By Clifford Ndujihe, Dayo Johnson, Ben Agande, Gbenga Olarinoye, Samuel Oyadongha, Chidi Nkwopara, Umar Yusuf, Peter Duru, Marie-Therese Nanlong, Emmanuel Una, Ikechukwu Uche, Emem Idio & John Mkom
…15 policemen escape death as herdsmen attack fale’s farm again in Ondo
Herdsmen: Only 3 states tackling menace
LAGOS—AS Federal and most state governments dilly-dally on combating the menace of herdsmen and recurring clashes with farmers, the problem is escalating and assuming a dangerous dimension across the country.
Only a few states have anti-open grazing law in place with the rest including the Federal Government appearing to be clay-footed over the problem.
The trend continued, yesterday, as no fewer than 15 mobile policemen escaped death, when herdsmen opened fire on them in Akure, the Ondo State capital.
Vanguard gathered that the herdsmen numbering about 10 stormed the farm of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Chief Olu Falae, located at Kajola, in Igbatoro area of the state and destroyed it. It was the fourth time, the elder statesman’s farm was being attacked by the cattle herders.
Chief Falae invited the police only for the herdsmen to attack the policemen deployed to the farm by the state Police Commissioner, Hilda Harrison.
Apart from the recurring invasion and destruction of his farm, the herdsmen recently kidnapped Falae after killing of one of his security men.
Some of Chief Falae’s kidnappers, who were later arrested by detectives, are currently being prosecuted.
Sources told Vanguard that the herdsmen, last weekend, stormed the Afenifere chieftain’s farm and destroyed it. He reportedly informed police authorities in the state and mobile policemen were hurriedly deployed to the scene.
On sighting the policemen, Vanguard gathered that the herdsmen opened fire on them.
There were exchange of gun shot between the policemen and herdsmen, who insisted that their cows said to be over 300 would graze on the farm.
ln the gun battle, some cows were killed, while the herdsmen fled into different directions.
Confirming the development, Chief Falae told Vanguard: “I invited the police to my farm because the herdsmen have been coming to the farm everyday for several weeks and they are no longer hiding. They come into the farm around 5 am till 9am and destroy the farm. So, I went to the police for protection and some Policemen were sent to the farm, yesterday.
“They got to the farm and met three separate herds feeding fat on my farm. When the police approached them, they fired at the police. The policemen went there to see if they could effect arrest for trespassing and destroying farm produce. So, if the herdsmen fired at the police what would they do to me?’’
The Police image-maker, Femi Joseph, confirmed the invasion of the former Finance Minister’s farm.
Joseph claimed ignorance of any exchange of gunshots between the police and the herdsmen but said that they were chased away from the farm.
While saying there was no arrest, the police spokesperson pointed out that the command has launched an investigation into the latest attack of Falae’s farm.
Five of the herdsmen, who attacked Chief Olu Falae’s farm last year, are currently in prison.
Chief Falae’s case signposts the rising wave of herdsmen attacks, clashes with farmers, kidnapping and other violent crimes across the country as most governments continue to delay action on the menace.
Only a couple of states have enacted anti-open grazing and anti-kidnapping laws with the rest including the Federal Government paying lip service to the murderous and debilitating challenges.
States that have enacted anti-open grazing laws are Ekiti, Benue and Taraba. While those with anti-kidnapping laws include Lagos, Cross River, Edo and Benue.
With these laws in operation, only a couple of kidnappers and herdsmen have been arrested and prosecuted, leaving the rest on a free rampage.
From Benue to Delta, Edo, Taraba and Enugu, no state appears to be free from the onslaught of the herdsmen, kidnappers, who now lay siege to homes and schools, and armed robbers who block highways and unleash mayhem on motorists and travelers.
Vanguard gathered that South West governors will meet in Abeokuta, Ogun State, next month to articulate a response to herdsmen and other violent crimes in the region. It was also learned that the governors may adopt the Ekiti model to checkmate the activities of cattle herdsmen.
Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State in 2016, made it criminal for herdsmen to move their herds from one place to another and restricted them from taking their cattle to people’s farms for grazing. His action followed the killing of some farmers in their farms by herdsmen.
In Edo State, the situation is not different, as herdsmen have laid siege to some parts of the state. Two weeks ago, some women were raped and killed in their farms in Esan part of the state. The killing prompted the House of Representatives to direct the Inspector General of Police to go after the herdsmen, arrest and prosecute them.
So far, the state is yet to take a decisive measure on the issue. The state government is yet to have a law against open grazing. It promised to fence schools and set up a security committee to develop security network to provide adequate security in rural communities and effectively tackle herdsmen attacks on farmers in the state.
Although, there is no anti-open grazing law in Anambra, the government came up with a robust committee comprising of security agencies, traditional rulers, representatives of town unions, representatives of the herdsmen led by the Saraki Fulani himself and some Fulani who were born and brought up in Anambra that hammered out a solution.
