Fulani herdsmen who had previously grazed in Nigeria’s south-east have reportedly fled the zone and are now settling in communities in Ogbadibo, Okpokwu, Ado, and other Local Government Areas of Benue State.
The invasion could be linked to the current unrest in the Southeast, which was sparked by the activities of the Eastern Security Network, ESN, which was established by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, to put a stop to herdsmen’s activities in the region.
The Southern Governors’ recent decision to ban open grazing in the region may have also triggered the sudden relocation to neighboring communities.
According to Naturenex, the communities in the aforementioned Local Government Areas are adjacent villages to some parts of Enugu and Ebonyi States.
Parts of Ogbadibo and Okpokwu are bounded by Enugu State’s Udenu Local Government, while parts of Ado, particularly the Agila community, are bounded by Ebele village, Ngbo in Ebonyi State’s Ohaukwu Local Government Area.
According to our correspondent, the herders are currently settling in some of the communities, causing tension in the area.
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Chief Akogwu Agada, an opinion leader and the head of a community in Owukpa, Ogbadibo, told a Naturenex correspondent that herdsmen have occupied some parts of the community.
“They are all over Owukpa, but their main base is in Ankpa. They have clashed with our farmers several times because their cattle have destroyed crops.
“We will be grateful if the government can come to our aid and chase them out of our land before they attack and kill us here,” Chief Akogwu said.
Mr Apochi Adams, a member of the recently disbanded vigilante group, told our correspondent from Ichama in Okpokwu Local Government about a similar incident.
According to him, there is no part of the community that the herdsmen do not graze on.
“We have clashed with them several times in an attempt to drive them off our land, but they always resist.”
Similarly, a farmer, Mr James Adoga, who spoke with our correspondent from Orokamu in Ogbadibo, bemoaned the destruction of his casava plantation by herders who grazed on his land.
Adoga revealed that the herders recently stormed the community with their cattle, families, and other property in order to settle in some of the villages.
“We are helpless in this situation. Farming is our only source of income, and the Fulani men have come to destroy our only source of hope.
“When we see them on our land and complain, they threaten to kill us, and we lack the courage to confront them because of news we have received from far away,” he explained.
According to Naturenex, the development is taking place despite the state government’s efforts to enforce the state’s open grazing prohibition law across the state’s 23 LGs.
Recall that the state governor, Samuel Ortom in 2017 signed the Anti-Open Grazing bills into law as a measure to end the incessant crisis between farmers and herdsmen.
However, the herders who were angered by the law, have continued to unleash terror on residents of communities in relatively all parts of the state.
Recently, there was a surge in the deadly attacks as many residents have been butchered while over one million others were displaced across the three senatorial districts in the state.
recalls that armed men suspected to be Fulani militias, on Thursday night killed 36 residents of Shikaan Mbagena Kpav community in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of the state.
The armed men invaded the community and slaughtered scores at midnight when residents were fast asleep. 36 bodies were recovered while an unspecified number of persons sustained various degrees of injuries.
Recently, gunmen suspected to be herdsmen also attacked the Tse Amgbem community near Aondoana in Gwer West Local Government Area of the State, killing 11 persons as residents deserted the community and increased the number of Internally Displaced Persons camped across the state.
The Gwer West Local Government Chairman, Mrs Grace Igbabon who confirmed the incident to NATURENEX , lamented how his people were sacked from their ancestral homes by the militias.
Similarly, a few weeks ago, about seven persons were confirmed dead, with many others injured, after armed Fulani herdsmen attacked Abagena community housing Internally Displaced Persons camp in Makurdi Local government Area of the State.
Subsequently, the youths, who were angered by the killings, stormed the Makurdi-Lafia road with the lifeless bodies of the deceased to protest incessant attacks on their communities.
Reacting, the State Governor, Samuel Ortom in a statement, described the attack on the IDPs camp as inhuman, barbaric and unacceptable. The Governor called on President Muhammadu Buhari to live up to his responsibility of protecting lives of Nigerians.
Same week, more than 17 persons were confirmed dead while many others injured after militia herdsmen attacked Tse-Ayeli village, Tse-Gborigyo and Udam in Mbayer-Yandev in Guma Local Government Area of the State.
Recall that on March 20, 2021, the governor narrowly escaped death when militia herdsmen launched an attack on his convoy while returning from his farm at Tyo-mu along Makurdi – Gboko road.
Efforts by Naturenex correspondent to speak with Terver Akase, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor on the recent influx of the Fulani herders in some parts of the state proved abortive as he was unable to take his calls and could not respond to text messages forwarded to him.
Similarly, when contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Catherine Anene Sewuese was unable to speak, but requested that a text message be sent to her. She did not, however, respond to the text message forwarded to her.
Ortom, on the other hand, had told residents of the state a few days ago to defend themselves with Dane guns and other legal weapons if they were attacked by gunmen.
Ortom issued the directive on Sunday, May 23, during an interdenominational church service at the government house in Makurdi, Benue’s capital.
“I will no longer announce the deaths of those killed by Fulani herdsmen; instead, rise and defend yourself with weapons not prohibited by law, such as bows and arrows, spears, and knives.”.
“Obtain a Dane gun license from local government chairmen and use it to defend yourself.
“God assured me some time ago that no weapon fashioned against me would prosper as long as I lived within the circle of his presence,” he said.