Apparently worried by the negative effect of open grazing on the security of lives, property and food production in Nigeria, the House of Representatives is currently bracing to criminalise it.
The move is coming as a pregnant mother of two children was among three others allegedly killed by herdsmen in Plateau State on the night of July 14 and morning of July 15. Margaret Wakili, a 27-year-old from Ancha village, was allegedly slain on her farm at about 10 a.m. on July 15, community leaders said.
The herdsmen allegedly attacked the communities of Ancha, Tafigana, Kperie, Hukke and Rikwechongu, killing the three people and burning down 75 houses and two religious buildings, according to Patience Moses, Zongo Lawrence and Chinge Dodo Ayuba, all leaders in the village.
Ancha village was the scene of an attack two years ago, when herdsmen killed 22 people, all members of the Baptist Church in the village. Moses in an interview with a US-based NGO, Morning Star, said that herdsmen attacked the villages on the night of July 14 and the early hours of July 15.
In Tafigana village, Bassa County, she said, they killed Thomas Wollo, 46, and his son, Ngwe Thomas Wollo, 7. ‘’Both of them were ambushed and killed in Tafigana village as they were returning to their home after attending a religious programme in Tafigana, at about 8:30 pm’’, she said.
Lawrence, of Miango town, told Morning Star News that the herdsmen beheaded the elder Wallo after killing him. ‘’We have been experiencing daily attacks by these herdsmen in our communities, most especially on Sundays’’, he said.
‘’The herdsmen destroyed farm produce worth millions of naira, and a lot of domestic animals were killed in the two villages’’, he said. Ayuba, another resident of the area, confirmed that Wollo and his son were killed on July 14, adding, ‘’the attacks by the herdsmen continued on Monday morning with another village, Ancha, attacked, and a woman killed.’’
‘’As a people, we are continuously under attack, and nobody seems to be hearing our cries for help, while killing of our people has now become a routine. Two other people were killed in prior attacks. On July 7 in Kperie village of Kwall District, also in Bassa County, the herdsmen ambushed and killed one Ezekiel Audu, 25, at about 9 pm’’, Moses said as villagers pointed out that Audu was riding his motorcycle in company of his friends when they were ambushed and shot by the herdsmen.
On May 3 at about 10 p.m., the herdsmen had attacked the same two villages, killing a 63-year-old Di Zere. Zere was killed in his room when the herdsmen broke into his house as he and his family were sleeping. His corpse was burnt, and his 10-year-old daughter sustained gunshot wounds, Lawrence said while speaking with Morning Star.
However, the move by the House of Reps was sequel to a unanimous adoption of ”Urgent Motion of Public Importance” by Rep. Ben Igbakpa (PDP-Delta) in the plenary on Thursday. Igbakpa said Ethiope Federal Constituency is made up of Ethiope-East and Ethiope-West a linear settlement along the Shores of river Ethiope.
While saying the area is a predominantly agrarian and was well known for the production of all stable food like cassava, plantain and yams, he added, ‘’an agrarian society is any community which economy is based on producing and maintaining crops and farmland.’’
Continuing, he said that Delta State University is situated in Abraka in Ethiope-East Local Government Area which has enable many of the lecturers engage in farming on part-time basis, alleging that between 2014 and 2018, a total of 36 persons were killed, including four lecturers in their farmland by herdsmen.
‘’In this year 2019, a total of eight persons have been gruesomely murdered for daring to insist that the herdsmen should not graze on their farms. Not single prosecutions of the culprits have been recorded to serve as a deterrent’’, Igbakpa said, adding that on July 2, the entire local government area of Ethiope-East woke up into mourning and grief.
He said that farmlands of over 100 hectares, cultivated with cassava, yam, maize and plantain were allegedly brought down to ruin by dare-devil herdsmen. The lawmaker alleged that the herdsmen were bearing arms and threatening to deal with anybody who challenged them.
According to the federal legislator, the herdsmen claimed that they ‘’own Abuja’’ even as they operate in Delta, recalling that Ovre village in Delta and Ewosi village which is a border town to Edo had been forcefully abandoned by the communities to herdsmen for fear of incessant killings and destruction of crops.
‘’The continued nomadic activities into the communities of Abraka, Eku and environs for grazing are a total call for anarchy which cannot be tolerated. If these ugly and dastardly acts are not checked, having gradually eroded the source of livelihood of the people of Ethiope Federal Constituency particularly Abraka, Eku, Oghara, Jesse and Mosogar communities, there will be likelihood of discouraging potential investors.
‘’It is ruining the comparative agricultural advantage in these areas and the activities of the herdsmen have continued to cause panic, palpable fear and tension on the people who are now afraid to go to farms in search of their daily bread and sustenance. No doubt this will lead to hunger, poverty, malnutrition and ultimately refugees in their own ancestral land’’, he said.
Igbakpa said that in spite of the effect on food security and the inherent adverse economic effect on the people, the activities of these herdsmen if not checked could result in self-help by the local communities, pointing out that the nefarious activities of these herdsmen have continued unabated for over five years now with largely and devastating consequences as it progresses.
He said there is an urgent need for a more robust and sustainable approach to solving the problem by all stakeholders: ‘’Section 14(2) of the 1998Constitution ria (as amended) provides that the welfare and security of the people shall be the primary responsibility of the government. The people of Ethiope West/East want to see that the Federal Government of Nigeria has not failed in their constitutional duties to secure them.
‘’The constitutionally guaranteed freedom of movement of the good people of Abraka, Jesse, Mosogar, Oghara and Okpara, all in Ethiope Federal Constituency seems to have been eroded and no longer guaranteed in view of the nefarious activities of the herdsmen. The people can no longer move around freely to the extent that some roads including Sakpoba and Ovre are no-go areas having been deserted for fear of attack by the herdsmen.’’
The House urged the security agencies to, as a matter of urgency, midwife a meeting of stakeholders in Ethiope Federal Constituency and leaders of the herdsmen to douse the tension and find a lasting solution to this recurring security milieu, and urged the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, the Federal Ministry of Information and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to enlighten herdsmen to endeavour to limit grazing to areas allowed.
While tasking the agencies on the need to reorient the herdsmen to understand that ranching should be a compulsory component of cattle herding in Nigeria in the interest of peace with the host communities, the House accordingly urged the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and other regulatory authorities as a matter of urgency provide food items and relief materials to the identified victims of the wanton destruction.