruction may bring hunger.
“Our cassava, vegetables, maize have been completely destroyed and used by herdsmen to feed their cattle.”
It will be recalled that in 2013, scores of women were reportedly raped by Fulani herdsmen in Umuapu community in Ohaji/Egbema Local Council Area of Imo State.
A report also went viral of an attack by herdsmen in 2013, in Akokwa community, Ideato North Local Government Area of the state.
By these reports, one may not completely agree with the state chairman of Miyetti Allah, Diko, on his delayed apologetic statement that farmers whose farms were destroyed should find a place in their hearts to forgive.
On the other hand, many described it as first of its kind and therefore it should be seen as a welcome development that would enthrone a lasting peace and by extension, calm the already tensed atmosphere resulting from the activities of herdsmen in the state.
In his brief remarks, Diko was shocked having heard the pains of different communities as explained by Imo monarchs, about the behaviours of herdsmen and the pains they had been subjected to.
He said: “I want to apologise to farmers in Imo State. Imo State is a peaceful state and we have been living peacefully with the people of the state. We want to say forgive us.
“We are happy that the Imo State Government has formed a committee to look into this issue and we believe that there will be positive outcome.”
Some of the traditional rulers, including Eze Iheanacho Ndukwe of Amagu community in Okigwe Local Government Area, spoke at the meeting. He said: “Okigwe is a different ball game; sometimes we go on demonstration against the activities of herdsmen calling on authorities to come to our aid.
“The problem is that among these Fulani herdsmen, we have one group that is organised and the other group is not organised. This particular group that is not organised goes into our farms with arms and destroy them.
“Let me tell you, we normally have this problem during the rainy season. Let us say the truth, there is a group that comes into Okigwe with dangerous weapons.”
The chairman, Farmers Cooperative Society Egbema, Mr. Otiri Cajetan, was of the opinion that the best idea would be for the herders to establish a ranch and they must pass through the authorities in the community for approval.
He said: “The issue of ranching must be considered by those who want to rear cattle. They must go into farming to grow food for the cattle; that is what is done everywhere.
“If they want to establish in Egbema, they must go through the hierarchy of the community not just come and occupy a place without any approval.”
As part of their resolutions, released by the Public Relations Officer of the Imo State Police Command, Mr. Andrew Enwerem, “The Imo State Police Command periodically holds meetings with the following groups to brainstorm on various steps to be taken in order to strengthen the peaceful, cordial and harmonious relationship that exists between the indigenes of the state and cattle herders. The meeting ended fruitfully with the following resolutions:
“The existing mechanism at the local government level made up of the Transitional Committee chairmen, Traditional rulers, the Divisional Police Officers (DPO), the DSS, community farmers and cattle herders should be strengthened to address complaints emanating from destruction of crops and rustling.
“Efforts should be made to identify herders from unknown origin who operate within the state and cause destruction of crops.
“Justice and fair play must be embraced in addressing conflicts between community farmers and cattle herders.
“At the end of the meeting, traditional rulers, the SA to the Governor on Northern Affairs, the Miyetti Allah, the representatives of the farmers, the representatives of the cattle herders and representatives of the Hausa/Fulani community in the state, expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the meeting and promised to continue with the existing harmonious relationship amongst the parties.”