By Vincent Ujumadu
AWKA — HERDSMEN who have set up what looks like a permanent abode at the border town of Ugwuoba close to Awka, the Anambra State capital, have become a pain in the neck for the surrounding communities of Amansea, Utoko, Nibo and even the Awka Capital Territory as a result of the menace of their cattle on the farms in the area. Unfortunately, the affected communities appear to be scared of confronting the herdsmen who are often wielding sophisticated weapons while grazing on the people’s farmlands.
So far, the much the people did was speak in hushed tones and the herdsmen seem to be ready to face anybody who dare challenge them for destroying their crops.
Apart from the destruction of farmlands, the presence of the herdsmen at Ugwuoba has created a chaotic traffic situation in the area such that the dual carriage way has been reduced to almost half of one lane due to indiscriminate parking of trailers by drivers, most of who end up there and spend days after discharging their goods in parts of Anambra and Delta states.
An indigene of Amansea, Mr. Jacob Okoli said the menace of cattle on their farmlands has forced them to move across the Amansea River to farm since the herdsmen cannot ferry the cattle across for grazing. According to him, they had previously complained to their traditional ruler over the matter, adding that although meetings were held in that regard in the past, the herdsmen had continued with the destruction of the farms.
He said: “Initially we were driving them out of our farms, but we later noticed that the herdsmen acquired guns which they hung on their backs while grazing. This development frightened our people with the result that we had to abandon our farms close to the area they have converted as their new community at Ugwuoba. “We chose to ignore them because nobody confronts somebody with gun empty handed. We had wondered how the herdsmen acquire the guns they brandish, which they use to intimidate us on our farms.
“Even our river, which is the source of our water supply, had been polluted by the herdsmen as they frequently take the cattle to river where they drink and defecate indiscriminately. In addition, the herdsmen have become a real security and social threat to our people as many girls from our community had become pregnant for the herdsmen who do not even care to marry the girls formally.”
Another community, Utoko in Awka South Local Government Area is also complaining of the menace of cattle in the area. The mainly agrarian community said the herdsmen often graze on their backyards and sometimes frightening children and women with their presence. According to John Ibeh, it is usually disturbing to see people with guns very close to your compound with cattle scattered all over the place.
However, one of the herdsmen, Mallam Aminu said they decided to be carrying guns following frequent theft of their cattle by unknown persons, adding that the theft had reduced considerably since they decided to be providing security for themselves and their cattle. He denied the allegation that the herdsmen take their cattle to farmlands to destroy crops, explaining that such a thing could only happen if they farmland was on their way to a grazing area.
Aminu said: “The people are creating the impression that we are destroying their farms. This is not true. Anytime we have the cause to pass through any farmland, we ensure that out cattle do not eat the crops until we get to our destination.”