In the bid to give proper definition and lasting solution to the incessant attack on Delta communities and farmers by Hausa/Fulani cattle herdsmen, the Delta State Deputy Governor, Barr Kingsley Otuaro has stressed the need to carefully separate the criminally minded operators from those genuinely engaged and earning a living from Cattle herding in the state.
Barr. Otuaro, who gave this suggestion in Asaba while responding to a group of protesters drawn from the three Senatorial Districts of the state, added that the Okowa administration is not only determined to protect the citizens of the state, but indeed everyone lawfully living and doing business in Delta State.
“There is a burden on us as a government as well as on our community people to be able to separate those that are lawfully living amongst us and those that have taken to criminality, raping and maiming our children, our wives and causing all kinds of criminality in our community” he stated.
The Delta Deputy Governor noted that, “As Nigerians, we are one and the same people, bound by the constitution and as such a genuine Fulani man has a legal right to reside in any part of Delta State. That is the right accorded him by virtue of the provision of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
Barr. Otuaro assured that the administration of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa is presently taking a serious and critical look at the issue of the herdsmen, adding that a stakeholders’ meetings would be convened, to within the next two weeks, to address and proffer workable suggestion to tackle the worrisome situation associated with the operations of herdsmen in Delta State.
Speaking on behalf of Delta Central, Delta North and Delta South, Comr. Godwin Jacob, Comr. Henry Onwuamalieze and Mr. Warri Erigues, jointly averred that the protest was in reaction to the rampant killings, armed robbery, raping of women and wanton destruction of farm land and crops, by supposed Fulani Herdsmen in their communities.
The protesters then issued a twenty-one days ultimatum within which the state government is to look for an alternative place for the grazing activities of the Fulani herdsmen so that they will relocate to those areas and leave their land in peace.
In a similar vein and reacting to the protests, the Delta State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Patrick Ukah, appealed for calm and patience among the citizens and particularly members of aggrieved communities, noting that the menace of herdsmen was a national security issue which was very sensitive and needed to be handled with caution especially by the Media.
Ukah, who made this plea during the regular post state executive council meeting parley with journalists noted that it was a security issue which the Federal Government was tackling robustly and while calling for a more critical and objective reappraisal of the Grazing Bill, presently before the National Assembly, pleaded with Nigerians to be calm, patient and law abiding under the present circumstances, even as he expressed optimism that the matter would soon be resolved to the satisfaction of all Nigerians.
Delta watchers will recall that social and economic activities were on Tuesday, April 19, disrupted for several hours in Asaba, the Delta State capital as thousands of people took to street to protest the growing involvement of Fulani herdsmen in criminal activities in the state.
The protesters, made up of men, women and youths, took over the strategic Summit Junction and barricaded both ends of the Benin-Asaba-Onitsha Expressway, halting vehicular movement on the expressway and into Asaba central business area.
Wielding banners and placards with various inscriptions and compelling commuters to make a detour into Asaba metropolis to continue their journeys to their various destinations, the protesters, under the aegis of a coalition of local security bodies drawn from across the state and made up mainly of members of Anioma Security Watch, Delta South Security Network and Urhobo Security Network, alleged that the “government has failed in its primary responsibility of protecting lives by allowing herdsmen to be killing innocent and law-abiding citizens”.
They further claimed that they were protesting because of the illegal activities of Fulani herdsmen across various communities in the state as well as the seeming failure of the state government to take decisive action on the matter, even as they added that they took to the street as a last resort as they had not received any response to the petitions they sent to the federal and state governments, after more than two months.
In a protest letter signed by Messrs Jacob Godwin, Henry Onwuamalieze and Warri Eriques, the group alleged that government at all levels were more concerned about protection of oil and gas facilities and installations at the expense of security of lives of the citizens.
Entitled: ‘Insensitivity of government and the inevitable war against Fulani herdsmen,’ the letter also frowned at government’s action of drafting security agents during “election to cow perceived enemies and electorate to win such elections, but failed to address the deadly menace of Fulani herdsmen.”
According to the petition, “There have been several uncountable killings, robbery, kidnapping, sexual harassment, attacks and massive destruction of crops and farmland traced to the Fulani herdsmen but the government is never interested to arrest this ugly trend, maybe because it will not put money in their pocket neither promote their political activities.
“We are tired of counting our losses, brutality, deprivation, emotional torture, pains, killings, weeping, hunger, lack and other sacrilegious act served us by the trigger happy and above the law Fulani herdsmen.
“We have advised government in our previous letters to provide grazing reserved areas within the three senatorial districts of the state, just as it is done in Lagos and some other states to checkmate the excesses as well as retrieve the steps of Fulani herdsmen from further unleashing terror on our people.”
Most motorists, particularly heavy duty vehicles were however stuck at the spot for long hours until the protesters peacefully dispersed after the timely intervention by the Delta State government to placate the aggrieved locals.