Failure of FG to Disarm Herdsmen Worrisome, Says Okowa

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Rules out creation of cattle colonies in Delta
Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has described as worrisome the apparent failure of the federal government to disarm the murderous bands of Fulani herdsmen ravaging various farming communities across the country in the guise of tending their animals.

Okowa also ruled out creation of “cattle colonies” in the state, saying Delta State has no land for the establishment of such colonies, which the Buhari administration has reportedly recommended as panacea for curbing the incessant clashes between nomads and farmers in many parts of the country.

The governor made this declaration yesterday during the Delta State stakeholders meeting on peaceful coexistence among farmers, host communities held at the Government House Asaba.
He decried what he described as the inability of the federal government to disarm herdsmen with illegal possession of firearms and who are often responsible for crimes and other vices, including armed robbery, kidnapping and rape.

Okowa urged the federal government to initiate a clear-cut policy direction on this burning issue in Nigeria, even as he called on security agencies to intensify efforts to mop up illegal arms in the country.
“The Nigerian Constitution does not allow anyone to graze on somebody else farm; the constitution does not permit you to forcefully take over someone’s house. We can co-exist as a people but, as we co-exist, there must be mutual respect for one another, whoever you are, when you engage in crime, the law takes its course.”

However, while calling for caution and peaceful co-existence among people of the state, the governor charged the police and other security agencies to resist being compromised in ensuring justice for all, asserting that they should not allow the communities to lose confidence in their abilities to check crimes, especially those committed by herdsmen.

As part of interim measures to address the perennial clash among herdsmen, farmers and host communities, the governor tasked chairmen of local government councils to set up special task force on security comprising of necessary interest groups within one week.

The governor said: “In the next one week, we need to have an interventionist committee on security in all the local government areas of the state while we await a definite policy direction from the federal government. Chairmen of the local government areas must ensure that names of members of the committee gets to the office of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) who is the Chairman of the Central Coordinating Committee and ensure that minutes of their inaugural meetings are also, sent to the SSG,” the governor said, noting that it was wrong for anybody to hide under the guise of herdsmen to perpetuate crime in the state.”
The governor expressed concern that herds of cattle were oftentimes being led by mere minors. “Some of those who are also looking after the cows are so young that, most times, they are not able to take decisions concerning the cows as long as they carry arms and ammunition, there is a major security issue at stake.”

On the obvious dearth of farmland in the state, which he stressed could not accommodate cattle colonies being proposed by the federal government, Okowa noted that numerous Delta State citizens have been moving to neighboring Edo State to farm because of inadequate land in the state.
“Most of our land have been destroyed by oil exploration”, Okowa stressed, adding, “We don’t have land in Delta, and even some of our farmers go to Edo State to farm”.

The Delta State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Muhammed A. Mustapha, assured the people of the state that the police would not compromise the security of their lives and property, saying the police would always promote peaceful co-existence of all citizens in the state.

Several persons who spoke at the meeting, including traditional rulers, farmers, members of the Miyetti Allah and Hausa/Fulani representatives commended Governor Okowa for ensuring that the situation has not snowballed into major crisis despite issues of killings, rape of women, armed robberies, among other vices.

Some of those who spoke at the meeting called on the state government to take decisive action to stop grazing in the state, noting that the people could survive without beef and its bye-products while others stated that efforts should be geared towards peaceful co-existence in the state. Yet, others blamed some greedy traditional rulers and community leaders for allegedly allowing some unscrupulous elements among the herdsmen to come into the communities after collecting money from them.
Nevertheless, some of the cattle breeders who spoke at the meeting commended the Delta State government for the meeting and that they will do everything possible to ensure that peace reigned between them and host communities.

One of the cow owners, Mohammadu Okuti, narrated how he personally made concerted efforts to ensure adequate compensation for farmers who lost their crops to herdsmen invasion of their farms in Ughelli area; but others relived their bitter experiences including losing some cattle to thieves.
The meeting attracted various farming and cattle breeding groups, community development bodies, traditional and religious leaders, members of the state peace and security advisory council as well as the police and other security agencies in the state.