Edo Communities, CSOs Barricade Benin-Lagos Road over Herdsmen Attack
No fewer than 15 communities in Edo State in collaboration with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), yesterday barricaded the Lagos-Benin express road in protest against the nefarious activities of alleged herdsmen which they said had resulted to killings, destructions of farm produce and forceful evictions from their ancestral homes.
The communities, namely, Odiguetue, Ofintebe, Igolo, Okokuo, Abumwenre I and II, Obarenren, Uhiere, Uyimo I and II, in the protest which lasted for several hours, led to severe gridlocks.
Speaking for the communities and for the civil rights groups, legal practitioner and former Edo State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Osagie Obayuwana said they were worried about the looming crisis brewing in the various communities in the state, allegedly orchestrated by armed herdsmen.
He noted that urgent steps needed to be put in place to checkmate them before it snow balls into full blown crises in the state.
“We want the whole world to know the ugly experience our people have been passing through for quite some time now.
“We are zeroing it on Ovia North East communities. About 15 communities have been under siege for some years. Farmers have been prevented from going to their farms, another planting season is going away, they have been sentenced to hunger, farmers and their families and this has an implication for the larger society.
“It is one of the reasons the price of food is rising beyond the reach of even those in the middle class.
“So far, we have not seen serious efforts to address this issue by the state government and other concerned authorities. Our people have gone to various offices both the executive and the legislative arms of government; even traditional quarters and nothing seems to be coming out.
“Right now, the matter is degenerating to such an extent that people are being driven out of their villages.
“We are concerned that what had been happening in Benue and Plateau States will be coming to the shores of Edo State now, where armed herdsmen drive people from communities, change the names of the communities and start to occupy the houses, we don’t want that,” he said.
Also in his comments, the former Public Relations Officer, Edo State Civil Society Organisations (EDOCSO), Osazee Edigin, said the level of insecurity in Edo communities have gone from bad to worse and thus the decision to add their voice with others to call on governments (local government council, state and federal government) to come to their rescue.
“We are here to support these communities that have been ravaged and sacked by herdsmen. We have seen it as a high level of insecurity in the state, and we want the state government and law enforcement agencies to rescue them.
“We are here to amplify the voices of these locals so that the state government will intervene in this. If we don’t do it, we are going to have scarcity of food and more victims. We urged the government to rise to the occasion and protect lives and property.
“The primary purpose of government is to protect lives and property, and if they fail in that area, then they are giving room for anarchy, and we don’t pray it results in a state of lawlessness.
“The government should step in. When there is no peace in the land, life will not flourish, and the economy will go down,” Edigin said.
Lamenting the atrocities of the herdsmen, Aik-Ikhuokhuo Uwaifo from Uhiere community, said in the past, herdsmen and the people in his community were living harmoniously together so much so that they were even asking them (herdsmen) to give them their cows’ urine to grow their fingers while they will in turn give them foods.
He said the story had changed, adding that nowadays, the herders move into their farms kill, rape, maim, destroy their crops and forcefully evicting them from their community.
Another protester, Mrs. Rhoda Ogba from Odigi community, said cows don’t eat grass anymore, but yam, cassava and Coco yam, maintaining that they are now hungry as they can no longer go to their farms because of fear of being killed.
She said the federal and the state governments should come to their rescue.
The Edo State Commissioner of Police CP Abutu Yaro, represented by the Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, ACP, James Chu, while appealing to the protesters to be calmed, said the command share in their pains stressing that machineries have been put in place to curtail the excesses of armed herdsmen in the various communities in the state.
“The Commissioner of Police, we all know he is new, and he shares with you in this pain. We are all on the same page and all on the same reason to be here to talk to you.
“He has asked me to let you know that you know that he is a new person in Edo State. He has taken notes of all the incidence we have had in these various communities and other communities in Edo North.
“There are very critical strategies that are in place to ensure that the excesses of these men who are disturbing our villages are monitored and equally checked and stopped.
“I want to assure you that the police are not resting in this issue. I want to assure you that we are going to work in hands and gloves with the communities to ensure the essence of this gathering,” he said.