Fulani Herdsmen: Abia Approves Use of Bakassi Boys



   Anambra, Ekiti take pre-emptive steps

By Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahiaand  Olakiitan Victor in Ado Ekiti

With the increasing uneasiness caused by deadly attacks by Fulani herdsmen, Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu has concluded plans to deploy the State Vigilante Services (AVS), popularly known as Bakassi Boys, to communities across the state to assist in providing security.

In Anambra, Governor Willie Obiano has convened a tripartite meeting of the leaders of the Fulani community in the state, the traditional rulers of agrarian communities and the state government to fashion out a proactive response to the menace.

Also, following a statement allegedly credited to Governor Ayodele Fayose that he had instructed farmers in Ekiti State to poison their water to ward off invasion by herdsmen, the Fulani cattle herdsmen in the state have resolved to take their case to the Council of Traditional Rulers.

The Abia State governor also vehemently condemned the killing of two butchers by soldiers at the abattoir in the Ogbor Hill area of Aba, which led to massive protests on Thursday in the commercial city.

In a statement he personally signed, Governor Ikpeazu described as “unfortunate” the incident “that led to the untimely death of this brother,” adding that he shared in the pains and grief of the family of the victims.

He announced that the soldier that murdered the butcher in cold blood had been arrested and taken into custody, and urged the people to remain calm as justice would be done.

“I call on the people of Abia, especially those of us in Aba, to remain calm. I reassure all citizens of the state that the government is doing everything to protect lives and property of citizens from any attack,” he said.

Ikpeazu said he had “instructed and equipped security agencies in the state to ensure watertight security around our boarders and towns against any form of attack.”

Prior to the deployment of the Bakassi Boys, the governor said they would undergo “intensive training” that would last for two weeks which he directed should commence with immediate effect.

He explained that the deployment of the Bakassi Boys was to assist in community policing under the supervision of the Commissioner of Police, adding that more personnel would be enlisted into the AVS.

Ikpeazu directed all traditional rulers in the state to submit names of 10 youths from their community to the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs between Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

He further announced other security measures that he has put in place to ensure adequate security of lives and properties in the state.

“I have mandated the law enforcement agencies to search and screen all trucks and vehicles conveying livestock, food items and persons into the state from any part of the country. The law enforcement agencies will also search and screen markets and settlements where livestock and dealers are, to ensure security,” he said.

The state government, he said, has constituted a Farmers/Herdsmen Conflict Resolution Committee at the state level headed by the Commissioner of Police. Other members of the committee include the Brigade Commander, State Director of DSS, State Commandant of the NSCDC, the Naval Commander, and Special Adviser to the Governor on Security. Also included are Special Adviser to the Governor on Special Duties, State Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Myati Allah and Saraki Hausa.

Similar committee has also been replicated in all the 17 local governments, headed by council chairmen, with other members to include Divisional Police Officers, heads of NSCDC, DSS in the local governments as well as chairmen of Traditional Rulers Council and leaders of Hausa communities.

Governor Ikpeazu said: “I want to encourage our people to report any suspicious movement of strange persons within our communities to the Traditional Rulers or call any of the following Police Emergency Control phone numbers, 08079210003, 08079210004, 08079210005, 08035425405 for prompt deployment of a Rapid Response Unit formed for the purpose of security alert.”

In Anambra, while addressing the gathering  at the Governor’s Lodge, Amawbia, Governor Obiano revealed that there were suspicious movements in some parts of the state that were being carefully monitored to ensure that there was no immediate threat to the security of the state.

“What we intend to do is to send the Fulanis that are living with us here to go and meet with the Fulanis in that area with a view to finding out whether they are coming in peace or otherwise. “More importantly, we want Fulanis in this committee to tell the members of this committee if their people are nursing any grievance in whatever form,” Governor Obiano explained and further pointed out that early in the life of his administration he had set up a special committee to nurture mutually beneficial relations between the Hausa/Fulani Community in the state and their hosts.

“I don’t want anybody to take laws into their hands. That is why we set up this committee and we have agreed that compensation should be paid for any losses on either side. That is the way to co-exist in a multi-ethnic and diverse society. More importantly, we agreed at the Security Council Meeting that we will not allow herdsmen to carry arms. That is a clear directive from Abuja. Herdsmen are not supposed to bear arms. Please, if you see any herdsmen with AK47, report them early to the police so that they can be picked up,” Obiano advised.

In Ekiti, Fayose was quoted to have made the statement in Ibadan on Tuesday while attending a programme organised by the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Oyo Chapter.

A member of the ethnic group confided in THISDAY in Ado Ekiti that they received Fayose’s statement with shock, saying they had taken a final decision to lodge a formal complaint to the Ewi of Ado Ekiti, Oba Rufus Adeyemo Adejugbe over the dangers inherent in the comment.

He said the members would also meet with the state traditional council, particularly its chairman and Ologotun of Ogotun Ekiti, Oba Oladapo Samuel Oyebade after their encounter with the Ado monarch.

The source, who didn’t want to be quoted because of the sensitivity of the issue and for not being authorised to speak on behalf of the Fulani herdsmen, said the statement credited to the governor could spark up crisis between them and the farmers, even when such is unwarranted.

“What many people don’t know is that there is a difference between Fulani and Bororo. We have been in Ado for long, doing our businesses and I don’t think any of us could resort to killing of our hosts, what for?

“We know that the Obas own the towns and the land, so we want to appeal to them to help us reach out to the governor not to go to that extent. We have been cohabiting peacefully with our hosts and I don’t think such a statement would help in sustaining the existing peace in the land.

“Though, we want to make it abundantly clear that we condemn the wanton killings and maiming of innocent Nigerians by some suspected herdsmen, but we are assuring that such will not happen in Ekiti.

“As much as we are ready to cooperate with government and other stakeholders to make the state peaceful, we should also be mindful of our comments, actions and inactions because that too could ignite unnecessary tension,” he said.