Communities in the northern part of Abia State have sent a ‘Save Our Soul’ (SOS) message to the state government and security agencies alleging that Fulani herdsmen and their cattle are destroying their farms, resulting in loss of lives and property.
Some of the communities had already petitioned relevant authorities about the menace of cattle. The latest to express their anger and frustration was Akanu in Ohafia Local Government Area in the state, where hundreds of protesters stormed Umuahia with placards denouncing the menace of cattle and herdsmen.
They complained that the attacks have been going on since 2006, warning of dire consequences if they were not called to order by the state government and relevant security agencies.
The protesters marched with placards bearing inscriptions such as, “Our crops are not animal feeds”; “Our farm lands are no grazing lands”; “Cattle are frightening our women”, among others. They also marched to the State House of Assembly and to the headquarters of the State Police Command, seeking their intervention.
President–General of Akanu Ohafia Development Union (AODU), Ochereome Okpanku, who read a petition the community addressed to the State Commissioner of Police, said that they were compelled to write the petition “as our last hope for a peaceful resolution” of the issue.
According to him, the menace “has become perennial, calculated and deliberate provocative activity to impoverish, maim and finally exterminate our people by the Hausa/Fulani cattle herdsmen,” adding that patience was running out in the affected community.
He alleged that the herdsmen murdered a woman in 2007 and all the terms of settlement brokered by the Police were never observed by the attackers, who continued to ravage the farm lands and threaten the lives of the people.
Okpanku said the latest provocation by the herdsmen occurred on May 24, this year when the Fulani herdsmen allegedly attacked the chairman of the Akanu vigilance group, Thomas Onuegbe Uka, who almost bled to death but for the fact that he was rescued and rushed to hospital.
The community urged the government to checkmate the rampaging herdsmen and stop them from grazing their cattle in Akanu community to avoid possible breakdown of law and order. They also demanded for N250 million as compensation to the community as well as N10, 000 per day payment to the family of the vigilante chairman pending his recovery.
Deputy Governor of Abia State, Sir Emeka Ananaba, who received the protesters on behalf of the governor, acknowledged that the menace of cattle and herdsmen has become a very big problem in Abia and promised that government would seek a lasting solution to the issue.
He said that farmers, who took loans to enhance their farm produce, would be in trouble repaying the loans if cattle were allowed to devastate the farms.