Don’t Kill Fulani Herdsmen, Okowa Begs Deltans

  •  Ibori urges gov to turn DELSUTH into world class institution

Omon-Julius Onabu

Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has appealed to the people of the state not to kill herdsmen who invade their communities or stray into their farmlands with their animals but to allow the government to find lasting solution to the problem.

Okowa, made the passionate plea while speaking at a town hall meeting held at Oghara, the administrative headquarters of Ethiope West Local Government Area of the state.

Also making remarks at the well-attended event, former Governor of the state, Chief James Ibori, expressed dismay that the Delta State University Teaching Hospital (DELSUTH), which is situated in Oghara, was yet to reach its potential as a world-class teaching hospital.

The vision of establishing the hospital with state-of-the art medical equipment was to ensure that it not served not only the people of the immediate locality and Delta State but make Oghara and Delta a renowned international medical destination for contemporary tertiary medical services, Ibori said.

He noted that his own kith-and-kin who work in DELSUTH has actually spearheaded much of the troubles, including series of industrial action that has almost crippled the hospital and made it unable to function optimally.
Ibori however, urged Okowa to be firm and decisive in restoring order in the hospital, saying any workers from the host community who is unhappy with their transfer to other parts of the state, should resign honourably instead of constituting clog in the wheel of progress.

He noted that the issue of Fulani herdsmen and especially farming communities has since assumed a national dimension and the cause of destruction of lives and property in many states across Nigeria.
Okowa said the federal government must take a decisive action on the issue that has become a national embarrassment by making a specific policy statement and a direct legislation on grazing in the country as panacea to the multifaceted problem.

Responding to general outcry by several contributors at the town hall meeting that Fulani nomads were compounding the prevailing food scarcity problems and poverty among the people, he stressed that the frequent clashes between nomadic herders and local community farmers was a complex national one that requires national resolution.

According to Okowa, “You see, it is a very complex issue; it is a national issue and we have all been shouting about it even at the Governors Forum. It is not peculiar to Delta State. In fact, Zamfara and Kebbi are worst hit. Not long ago, a whole village was destroyed in Benue State.

“I do not believe the criminal elements among the herdsmen are being backed by certain military personnel, as being claimed in some quarters. However, I believe the federal government must make a direct policy statement.”

The governor said though the minister for agriculture recently spoke on the subject and the Inspector-General of Police also met with the chairmen of traditional council of different states, the need for a piece of legislation on the issue has become inevitable.

While commending the people of Ethiope West for their support and complementing the efforts of the government and security agencies in the fight against kidnapping and other social vices, the governor explained that the multi-billion naira Independent Power Plant (IPP) project in Oghara might gulp more money than to get it operational than the cost of building the plant.

He admitted that that adequate power was required to boost the socio-economic life of the people of Ethiope West, Sapele and environs but lamented that as much as over N20 billion could be required get the plant functional and hooked to the National Grid.

Specifically, at Oghara where Ibori led cream of politicians to attend the meeting, Governor Okowa disclosed that with the economic realities of the country, it would be difficult for the state to solely sponsor the IPP project.

Okowa said: “We have to study the project, if I tell you that it will be functional during my administration, I will be telling you lies, a lot have been done, but, we have done the calculation but, it is obvious that we cannot execute the project as a state for now because, the project will gulp over N20 billion.

“There are two options: either we enter into private partnership with the private sector or to sell outright to the IPP to the private sector so that it can make the project functional, so as to create jobs for our people and other benefits derivable.”

The town hall meetings at Oghara and Sapele were held under watertight security and attended by eminent personages including the Deputy Governor, Mr Kingsley Otuaro, top-ranking government functionaries, members of the state legislature, traditional and religious leaders, women and youth groups.