By Chioma Gabriel, Peter Okutu & Chimaobi Nwaiwu

Following the lingering controversies surrounding the alleged proposal by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, to organise local vigilance groups in the South-East to curtail the menace of crime, the South-East Governors Forum has denied ever being ready to allow such suggestions come to fruition, describing them as jokes.

From left: Gov. Rochas Okorocha of Imo, Gov.
Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu, Gov. David Umahi of Ebonyi, Willie Obiano of Anambra and Okezie Ipkeazu of Abia addressing newsmen after South-East Governors Forum in Enugu State on Sunday (2/7/17).

Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi, in a statement released by his Chief Press Secretary, Emmanuel Uzor, described reports that the governors would allow MACBAN to form vigilance groups as strange.

The statement read: “I find it extremely strange for anybody to think that non-locals in any part of the country, including the South-East, could be allowed to form vigilante outfit. The Miyetti Allah group may have made that suggestion, which I believe will never mean to form a vigilante in South-East.

“Whichever is the meaning, no governor will allow that. South-East governors have their local vigilantes working with security agencies. Any such demand by Miyetti group is a joke and not acceptable.

“Governors of South-East are doing their best and we have no problems receiving insults from our people. It is the price for leadership. The important thing to us is the safety and well-being of our people.

“There will be no Miyetti vigilante, no cattle ranch or colony in South-East. But we must live peacefully with herdsmen that do not destroy our farmland, especially those that were born here and have lived peacefully with us.

“All South-East governors are together in this position.”

…in Abia

On his part, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State said: “Herdsmen will not be part of any security arrangement in Abia State. Such a strategy could work elsewhere, but not in Abia State. We have our own plans which we will be willing to share with other people if they are interested. Our plans do not have provision for herdsmen as vigilantes.

“One of the reasons why we have no instances of herders-farmers clash in Abia State is because we adopted an innovative and unique strategy, which takes a human view of the situation. I spent seven years in the north as an undergraduate and postgraduate student and I have a fair idea of how the average Fulani behaves and thinks.

“One thing we have done in Abia is to set up Mediation Committees at the state and local government levels. When cows destroy crops, someone must take responsibility.

“I have mandated the mediation committee to investigate real cases of destruction of farmlands and even the killing of cows. When such instances are confirmed, I chose to pay either the owner of the farm or the cow owner as the case may be. I prefer to pay for cows than losing any life.

“One human life is more expensive than all the cows put together. However, our major emphasis is on ensuring peaceful co-existence among all those concerned.

“This is why we hear little about clashes in Abia State. There are herdsmen in Abia, but we have managed to create a template for peace.”

… as group tasks govs on administration

Meanwhile, as South-East governors continue to receive uncomplimentary remarks over giving audience to MACBAN, the International Society for the Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, INTERSOCIETY, has asked South-East governors to step up activities in the governance of their respective states.

The group specifically called on the South-East governors to give direction to governance in their respective states by immediately forming their cabinet and starting work without further delay, just as it urged Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State to stop wasting further time, as his exit from the seat of government is less than three years.

A statement by INTERSOCIETY, signed by its board chairman, Emeka Umeagbalasi; Head of Democracy and Good Governance, Chinwe Umeche, and Head of Publicity, Chidinma Udegbanunam, said: “Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State has been reminded that over five years out of his constitutionally-allowed maximum term of eight years have gone and only two duty-years are left for him to find his name in the state’s Hall of Fame or join the likes of failed ex-governors of the state.”

The group also asked Governor Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State to let IMO people and Nigerians in general “know how the immediate past state governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha, underdeveloped or developed the state.”

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