With the devastating attacks on farmers by herdsmen across the country, it has become increasingly imperative for states to explore the model initiated by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State to curb the attacks, writes Ejiofor Alike
A recent declaration by the Anambra State Chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Alhaji Sadiq Gidado, that the establishment of cattle colonies in the South-east was not necessary because of the harmonious relationship existing between the Fulani herdsmen and farmers in the area was a validation of the efficacy of the model developed by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to stem the conflicts between the farmers and herdsmen, which has been replicated in Anambra State.
Speaking to journalists in Awka, Anambra State, Gidado, who is a member of the Cattle Menace Control Committee, had singled out Ugwuanyi and his Anambra State counterpart, Governor Willie Obiano for special commendation for being proactive to sustain the peace in the zone.
“In the South-east, the proposed cattle colonies cannot work; you cannot just take somebody’s land and give to another person to conduct his own business; it is not right. Here in the zone, it is virtually impossible to operate cattle colonies, as there is harmonious relationship existing between the herdsmen and the farmers,” Gidado reportedly said.
“We thank the governors of the South-east states, especially the Anambra and Enugu state governors, who constituted these committees that are coordinating our activities. The regulation is that you only graze where there are no farms. If you destroy farmlands intentionally or unintentionally, you must be punished for what you have done and be made to pay for what you have destroyed. And if the people in the communities kill a Fulani man or his cow, you pay damages accordingly; we have a good structure that enables the effective management of our members,” Gidado added.
Also addressing members of the MACBAN, South-east zone during a meeting held recently in Enugu, Gidado advised members of the association to be watchful and quickly report strange faces around them to concerned authorities, just as he urged the public to remain vigilant and not allow anyone to destroy the peaceful co-existence between the Fulani herdsmen and the indigenes.
Apparently worried by the challenges posed by the rampaging Fulani herdsmen, who were destroying farmlands, raping women and killing farmers across the country, Ugwuanyi sought and secured the support of the state executive council, which approved the constitution of security and peace committee in the state to ensure lasting peace and harmony among various communities and herdsmen in the state.
The all inclusive state security committee was headed by his Special Adviser on Security Matters, retired Brigadier-General Fred Eze.
At the state level, the members of the committee, which was inaugurated in September 6, 2016, are leaders of Fulani/ Shuwa Arab herdsmen in the state, representatives of the State House of Assembly; security agents, including the State Commissioner of Police; and representatives of farmers and butchers association, among others.
The governor had also approved the constitution of the security committee in each of the 17 local government areas and wards, headed by the Executive Chairman of each local government, with the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), head of DSS, traditional rulers, Fulani leaders and other relevant stakeholders as members.
The terms of reference include ensuring that grazing and rearing of cattle at night are banned in Enugu State and ensuring that carrying or possession of firearms or any form of ammunition by farmers and herdsmen in the state are sanctioned, according to the law.
The committee was also mandated to enforce the ban on movement of cattle from one location to another at night in the state.
Other terms of reference are ensuring the payment of compensation by any herdsmen whose cattle destroy farm crops and by communities, whose indigenes kill herdsmen’s cattle.
After the inauguration of the committee at the state level, Eze ensured that similar committees were created in all the 17 local government areas of the state as approved by the governor.
Eze had also used the opportunity to direct traditional rulers to identify all the Fulani herdsmen living in their areas and ensure that they were registered with the Fulani leaders in the state.
Though Enugu State had witnessed two herdsmen attacks since the setting up of the security committees, it is also on record that the security committees’ quick resolution of several potential crisis prevented Enugu State from joining the league of Zamfara, Taraba, Benue, Adamawa and Plateau states, where the herdsmen’s attacks have claimed hundreds of lives.
It is a common knowledge that the August 25, 2016 attack by the Fulani herdsmen in Ndiagu, Attakwu, Akegbe-Ugwu in Nkanu West LGA, which claimed the lives of Mrs. Amuche Agbo and Seminarian Lazarus Nwafor, and the April 25, 2016 attack on Ukpabi-Nimbo in Uzo Uwani LGA, which claimed nine lives, were avoidable incidents that occurred after security agents ignored Governor Ugwuanyi’s report on imminent attacks.
Before the Uzo Uwani attacks, Ugwuanyi had held a meeting with security agents where he hinted them on the imminent attacks.
