Ten communities of Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo barricaded the Lagos-Benin Highway on Wednesday to protest incessant attacks by herdsmen.
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) joined in the protest which lasted for several hours and led to a gridlock on the highway.
The communities lamented that the rampaging herdsmen often destroyed their farmlands, evicted them forcefully from their ancestral homes and killed their loved ones.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that protesters came from communities such as Odiguetue, Ofintebe, Igolo, Okokuo, Abumwenre I and Abumwenre II, Obarenren, Uhiere, Uyimo I and Uyimo II to join in the barricade.
Speaking for the communities and for the CSOs, Mr Osagie Obayuwana, a community leader said they were worried about looming crisis brewing in the various communities and orchestrated by armed herdsmen.
He said urgent steps were needed to be put in place to check the activities of the herders before it snowballed into full blown crisis in Edo.
“We want the whole world to know the experience our people have been made to go through for quite some time now.
“We are zeroing in on Ovia North East communities; about 10 communities have been under siege for some time now.
“Farmers have been prevented from going to their farms; another planting season is running out; they have been sentenced to hunger, farmers and their families and this has an implication for the larger society.
“It is one of the reasons the price of food is rising beyond the reach of even those in the middle class.
“So far, we have not seen any serious efforts to address this issue.
“Our people have gone to various relevant government offices to complain, but there had not been any response.
“Right now, the matter is degenerating to an extent that people are being driven out of their villages.
“We don’t want the Benue and Plateau experience where armed herdsmen drive people away from their communities, change the names of the communities and start to occupy the houses to be replicated in Edo.
“We don’t want that,’’ he said.
Mr Osazee Edigin, a representative of Edo State Civil Society Organisations decried the level of insecurity in Edo communities, and noted that it had gone from bad to worse.
“We are here to support these communities that have been ravaged and sacked by herdsmen.
“We have seen the high level of insecurity in the state, and we want the state government and law enforcement agencies to rescue the people.
“We are here to amplify the voices of these locals so that the state government can intervene in this.
“If we don’t do it, we are going to have scarcity of food and more victims.
“We urge government to rise to the occasion and protect lives and property.
“The government should step in. When there is no peace in the land, life will not flourish and the economy will go down,’’ he said.
Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, Mr James Chu, addressed the protesters and appealed for calm assuring that efforts were being made to address the situation.
Chu represented the Commissioner of Police in Edo, Mr Abutu Yaro, to calm the protesters.
“Machineries have been put in place to curtail the excesses of armed herdsmen in the various communities in the state.
“The commissioner of police shares with you in this pain. We are all on the same page and that is the reason I am here to talk to you.
“There are critical strategies that are in place to ensure that the excesses of these herdsmen, disturbing our villages are monitored and equally checked and stopped.
“I assure you that the police are not resting on this issue. We shall work hands- in-gloves with the communities to ensure the essence of this gathering,’’ Chu said.