UNBELIEVABLE! That was the reactions of most Nigerians when Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State recently told the Assistant Inspector-General of Police for Zone 5, Mr. Rasheed Akintunde, that owners of farmlands in Uwheru, Ughelli North Local Government Area, now pay “protection fees” to armed herdsmen before they can enter their farms.
No one ever believed that the time would come when stranger-elements alien to Nigeria would forcefully seize the farmlands of indigenous peoples and subject them to slaves in their own ancestral communities while the Police and security agencies charged with the protection of lives and property pretend not to notice.
The atrocities of armed herdsmen across the nation are well-documented daily affairs, but the situation in Delta State stands out in its own way. It was in Ubulu-Uku in Aniocha South Local Government Area that a traditional ruler, Obi Edward Akaeze Ofulue III, was kidnapped and killed in December 2016. Despite various efforts by Governor Okowa to promote peaceful coexistence, these armed herders have seized the farmlands and highways of the state, killing, maiming, kidnapping, raping, robbing and now extorting money from helpless farmers.
It is becoming abundantly clear that there is more to the mission of these herdsmen than what we have known pastoralists for down the ages. Those who accuse the armed militias masquerading as “herdsmen” of nursing territorial ambitions can easily find justification in the seizure of peoples’ ancestral lands by these invaders who now extort helpless citizens before they can eke out a living on their own lands.
It is very pathetic and indeed shameful to watch Governors who are designated by the Constitution as the “Chief Security Officers” of their states weeping for their people and wringing their hands helplessly while genuine help is never forthcoming from the Federal Government which exclusively controls the instruments and agencies of law enforcement.
We are afraid that this horrible situation is reaching a breaking point where communities will be left to choose between abandoning their ancestral lands to these alien invaders or take their destinies fully into their hands. This is a recipe for disaster and does not bode well for the unity and continued existence of this country.
Once again, we call on President Muhammadu Buhari to move decisively and restore order across Nigeria. No drive for food security can succeed with armed bandits running riot across indigenous communities terrorising the farmers and villagers who feed the rest of us.
Above all, this gross violation of the rights and liberties of the ordinary, peace-loving Nigerians has to stop.
Enough is enough!