By Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
The Ekiti State government has declared that the full weight of the law will be visited on any herdsman caught with dangerous weapons.
It also promised to empower security agencies in the state to ensure the arrest and prosecution of herdsmen destroying farmlands and attacking farmers and other residents.
The Deputy Governor Bisi Egbeyemi disclosed this Thursday at a peace meeting held with representatives of herders and farmers at the Government House in Ado-Ekiti in the wake of recent alleged attacks on farmers in some communities by suspected herdsmen.
A statement signed by the Special Assistant (Media) to the Deputy Governor, Odunayo Ogunmola, revealed that the meeting was attended by representatives of Fulani, Hausa, Ebira, Urhobo, Yoruba communities, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders and Ekiti Grazing and Enforcement Marshals (EGEM).
Egbeyemi warned that it was unacceptable to the state government for herdsmen to be carrying AK-47 rifles and other dangerous weapons, stressing that security agencies have been mobilised to arrest anyone of them caught with weapons.
The deputy governor particularly warned the Sarkin Fulani in Ekiti State Muhammad Abashe that he would be held responsible should there be any further attacks on farmers on their farm lands.
Egbeyemi said the state government would not tolerate a repeat of the attack on Orin Farm Settlement in Ido/Osi Local Government Area last year in which a pregnant Tiv farmer was killed.
He said: “We have given a marching order to security agencies to arrest herdsmen carrying weapons. As from now, the full wrath of the law will be visited on any herdsman caught with dangerous weapons.
“Herdsmen going about with AK-47 rifles, what are they doing with such? Will they use AK-47 rifles on animals or human being? Tell your people, that will not be tolerated in Ekiti land.
“We are all Nigerians but somebody cannot come from his place of origin and destroy other people’s property and farmlands. We won’t tolerate that in Ekiti, go and tell your people back home.
“We don’t want war in Ekiti State, we want peace in our land. I have listened to all parties but the most important thing for our government is peace so that everybody can prosper his legitimate business.”
According to him, government was duty bound to protect law-abiding residents including settlers in the state who are engaged in legitimate businesses and would not allow killing of innocent people.
He stressed that herdsmen are not allowed to graze their cattle on farmlands, noting that such had led to massive loss of grains and affecting yield of farmers.
Egbeyemi emphasised that the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government in Ekiti State would not cede any of its land to violent herdsmen as being insinuated by the opposition.
The deputy governor, however, advised farmers not to take the law into their hands by killing cows of herdsmen, urging them to report any attack or destruction of their farms to the appropriate authorities.
Egbeyemi also warned herdsmen to steer clear of government reserves which he said are not meant for grazing, noting that security would be beefed up there to arrest encroachers.
The deputy governor further revealed that EGEM officers would be empowered with more vehicles, communication facilities and other logistics to boost their morale and prevent clashes between farmers and herders.
Community leaders, who spoke included Head of Ebira Community, Sadiku Ojo; Leader of Fulani-Ilorin Community in Ikere, Alhaji Sulaiman Ibrahim; President of Urhobo Community, Mr. John Enaibe; and a local farmer, Mr. Abiodun Kayode.
Others were Princess Adenike Florish, Secretary of Anti-Grazing Monitoring Committee; an EGEM officer, Mr. Aladelokun Ayodeji; a representative of Olojudo’s Palace in Ido-Ekiti, Mr. Adewumi Daramola; and Mr. Gabriel Monday, a representative of Forest Guards.