The solution: If cattle strayed into farmers straw land and destroyed the crops, they will be arrested and assessment would be made of the damage done and herdsmen are made to pay compensation. On the other hand, if any community kills a cow illegally or otherwise, they are also made to compensate the herdsmen. So far, the measure has worked in the state.
Imo is one of the states that has not mapped out measures to deal with the herdsmen issue even though the convoy of Governor Rochas Okorocha was, in May, 2016, blocked by cattle on Orlu road, while going for projects inspection.
There have also been skirmishes between herdsmen and farmers with clashes reported from Irete in Owerri West local council area of the state and some communities in Ohaji/Egbema and Ngor Okpala local government areas.
The reports largely centred on rape, destruction of farmlands, threat to life and property, as well as physical assault. Indeed, on May 17, 2017, the Nguru, Umuowa, Umukabia Ngor, Ntu, Alulu, Oburu, Obokwe and Alatia communities in Ngor Okpala Local Government of Imo State, raised alarm over the activities of herdsmen, who they said invaded their farmlands, causing wanton destruction to both old and newly cultivated farm crops. According to them, the herdsmen have turned their farms into grazing land.
The people alleged that the herdsmen who are armed with AK 47 assault rifles had equally built makeshift camps in their forests without their knowledge and consent, adding that those who tried to challenge them fell victims to the marauding herdsmen, a situation that is now causing tension in the communities. No arrest has been made so far.
The state has been inundated by kidnapping and armed robbery. Several bank robberies were recorded in the state in recent time, though the police said they had been trying their best to rid the state of criminals.
Instead of out right law, given the number of lives the state has lost to herdsmen attacks, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu, elected to set up a peace committee comprising of all stakeholders to handle the issue.
The Zonal Chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association in Enugu State, Gidado Siddiki; and representative from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Mohammed Ahmed, lauded the move. The Governor said that the peace committee was necessitated by the realization that both farmers and herdsmen are critical to any society’s growth.
In southern Nigeria, Delta State is arguably the most affected by the activities of herdsmen, who operate with impunity leaving deaths, sorrow and destruction of farm lands and crops on their trail.
Herdsmen attacks, kidnapping and armed robbery have been the lot of the state. On two occasions, Governor Okowa had raised the alarm about the activities of herdsmen, which had claimed the lives of farmers and their families, calling the federal government to come to his rescue.
In the last four weeks, several persons have been killed by bandits on the highways in the state, while several kidnap cases had also been recorded.
There is no law in place against the menace. No one has been arrested. Currently, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa is combating the challenge through a forum of stakeholders.
At the forum which had as its theme: “Fostering Peaceful Co-existence Between farmers, host communities and herdsmen in Delta State,” were representatives of traditional rulers’ councils, communities, farmers, local government council chairmen, Miyetti Allah, Miyetti Allah Kautu Hore, Cattle Dealers Association, Cattle Breeders Association, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Muslem Leaders, Civil Society Organisations, the Military, Police, Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) as well as Nigeria Immigration Service.
At the meeting, it was resolved that security agents should be proactive and arrest anybody caught with AK 47 rifle and prosecute such persons; and that security agencies should be more vigilant at the Ohoro-Bomadi road to ensure that farmers and villagers move about freely without being attacked by herdsmen.
In Bayelsa State, the state government’s land grazing policy has technically nipped in the bud any possible herdsmen aggression as attested by the relative peace between herdsmen and host communities.
Besides, the aggressive sensitisation campaign and erection of “No Grazing” signposts at designated farm areas across the state warning the herdsmen against indiscriminate grazing of their cows in open fields by the Centre for Niger Delta Studies, in conjunction with Bayelsa State Conflict Management Alliance, has helped eliminate friction between herdsmen and local farmers.
But the same cannot be said of other violent crimes like piracy in the troubled creeks of the state, unresolved murders and extra judicial killings and attacks on security operatives by hoodlums and cult related killings.
In Cross Rivers State, violent crimes, especially kidnapping and cultism, have continued despite the Anti-Kidnapping Law that became operational in September, 2015. The law prescribes death penalty for convicted kidnappers in the state.
The law also empowered the state to seize assets as well as freeze bank accounts belonging to convicted kidnappers and those who aid and abet kidnapping in the state.
On Fulani herdsmen, the recent attack by Fulani herdsmen on the people of Obio Usiere in Eniong Abatim, Odukapni local government area of the state has not only caused fear among the inhabitants but has also put their lives on hold as they can no longer fish or farm.
The attacks left no less than 10 people dead and rendered over 3,500 homeless.
The state is yet to enact an anti-open grazing law. Rather, it has set up herdsmen management committee to address the problem.
Benue’s anti-grazing, kidnapping laws stem criminal activities
In Benue State, the May 22, 2017 signing into law, the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, 2017 and the Prohibition of Abduction, Hostage Taking, Kidnapping, Secret Cult, and Similar Activities Law, by Governor Samuel Ortom has, to a large extent, ensured stable peace and security in the state.
Before both laws came into effect, the state experienced intermittent cases of violent crimes in selected communities.
Though the present leadership of the police had recorded milestones in curbing such crimes, the new laws have largely brought down incidents of such crimes in the state.
