There is an uneasy calm in the Ebonyi State axis of Eastern Nigeria as some boiling Igbo youths are spoiling for a reprisal attack against Fulani herdsmen who are allegedly making life unbearable in the area.
Dangerously armed herdsmen allegedly shattered the relative peace of the state when they went on a killing spree in some rustic communities of Ishielu Local Government Area of the largely agrarian state, leaving scores of citizens literally drowned in their own blood.
While search for more bodies are ongoing in the area, worried Bayelsa State Government is insisting on its 14-day quit notice given all herdsmen to comply or brace to face the music. The Diri administration wants them to move their animals from farmlands and bushes across the state to Elebele Palm in the outskirts of Yenagoa, the state capital, or risk having their animals seized.
Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, David Alagoa, was speaking after a meeting between stakeholders and the cattle breeders’ trade group, MACBAN. According to him, ‘’we’ve agreed that we give them a moratorium period of 10 days and by the 14th day, which falls on April 10, we will start impounding their cows.
“The governor has opened up business opportunities of the huge value chain in the meat business. It is time now. If you have land and you want to ranch, you can ranch, since we are going purely for ranching. If you want to plant grass and sell for cattle, you can sell.”
After the expiration of the grace period, the government would seize all animals being moved by foot, both night and day, the commissioner warned.
The order to the herders followed the recent enactment of a law “Livestock Breeding, Rearing and Marketing Regulation Law 2021”. The law prohibits open grazing by livestock in the state, and is aimed at ensuring harmony between cattle dealers and citizens of the state.
Enforcement of the law in Bayelsa comes a little over a week after herdsmen opened fire on Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, who has been a champion of the anti-grazing law.
A group that claimed responsibility for the attack listed as one of Ortom’s sins the enactment of the anti-open grazing law in Benue, and vowed that it would fight any governor that toes the same line.
He further explained that the order was given “after due consideration, taking into cognizance the technicalities involved in the cattle business.”
Retired Commissioner of Police, and Special Adviser to the Governor on Security Matters, Akpoebi Agberebi, says the law is not aimed at any ethnic or religious group.
However, while those killed in Ebonyi’s Egedegede, Obegu and Amuzu communities included a Priest of the of the Methodist church, local sources say 18 people died in the alleged herdsmen attack. Others are even claiming as many as 27 dead bodies have been found, as search for more missing persons continues.
Corpses of the victims are said to have bullets wounds, deep machete cuts on the forehead, hands and other parts of their bodies. Many of them had their heads and hands chopped off, while their eyes were removed, witnesses say.
Most of the victims were identified as farmers and commercial motorcyclists in the areas. Others were said to be travellers just passing through the place at the time of the attack, which took place on Monday night.
Sources say a car belonging to the Methodist priest was also burnt by the herdsmen.
Governor David Umahi, who has visited the affected communities, is lamenting that local herdsmen in the areas who the state government had an understanding with, committed the havoc. He then declared that those who migrated to the area were convinced to leave, adding that the killings took place after they had left.
“We feel so sad that this kind of thing should happen in our state. I am going to escalate this to the highest authorities in the country to ensure these people don’t get away with this’’, Governor Umahi said.