“In the meeting, we received assurances from the Commissioner of Police that the Area Commander of SARS was on ground in Nimbo, and that the Anti-Terrorism Unit was at Nimbo. That he was in contact with the Kogi State Commissioner of Police and reported suspected herdsmen grouping at Odolu in Kogi State preparing for an attack on Nimbo and Abbi communities. That Police Mobile Force and conventional police were already drafted to Nimbo and Abbi communities. He claimed he was in touch with the Area Commander, Idah, ACP Ikegwuonwu, who had linked him with the Area Commander, Nsukka, ACP Monday Kuryas. Both men, according to the CP, reported that there were no traces of suspected herdsmen in Nsukka or Idah. He also ordered the Area Commander, Nsukka, to redeploy to Nimbo,” Ugwuanyi had explained
Unfortunately, the herdsmen struck as a result of the lapses on the part of the security agencies, despite Ugwuanyi’s efforts to forestall the crisis and his unalloyed support to the security agencies.
But despite these setbacks, the security committee set up by the governor has ensured that Enugu State enjoys peace, which would have eluded the state, given its proximity to Benue State, the hotbed of the Fulani herdsmen/farmers clashes.
Several security threats
The recent bomb blast at the country home of the President of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodoh in Igbo Etiti LGA was another failed attempt by yet to be identified persons, to derail peace in Enugu State.
Also, by destroying farmlands in Udenu, Isi-Uzo, Igbo-Eze North, Nkanu-West, Uzo-Uwani and many other local government areas, the Fulani herdsmen had attempted several times to shatter the peace in the state but Ugwuanyi has sustained the peace.
For instance, the timely interventions of Eze and Uguwanyi’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Louis Amoke had prevented bloodbath in several communities in Udenu LGA, which shares boundaries with Ogbadigbo and Okpokwu LGAs of Benue State.
Also the Chairman of Udenu LGA, Hon. Frank Ugwu had also leveraged on his vast experience as a former member of the House of Representatives to provide a responsible leadership that has accommodated the various contending interest in the local government and this largely accounted for his recent re-election.
Apart from the endorsement of his peace efforts by MACABAN, Ugwuanyi’s efforts to ensure peace and security have also received other commendations from both within and outside the state.
Speaking recently when a delegation of the national leadership of the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN) paid a courtesy visit to the Government House, Enugu, the president of the body, Alhaji Shehu Usman Ladan, had applauded Ugwuanyi for ensuring peace and security in the state as well as regular payment of workers’ salaries and pensions.
Ladan, whose association held the first session of its 2018 Mandatory Continuing Professional Development (MCPD) Programme in Enugu, had noted that the governor empowered the security operatives by “procuring a good number of vehicles for them to operate” adding that “money was made available to reactivate the activities of vigilante groups in all the communities.”
Also, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, recently expressed delight at Ugwuanyi’s efforts in supporting the Nigerian Police towards improving security in the state.
Idris, who spoke through the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of South-east, Mr. Valentine Ntomchukwu, had described Enugu as “a very peaceful and friendly state” not only to the police but also to all law-abiding citizens.
“Your Excellency, from your pedigree and from what I have been reading about you, we are impressed. We are equally optimistic that you will continue to support the state police command and by extension, the police high command,” Idris reportedly said.
Speaking recently at the Udi LGA Council headquarters home of former Governor Sullivan Chime during an empowerment scheme organised by the member representing Udi/Ezeagu Federal Constituency, Hon. Dennis Oguerinwa Amadi, the Deputy Senate President, Dr. Ike Ekweremadu also described Ugwuanyi as a peace-loving governor, who should be supported by all stakeholders to sustain the prevailing peace in the state.
He pointed out that Enugu State had not had it so good, stressing that from 1999 till 2015 every administration that came had always started crisis a year to the general election.
“Since 1999 till this regime, we always had factions, the Abuja camp and Enugu camp of politicians but Ugwuanyi is a peace-loving governor and this has changed,” Ekweremadu added.
A former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ogbonnaya Onovo had also lauded Ugwuanyi, whom he described as a visionary and “wonderful” leader whose style of politics is sincere, inclusive and result-oriented.
Speaking at the colourful flag-off ceremony of the construction work on the all-important Ogonogoeji-Ndiagu-Akpugo rural road from Atavu Bailey Bridge to Afor Onovo in Nkanu, the former IG of Police commended Ugwuanyi for his commitment to good governance, transparency, accountability, peace, justice and fair play.
According to Onovo, the governor’s good works and his commitment to peace have earned Enugu State the enviable status of “the safest state in the country”.
The governor had also acknowledged the role of peace in the development of the state, attributing the giant development strides recorded so far by his administration to the peace and security in the state.
Ugwuanyi, who spoke at the civic reception organised in his honour by the people of Nsukka Local Government Area, which also witnessed the inauguration of “Gburugburu Movement” in the council area, noted that Enugu is known for peace, and is adjudged one of the safest in the country.
“I will continue to lead and render selfless service to you and the entire people of Enugu State with the fear of God,” Ugwuanyi said.