Delta govt calls for restraint
Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
Social and economic activities were on Tuesday disrupted for several hours in Asaba, the Delta State capital as thousands of people took to street to protest the growing involvement of Fulani herdsmen in criminal activities in the state.
The protesters – made up of men, women and youths – took over the strategic Summit Junction and barricaded both ends of the Benin-Asaba-Onitsha Expressway, halting vehicular movement on the expressway and into Asaba central business area.
The protesters wielded banners and placards with various inscriptions, forcing commuters to make detour into Asaba metropolis to get their destinations by avoiding the blockade on the expressway and the Summit Junction.
Most motorists, particularly heavy duty vehicles were however stuck at the spot until the protesters dispatched at about 2.30p.m. after Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State was said to have sent emissaries to placate the aggrieved local security forces.
THISDAY gathered that the massive protest was organised by a coalition of local security bodies drawn from across the state.
The coalition is mainly made up of Anioma Security Watch, Delta South Security Network and Urhobo Security Network, alleging that the “government has failed in its primary responsibility of protecting lives by allowing herdsmen to be killing innocent and law-abiding citizens.
They claimed that they were protesting the illegal because of the illegal activities of Fulani herdsmen across various communities in the state as well as the seeming failure of the state government to take decisive action on the matter.
The group further claimed that it took to the street as a last resort as a petitions they sent to the federal and state governments had not received any response after more than two months.
In a protest letter signed by Messrs Jacob Godwin, Henry Onwuamalieze and Warri Eriques, the group alleged that government at all levels were more concerned about protection of oil and gas facilities and installations at the expense of security of lives of the citizens.
Entitled: ‘Insensitivity of government and the inevitable war against Fulani herdsmen,’ the letter also frowned at government’s action of drafting security agents during “election to cow perceived enemies and electorate to win such elections, but failed to address the deadly menace of Fulani herdsmen.”
According to the petition, “There have been several uncountable killings, robbery, kidnapping, sexual harassment, attacks and massive destruction of crops and farmland traced to the Fulani herdsmen but the government is never interested to arrest this ugly trend, maybe because it will not put money in their pocket neither promote their political activities.
“We are tired of counting our losses, brutality, deprivation, emotional torture, pains, killings, weeping, hunger, lack and other sacrilegious act served us by the trigger happy and above the law Fulani herdsmen.
“We have advised government in our previous letters to provide grazing reserved areas within the three senatorial districts of the state, just as it is done in Lagos and some other states to checkmate the excesses as well as retrieve the steps of Fulani herdsmen from further unleashing terror on our people.”
However, reacting to the protest, Delta State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Patrick Ukah, appealed for calm and patience among the citizens and particularly members of aggrieved communities, noting that the menace of herdsmen was a “national security issue which was very sensitive and needs to be handled with caution especially by the Media that informs the people.”
Speaking with journalists after the state executive council meeting, the information commissioner, “It will be appear as if the solution is slow but it has to be a bit slow because of the sensitivity. If you do not handle it well and make a pronouncement outside, it is enough to blow the roof. As we government, we can only pacify and sue for dialogue.”