Like other states across the country, Osun has had its share of violent crimes, even as government has continued to fashion out ways to keep the crime rate in the state very low.
To ensure farmers and herdsmen co-exist harmoniously, a government committee headed by a former Assistant Chief of Staff to the governor, Mr. Oguntola Toogun, was instituted.
The committee, which also has personnel of security agencies as members, has embarked on preventive measures.
Regular meetings are held between herdsmen and farmers, where ways the two groups could co exist without rancor are highlighted, while their members are encouraged to embrace peace rather than resort to violence in case of breaches.
The leadership of the DSS in the state, last year, brokered a meeting with the leadership of Myetti Allah and pan-Yoruba sociocultural group, Afenifere, as part of efforts to ensure peaceful coexistence.
From findings, commercial transport groups are also engaged informally by security agencies to monitor vehicles bringing visitors to the state.
Special anti-kidnapping unit of police and Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, primed to tackle violent crimes, in past months recorded huge successes, bursting crimes and rescuing kidnap victims, with close attention being paid to already identified flash points across the state. For a very long time, Osun State has not recorded cases of kidnapping.
21 Adamawa LGs under siege
In Adamawa State, herdsmen/farmers’ attacks have been on the increase in the past three years and this has led to the death of hundreds of persons on the part of the farmers. The attacks have affected all the 21 local government areas of the state, especially those on the bank of River Benue. This is because local government areas close to the Benue River are very fertile for agriculture and the green nature of the area attracts herdsmen to them.
However, the situation has improved, following measures put in place by Governor Muhammadu Jibrilla, who constituted a judicial panel to look into the immediate and remote causes of the clashes. The panel recommended, among others, the need for traditional rulers to take responsibility for what happens in their domains.
The panel also directed law enforcement agents to apprehend herdsmen seen with arms and ammunition. According to the governor, these measures have helped to reduce herdsmen and farmers’ clashes in Adamawa. But armed robbery has been on the increase, especially on the highways, which the police are contending with on a daily basis. Vanguard gathered that kidnapping is a rare occurrence in Adamawa State.
S-Kaduna held hostage
In Kaduna State, there is an upsurge in violent crimes in some parts, especially in Southern Kaduna where herdsmen have held the local farming community hostage.
In the last six months, more than 300 people have been killed by herdsmen, who target remote settlements that are beyond the immediate reach of security forces. Men, women and children have been slaughtered in their sleep by these marauding herdsmen.
Apart from the activities of herdsmen, the Abuja-Kaduna expressway is particularly dangerous to commuters as kidnappers routinely put up road blocks and kidnap whoever catches their fancy for ransom.
In response, the state government, in conjunction with the Nigerian Army, has set up a forward Operating base in Southern Kaduna. The army has also launched what it called Operation Harbin Kunama to flush out the herdsmen from their hideouts in the mountainous terrains in the area.
To check the activities of kidnappers, the state government has concluded arrangement with security agencies to purchase a drone that would be used to track down kidnappers.
On the Plateau
In Plateau State, incidences of herdsmen attacks have subsided greatly, as no attacks have been recorded in more than two years. However, as the rains set in and farmers are ready to go to the farm, there have been sensitization on the need to sustain the peaceful coexistence existing between herders and farmers to avoid any confrontation that may lead to violence.
Cases of kidnapping are alien to the state. Apart from the kidnap and subsequent release of Pa Michael Obi (Mikel Obi’s father) in 2012, there are no known cases of such crime in the state.
Mr. Dan Manjang, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Governor Simon Lalong, said: “The state has largely been peaceful in the last two years, cases of herders-farmers’ clashes are almost non-existent, this is because a lot of work and efforts are targeted at ensuring that lasting peace returns to the state.’’
Taraba initiates anti-grazing bill
In Taraba State, the people have witnessed violent crimes, ranging from herdsmen attacks, kidnapping armed robbery.
Herdsmen/farmers clashes have been all round the three senatorial zones of the state, particularly in the southern and central zones.
Recently, a check conducted by various Non Governmental Organizations, NGOs, which visited areas of the violent of herdsmen attacks, have shown that the attacks displaced an estimated number of about 43,000, while villages, properties and farms estimated at about N7 billion have been destroyed.
Recently, in Usah, Bali and Takum local government areas of Taraba State, scores were reported killed, houses burnt and thousands of farmers displaced after herdsmen attacks.
In response, Governor Darius Ishaku recently sponsored an executive bill to Taraba State House of Assembly, titled “Anti-Open Grazing And Ranching Establishment Bill 2017.”
The bill, according members of the State House of Assembly, would help solve the incessant herdsmen/farmers’ clashes as well as check the activities of cattle rustlers in the state, when signed into law.
The bill has already passed second reading and the lawmakers will conduct public hearings soon in the three senatorial zones of the state.
The governor also of recent summoned an emergency security meeting of leaders of the Tiv, Jukun, Kuteb and Miyeti Allah in Jalingo to fashion out ways that can lead to permanent peace in the state.