Okowa Talks Tough over Herdsmen Menace in Delta

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Ifeanyi Okowa

Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba

Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has expressed anger over the worsening levels of insecurity in the state, which was caused by the lawless activities of herdsmen, which have led to the death of at least nine persons in the last few days.

The governor hinted that his government might be forced to take drastic action against any stranger who disrupted the peace and security of any community or endangered lives and property in any part of the state, saying the peaceful disposition of government should not be taken for weakness.

He warned visitors obviously taking the hospitality of the people of Delta State for granted that the state government “will not watch outsiders attack and  kill our people any longer.”

Reacting to the reported killing of eight persons and injuring of many others following alleged attack on Uwheru community in Ughelli North Local Government Area at the weekend by Fulani nomads, Okowa stressed that there was no rationale for the attack said to have be launched with apparent aid of men dressed in military uniform.

Okowa said: “The unwarranted attacks and killing of innocent locals in Avwon, Agadama and Ohoror communities of Uwheru Kingdom in Ughelli North Local Government Area and the wickedness of suspected herdsmen alleged to be aided and abetted by unidentified military personnel are mindless.

“I, however, appeal to the affected communities to remain calm and peaceful. I commiserate with the communities and families on the unfortunate loss of their loved ones.

“I have directed the Commissioner of Police and the Brigade Commander, 63 Brigade, Nigerian Army, to rise to the occasion and bring the culprits to justice.

“As a state, our people have been very receptive to herdsmen and other visitors, but our hospitality and welcoming disposition should not be taken as an act of cowardice.

“The state government will continue to encourage peaceful and harmonious relations between Deltans and their visitors but will not watch outsiders attack and kill our people any longer.”

Avwon, Agadama, Ohoror and other communities in Uwheru Kingdom were on Thursday attacked by suspected herdsmen.

The attack on the Ughelli community is coming on the heels of another attack on Issele-Azagba town near Asaba, the state capital, which led to death of one man and the kidnap of two persons, including a 13-year-old female student in the town.

Two persons were also killed when gunmen suspected to be herdsmen invaded the Issele-Azagba Mixed Secondary School in October 2019 at about noon, abducting the school principal and five other teachers and students.

It took the courageous efforts of the community vigilance group and youths, who organised a search party that went on the trail of the bandits in the bush, and rescued the kidnapped teachers and students despite the fatalities.

Meanwhile, the people of Issele-Azagba have rejected a proposal by the Delta State Ministry of Basic and Secondary Schools to close the secondary school, which is porous because it is not fenced, and move the students into the premises of Osemeke Primary School located in the heart of the town. The pupils of the primary school would be joined with those of Azagba (Government) Primary School.

The proposal, presented at a stakeholders meeting held on Friday at the palace of the Obi of Issele-Azagba, HRM Francis Ijei, and attended by the Azagba-in-Council and representatives of the education ministry, planned to move the secondary school and turn same into a morning-and-evening school in its new location.

However, the community leaders, including members of the Issele-Azagba Development Union, rejected the plan noting that it would further endanger the students who would be forced to close late and return home, especially as a number of them attend the school from neighbouring communities.