If urgent and committed steps are not taken by the federal government to check the killings by the herdsmen which are ravaging most parts of the country, we have a serious emergency in our hands. In the days to come, the menace of the herdsmen who have turned some locations in the country as their killing fields would pale the nuisance of Boko Haram.
This menace seems to defy all solutions proferred by states, groups and individuals and is progressing geometrically. The last week attack on an Enugu community by the herdsmen that witnessed the gruesome murder of a 26-year-old seminarian, Lazarus Nwafor,among other victims, bears serious indication that the nation is lying on the precipice.
Prior to the latest attack, other Enugu communities have been attacked. In reaction to the Ukpabi Nimbo attack, the Hilltop Club 82 Aba had called on Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State to toe the line of his South West counterparts and outlaw the activities of Fulani herdsmen in his domain.
The group in a letter signed by Tobias Chukwukerue Amara and Chikezie Aneke, Chairman and Secretary respectively and written to Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi,said that they have followed developments in the state in recent times with deep sense of concern and suggested thus:”As peace loving people we are impressed by your peaceful disposition in your reaction to the ugly developments. On behalf of Enugu State indigenes in Abia State whereby express our heartfelt condolence to you and the good people of Enugu State for the lives of our brothers and sisters which were lost in the incidents, and also convey our strong commendation of your actions thereto. Your Excellency we are if the view that the incidents call for sober reflection, and as it is said, once beaten twice shy. Therefore, it is our humble opinion that your people would be delighted to have Your Excellency toe the line of some governors in the South West by outlawing the activities of herdsmen in your domain”.
Every now and then, it has either been either the call for the relocation of these herdsmen or outright ban on their activities from different quarters. A communique issued after a stakeholders security meeting held at Obehie in Ukwa West local government area of Abia State stated that the herdsmen have caused wanton destruction of farm crops and unconscionable raping of women and therefore directed the relocation of the herdsmen from the environment within 30 days for the interest of peace and security of lives and property.
The communique also called for the establishment of a functional neighbourhood watch in Asa clan and the reactivation and proper equipping of police formations within Asa for effective policing. In line with the above call, Abia State government recently instructed and equipped security agencies in the state to ensure water-tight security around the borders and towns against the form of attack.
The state also directed the recruitment of more hands into the State Vigilante Services for onward deployment to the communities for community policing under the supervision of the Commissioner of Police. The law enforcement agencies were also mandated to search and screen all vehicles conveying livestock, food items and persons into the state from any part of the country. The law enforcement agencies are to extend these duties to markets and farm settlements where dealers are to ensure security.
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The step by the state i will consider the most viable is the constitution of the Farmers/Herdsmen Conflict Resolution Committee. The committee which is headed by the Commissioner of Police in the state is made up of other heads of military and paramilitary formations in the state, Chairman of the Christian Association of Nogeria (CAN), Myetti Allah and the Sarkin Hausa, among others. The 10-man committee is to take measures that would forestall pastoral conflicts in the state by accessing information, identifying flashpoints and nipping crisis in the bud.
Similarly, when approached by the participants on the issue of the menace of herdsmen at workshops on Community Governance Mechanisms: Key Tools for Community Development and Fight against Corruption held at two oil bearing communities in Ukwa West, Mr. Ifeanyi Anyanwu, a programme officer with CLEEN Foundation proposed regular interface between the herdsmen settlement leaders and community as a panacea to the incessant pastoral conflicts. According to Anyanwu, the interface would provide a platform to iron out issues before they get out of hand.
The plethora of solutions enumerated here proffered by individuals and groups are viable but they are fraught with numerous limitations.One, the herdmen have been accused of recalcitrance in embracing meetings that would proffer peace. This is evident in the communique issue by the Asa stakeholders where they accused the herdmen ofbkeeping absent from the meeting after they were duly communicated. In the argument of the stakeholders such actions demonstrate hidden motive and portends a high security threat.
It will not be out of place to suggest here that the herdsmen have sources from which they draw their strength. And a peace or reconciliation attempt in which these sources oare not brought into the picture may not yield the expected results.
Besides, as the herdsmen killings spread and expand, the more socio-political colourations it tends to attract. If the the herdmen menace is to be checked and checked for good, the presidency should demonstrate a strong and committed resolve to address it. As long as the appropriate quaters continue to play lip service to it, the hope to put this monster called “herdsmen killings” at bay is far- fetched.
This herdsmen menace is a monster that should be put to bay and the time is now. In stitch in time saves nine!
Ukegbu, a public policy analyst and communication strategist, writes from Umuahia, Abia State and can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org or 09095223825 (sms only).
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