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The chairman of Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, Chukwudi Nnadozie, has decried the inability of Forest Guards and Vigilante group personnel to check the excesses of herdsmen on farmers in the council area.
His outcry followed an alleged shooting of Festus Ayogu, a farmer at Ugbene Ajima, a sleepy community in the council area, who however, survived the attack by whiskers. But the herdsmen were said to have destroyed a large plantation across 12 plots of land with 1000 improved variety of palm trees and other crops belonging to Nicholas Okoro, estimated at five million naira, located along Ugbene Ajima-Nimbo Road.
Another farmer from Isiuvuru village, also in the council area, Utazi Ereme, told newsmen that armed herdsmen have taken over their farmlands and allowed herds of cattle to graze openly on cassava and yam farms. An indigene of the council area who pleaded anonymity disclosed that while the cattle feed on and destroy their farms, the herders also harvest their yam seedlings and roast them for food, hinting of possible food scarcity in the council area. He said that the farmers have abandoned their farms for fear of being attacked.
“You remember the case of Nimbo massacre in 2016? Our people have been peaceful and law-abiding but these herdsmen intentionally look for our trouble. They intentionally leave the pastures and take their cattle to our farms. Wherever the cattle graze, it would be difficult to farm there because the animals ram the soil with their hooves while eating up the crops. They leave their cattle numbering over 300 to a little boy. How would he control such number? Only God knows what they want because we have enough pastures where their animals can graze and go without our people knowing of their existence but they prefer our farms.”
However, the council chairman while condemning the activities of the herdsmen warned them to desist from destruction of farmlands and crops, adding that there is enough pastures for the cattle outside the farmers domain.
He also said: “I have reported Nicholas Okoro’s case to the state’s Peace and Security Committee. The committee will value the farm and pay him back what he lost. On the alleged attack on Festus Ayogu last week, I was called and told that Fulani herdsmen have killed someone in his farm. The news really destabilized me.
“So, I called the DPO who immediately rushed to the scene only to call back and asked me to speak with the person rumoured to have been shot dead in his farm. There was no bodily injuries on him as evidence of the alleged attack. He claimed he warded-off the attack through his local charms. I was surprised at the kind of propaganda people carry around. I know that herdsmen attack our people and destroy farms but we should not lay claims to anything we cannot defend.”
The chairman, who also passed a vote of no confidence on the local security outfits, said the officers have left the rural areas where they are supposed to be securing the people for the cities where they are allegedly extorting money from road users.
He also said: “I don’t owe them salaries, so, I don’t know why they are not working.”