Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
In a bid to check the growing insecurity in Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State, the Chairman of the council area, Mr. Louis Ndukwe, has issued an executive order authorising the eviction of herdsmen from the bushes within the council area.
The executive order by Ndukwe has directed those residing in the bushes to vacate their camps within seven days or have their structures demolished.
Growing criminal activities, including kidnappings, killings, armed robberies and rapes, in many parts of the state have been blamed on criminal elements that have infiltrated the ranks of nomadic herdsmen who often defy local laws by setting up illegal camps in the bushes and grazing on farmlands armed with automatic weapons.
Oshimili North, Aniocha North and Aniocha South LGAs, all of which border Asaba, the state capital, Ika South, Ika North-East, Ndokwa East, Ndokwa West, Ughelli North, Ethiope East and Ethiope West LGAs are among the local government areas where attacks by suspected herdsmen have led to many deaths, kidnappings and destruction of properties in the state recently.
Nevertheless, Ndukwe said the order had become necessary in the light of recent security challenges, including the alarming rate of kidnappings, killings, rape and maiming of residents in Oshimili North LGA believed to be masterminded by criminal elements who take refuge in hamlets or camps built by herders in the bushes.
Meanwhile, nomadic Fulani and Hausa residents in the locality yesterday protested the eviction order, denying the culpability of nomadic Fulani herdsmen in the increasing levels of crime in the area.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, the Public Relations Officer of Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria, Delta State branch, Mr. Idris Abubakar, described the Oshimili council quit notice as draconian, null-and-void and likely to worsen the problem it was meant to solve if implemented.
The lawyer further claimed that the Hausa-Fulani residents “are lawful tenants and we have been paying rent, and we have documents to prove that.”
Reacting yesterday to the protest, the local government area chairman said the executive order was not aimed at antagonising anybody within the locality, but only to clear the bushes where heinous crimes were being committed.
“We have not asked them to leave the local government area but to come out of the bushes and live socially and economically with us in the towns and villages. Our government is people-friendly, and the people of Anioma (Delta North) are very friendly too,” Ndukwe explained.
At the initial stage, when the Fulani residents opted to live in the bushes, there were no problems, he observed, noting however that recently heinous crimes “are being committed in the bushes; people are being killed, kidnapped for ransom, and our women are being raped in the bushes.”