- SSG caught up in resultant gridlock
Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
Hundreds of protesters made up mainly of women monday barricaded the Asaba-Ughelli Expressway to express their anger over incessant attack by herdsmen, which had allegedly led to the death of at least two persons in the last few days.
The protesters from Ossissa, an agrarian community in Ndokwa East Local Government Area of the state, claimed that they resorted to the public demonstration as efforts to get the government to halt the invasion of their community and farmlands had yielded no results.
They described last Sunday’s attack by the herdsmen and alleged wounding of three persons, two of them fatally, as the last straw as the women decided to take up the gauntlet by protesting and barricading the highway for effect.
The women said they took the responsibility upon themselves so as to prevent security operatives from possibly framing their husbands and young men as criminals to be mowed down on the flimsiest excuse if the men led the protest.
The protesters lamented that the lawless activities of the cattle herders have kept many people away from their farms as the strangers not only herd their animals into people’s farms by also attack youths and sometimes rape women in their farms.
One of the women, Mrs. Grace Oliseyeun, said: “The herdsmen have invaded our community and have been constantly harassing the women and youths; now, we can no longer go to our farms for fear of being attacked. They have been very hostile and have actually put the life of everyone in danger.”
Similarly, an Ossissa community youth leader, Mr. Chris Ebisue, observed: “For the past three days, these Fulani herdsmen have been terrorising us and before yesterday, they killed one young man on his way from his farm.
“They have been attacking our people and denying them access to their farms. They threaten our women and they no longer go to their farms for fear of being raped. They came to the centre of our town the day before yesterday (Saturday) issuing threats to our people and wounded Mr Azuka Okwutu and Chukwuemeka Nwane.”
Ebisue claimed that the Ossissa people had made an attempt in April to make the invading herdsmen depart their community in peace through the intervention of the state government did not materialise but the activities of the herders had instead intensified.
According to the youth president, “Before now, we wrote to the state government and those in charge of conflict resolution convened a meeting between us and the herdsmen on April 20, 2016 where a 10-day ultimatum was given to them to vacate the community. Instead of complying with the resolution, they went back to re-enforce and since then it has been hell here.
“Therefore, we are calling on the state government to come and evacuate them from our land because they are not friendly; they are very harmful to us. We are not ready to bargain with them to elongate their stay here.”
Although, policemen from the Ashaka Police division were said to have arrested two of the suspected invading herders after the reported attack on Saturday, the invaders allegedly launched a more daring attack on the community on Sunday evening, leaving three men seriously injured.
THISDAY learnt that the secretary to the Delta State Government (SSG), Mr. Festus Ovie Agas, who was traveling in convoy from Ughelli to Asaba after the weekend at his country home, was among travellers caught up in the resultant gridlock.
The protesters, who were said to have poured out as early as 6a.m., realising that the SSG was passing that route at about 7 o’clock that morning, decided to draw his attention to their plight in apparently to get the message across to the state government and relevant authorities.
The SSG’s convoy was said to have been subsequently held up for over one hour along with numerous other vehicles, including those conveying traders who had left early for Onitsha market in neighboring Anambra State, despite heavy presence of police and military personnel.
At the time of filing this report, efforts were still being made to get the state police command’s reaction to the incident.