By Josef Umunnakwe Onoh
The massacre in Benue was not the first or second time that herdsmen would carry out such dastardly act in Nigeria, but there are areas that they could go once and not have a repeat performance. One of such areas is Enugu State.
In 2016 when the herdsmen struck at Nimbo in Uzo-Uwani local government, Enugu State, killing more than 50 people, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi was branded a weeping governor because of the emotion he displayed at the scene of the attacks. Little did the world know that behind his grief laid a grand design of taming further occurrence of the menace.
While some people saw Ugwuanyi as a weak governor who rather than be confrontational was meek, Ugwuanyi went to work to articulate a non-combative approach which eliminated further herdsmen attacks on the coal city state.
Ugwuanyi discovered that the vulnerability of the state to insecurity was as a result of its location as a gateway between the north and the rest of EasternNigeria. He discovered that as trade takes place, so also does crime and criminality and so he diligently tried to straighten the state’s security apparatus through the composition of a Peace and Security Committee.
The peace and security committee method employed by the governor has been paying off, particularly against herdsmen attacks and other criminalities. The state wide committee is replicated in all the 17 local government areas of the state, with the central committee headed by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Security, Gen. Fred Eze (retd), an experienced solider who commanded Nigerian troops in Dafour.
The state government was not to make noise about security, especially, when it was clear that security issues were not meant for public discussion. However, Eze revealed that the opinion of the populace should be sensitized to understand that security was all about everybody.
The committee comprises all local councils chairmen, herdsmen leaders under the umbrella of Miyetti-Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), state commissioners for Human Capital Development and Poverty Reduction and his counterpart in the Ministry of Agriculture. The composition is replicated in all the local governments and wards of the state. One of the jobs of the committee is to enlighten the state residents on security issues.
Before the committee inauguration, there were rumors of imminent herdsmen attack in the state but after the inauguration, the rumours and tension reduced in the state. There is a code of conduct that both the host communities and herdsmen groups are made to pay damage in the event any side being found guilty of first provocation, destruction or attack.
While herdsmen pay for damaged crops, communities pay for any cows killed and since then things are under control due to the sensitization between the parties.
Ugwuanyi who is not used to grandstanding, faulted the upbeat expectation in some quarters that the state would have been more brazenly forceful, noting that no two states are the same. Undoubtedly, there are different leadership styles; other states could adopt their own style and approach but the people of Enugu State are peace loving who are ready to associate with every segments of society inthe country.
The Ugwuanyi government also employs vibrant vigilante groups across the state supervised by the Hon. Commissioner for for Human Development and Poverty Reduction, Mr. Obinna Mbaeke. The outfit works with traditional rulers, President Generals of communities, not just for herdsmen attack but also for crimes like ritual killings, robbery, kidnapping and others.
The result is that Enugu has been relatively calm. In Udi LGA, for instance, the herdsmen once reported that their three cows were killed and after investigations confirmed it, the herdsmen were paid N1.5 million by the suspects and since then there has not been any other problem from both sides in the area.
As Mbaeke noted, “Enugu State is part of the Nigerian federation and its law cannot supersede that of the Federation, but we try to accommodate everybody, be you Shua Arab or Efik, so long you are in Enugu State. Security is one of the four point agenda of the state government. The Governor bought vehicles for paramilitary agencies in the state for safety. Enugu is safe. We met it safe and we will make it further safer. What we are doing is yielding results and the way the governor is going about it is the most sensible; that so long as you are in the state you must conform to the laws of the land.”
A Neighborhood vigilante member in Isi-Uzo local government, Mr. Ejiofor Okoro, said since the inauguration of the Peace and Security Committee, his area has continued to experience peace.
*Onoh is resident in Enugu