By Olisemeka Obeche, Praise Necherem & Nosa Akenzua, Asaba
The Niger Delta Youth Association has issued federal government a 14 day ultimatum to bring to an end serial killings and destruction of crops by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Ethiope East, Ukwani and other localities in Delta state as well as other parts of the country. The ultimatum was given after an emergency meeting of the group in Asaba, Delta state on Tuesday.
The group, in a statement signed by its president, Victor James, condemned the recent killings of scores of persons by suspected herdsmen in parts of Delta state and urged President Muhammad Buhari to live up to his constitutional responsibility of protection of lives and properties of the citizens.
“We have recorded over forty persons killed in the last few months by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Ethiope East, Ukwani and other communities in Delta state, especially in Abraka community, where residents, including women, cannot go to their farmlands.
“These suspected Fulani Herdsmen rape our women in their farmlands. Mr. President, we are tired of these dastard killings and we want you, as a matter of urgency, to do something within two weeks or we cause serious protest,” the statements read.
“These senseless Killings of Nigerians by Fulani herdsmen must stop. Countless Nigerians are being killed by herdsmen across the country on daily basis and we don’t know why the federal government is yet to end its reign of terror by bringing them to justice. This is unacceptable and we will not keep quiet and watch our people slaughtered like animals and we challenge the government to live up to its responsibilities by addressing these senseless Killings once and for all”, they declared.
In similar vein, scores of youths of Anambra West local government area of Anambra state, on Monday, protested alleged continued killings of farmers and raping of women in the community. The protesters accused both the federal and Anambra state governments of paying lip service to their plight, threatening to embark on a reprisal attack if noting urgent was done to stop the killing of armless citizens in the area by suspected herdsmen.
The protesters, carrying placards, chanted songs, calling on President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Willie Obiano to intervene by stopping further killings in the area. Some of the placards read, “Silent killings of our people by Fulani herdsmen, our farms and villages still going on”, “We are running out of patience with the violent activities of Fulani herdsmen in Anambra West”, “Pushing us to the walls will bring mayhem, enough of the killings of our people.”
Addressing newsmen shortly after the protest, Secretary of the youths, Ikechukwu Onuorah, wondered why they would be asked to be patient while they continued to be humiliated by herdsmen that invaded their communities. He equally queried why security agencies have not been able to track, apprehend the killer herdsmen and ensure that they are brought to book.
Onuorah equally described a recent statement credited to the Commissioner for Public Enlightenment, Mr. C-Don Adinuba, where he claimed that that the state government had resolved the crisis between the Fulani herdsmen and local farmers in Anambra West as false.
“We are disappointed that the government is paying lip service to addressing the problem. How can people be sleeping in their farm settlements and homes while visitors will attack, kill and cut off their necks? It makes us look as if we were weak.
“We are just respecting Governor Obiano that is why we have not confronted the killer herdsmen. We don’t want to create an embarrassing situation for him, but we expect him to act now. If they continued what they are doing, we will confront them; and it will be bloody. I’m sure, at the end of the clash, no herdsman will ever come into Anambra West.”
On his part, the Coordinator of the group, Mr. Odikpo Madubueze, stressed that even as youths in the area don’t want to take laws into their hands, “the Federal and State governments shouldn’t allow this violent killings to continue and expect us to fold our arms. They have killed many of our people and farmers have deserted their farms, yet, these killers have not been found.
“We cannot run away from our farms and villages because of activities of people doing cattle rearing business. They have done enough damage to our land. Enough is enough. Government should do the right thing now”, he added.
Meanwhile, farmers in Uru village, Mbaukwu in Awka South local government area of Anambra state have raised alarm over incessant destruction of their crops by cows. They regretted that carrying out their farming business had become worrisome following fear of what they passed through in the hands of the herders. They called for government intervention over the destruction of the crops, mainly cassava and maize.
Narrating her ordeal to newsmen in the community, one of them, Mrs Ngozi Egbocha, said government should help them by ensuring that cows and their herders left their community.
Another farmer, Mrs Nkiru Ozue, alleged that their farms were set on fire by the herders soon after the cows consumed the leaves on the cassava stem.
“We didn’t harvest some portion of our cassava farms because the farms were set on fire by the herders as soon as the cows ate up the leaves on the cassava stem,” she said.
According to her, it would amount to exercise in futility going back to farm this season, since they could no longer harvest what they laboured for.
Others whose farmlands were affected, including Chukwudi Okeke, Jossy Egbeocha and Patience Ozue, expressed frustration and total loss of hope over the situation.
Reacting, Special Adviser to the Governor on Indigenous Medicine and Herbal Practice, Dr. Onyekachukwu Ibezim, empathized with the farmers, appealing to them not to take laws into their hands. He assured them of government’s quick intervention.
He said, “The matter which is before the community’s town union, has been brought to the notice of Governor Obiano, who has directed the committee overseeing such matters to as a matter of urgency, visit the community and settle the issue by paying compensation to those affected.”
However, President Muhammadu Buhari has shifted the blame for the incessant violence and killings across Nigeria to community leaders rather than its officials. Buhari defended his government on Tuesday through a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu.
Shehu said, “Sadly, one of the realities of today’s Nigeria is that it easy to blame President Buhari for the violence all around us. Community leaders are too scared to blame the warlords and the sponsors of killings we live with because they fear for their own lives.
“What is happening in several communities racked by inter-ethnic and religious violence is arising from the refusal of community leaders to point at known criminals in their midst for the law enforcement agencies to act against them. They rather blame President Buhari for their woes.”
The Catholic Bishop of Yola Diocese, Stephen Mamza, allegedly accused Buhari of “sleeping on duty as Commander-in-Chief.”