Ending farmers, herdsmen clashes: Governor Umahi’s example By Emmanuel Uzor

With the worrisome dimension crime and unrest are taking in almost all the geo political zones of the country involving all political, ethnic and religious entities, it became not just imperative but unavoidably
important to bring about certain security policies and programmes that
would proffer solution to these insipient and divisive tendencies that
tend to divide the nation along these dangerous lines.

At the borderline of these challenges were the dangerous persistent
bloody clashes between farmers and herdsmen in almost all the major
states within the Northern part of Nigeria and in most states in the
South. It was a moment Nigeria’s unity was threatened beyond measures
and its foundation shaken that it required urgent security attention
to return the country to one indivisible entity.

With these crises assuming alarming proportion in various states like
Benue, Nasarawa, Zamfara, Taraba, Adamawa and Plateau states to
mention but a few, all eyes were focused on the federal  government to
bring about workable policy and programme that will not only end the
carnages arising from the unfortunate crisis involving farmers and
herdsmen in these affected areas but also plans to assuage the people
whose loved ones were killed in the melee and also those whose only
source of livelihood were lost in the crisis.

Fortunately, the federal government through the National Economic
Council inaugurated a special committee headed by His Excellency, the
Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo and Chairman of NEC to look into
these residual issues that have been precipitating and perpetuating
the crisis in the affected states. One of the first steps taken by the
committee was raising a Technical Subcommittee with the Governor of
Ebonyi State and Chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum, Chief
David Umahi as chairman with Governor of Adamawa, Alhaji Bindo Jibrila
and Governor of Plateau, Simon Lalong as members with Dr. Andrew
Kwashali as Secretary.

The aim of this committee was to go round the affected states with a
view to ascertaining the cause of the crisis and offer solution to
curbing the crisis.
With Governor Umahi as an international acclaimed peace builder as
demonstrated in the final and amicable resolution of the Ezza and
Ezillo communal war which started on the 8th June, 2008 in which many
lives had been lost, the assignment hung on his shoulders was not too
difficult for him.

Back home in Ebonyi state, Governor Umahi is not losing sleep over the
possible clash between farmers and herdsmen in the state because he
had earlier set up machinery in motion to take a very long measure in
ensuring that such ugly trend does not surface.

With the crisis seemingly defying every quick measure adopted to end
it by government both at the federal and state levels, Governor Umahi
was not oblivious of the enormity of the task entrusted on his bold
shoulders not just to proffer a workable solution to ending the crisis
but also to protecting his own state, Ebonyi from either infiltration
of the killer herdsmen or aggression from the already tensed and angry
farmers in his state.

One of the first steps taken by the Governor was the prompt setting up
of a special committee on herdsmen and farmers in the state to
oversight the activities of the herdsmen and their relationship with
the farmers and the host communities.

While Governor Umahi was still away on a national assignment, the same
problem which he was called up to assist federal government resolve
surfaced in his own state.  It emanated from Akaeze axis in Ivo
council of the state following a clash between farmers and herders
which left a farmer with severe cutlass injuries.

A herdsman was also reported injured slightly in the clash. The
Governor on return to the state quickly swung into action, by
convening an enlarged emergency security meeting involving all
security chiefs, leaders of the herdsmen and stakeholders of Akaeze
community. The Fulani community was led by the Coordinator of Northern
communities in the Southeast, Abubakar Yusuf Sambo.

At the meeting, Umahi gave everyone opportunity to explain what they
knew about the clash. One of the Ardos who spoke informed the Governor
that from their findings; herdsmen who migrated from Enugu state to
Akaeze community were the perpetrators of the dastardly act. He said
the migrants were the ones that allowed their cattle to destroy crops
which led to the clash and not the herders originally settling in
Akaeze community.

The Governor, after hearing from all parties, set up a 10 man
committee to investigate the clash. Acting on the revelation of the
Ardo, the Governor also banned herdsmen’s cattles from coming into
Ebonyi state from other states by foot.

"No herdsman should enter the place. No cattle should enter the
particular location of the crisis until this investigation is
completed. At the end of the day when the report comes out, whoever
that is the first aggressor will face prosecution in this state”

Some weeks later, a very disturbing news filtered into the space that
there was another clash involving farmers and herdsmen in Enyanwuigwe
village in Igbeagu community of Izzi council area of the state. Acting
on the said information, Governor Umahi immediately directed security
agencies in the state to swing into action to ascertain the cause of
the new crisis and report back to him.

While the report of the security chiefs led by the Commissioner of
Police in state, Mr. Titus Lamorde was being awaited, the news became
clearer that it was not farmers and herdsmen clash that led to the
death of three Enyanwuigwe community of Igbeagu in Izzi local
government area of the state rather, it was a case of a Fulani
herdsman indulging in consumption of hard substance suspected to be
hard drugs.

Not satisfied with the report of the cause of the killing in the
community by a Fulani herdsman who went berserk, killing three Igbeagu
natives and one Fulani man, Governor Umahi convened an enlarged
emergency security council meeting, with Security chiefs, National
leadership of Meyeti Allah led by Alhaji Bello Bodejo and stakeholders
of the affected community were all in attendance As usual, it was the
herdsmen that first struck.

Speaking during the stakeholders meeting, the Chairman of Izzi local
government area, Mr. Paul Nwogha said he received a phone call about
the killing of three of his kinsmen by a Fulani herdsman and he rushed
to the community with some security chiefs only to discover that the
youths of the village had overpowered the Herdsmen and handed him over
to the police.

He said information he gathered showed that the Fulani man who was new
in the area was suspected to have consumed hard substance suspected to
be drugs and he lost his mind and went berserk, killing three natives
of the community and also his own brother who came to save the
deceased from his rage.

“When I got there, I saw that even plantain trees were not spared, he
made sure he cut down every tree he saw in the compound. One the men
that died was said to have heard cries from a nearby compound and left
the food his wife prepared for him and took one small stick to go and
know what was happening and when he got there, the Fulani man who was
armed with a very sharp matchet saw him and came after him and dealt
him serious matchet cut until he fell and died”

Other people who spoke during the security meeting corroborated what
the council chairman said including the Ardo in charge of the area who
lamented that the singular act of the Fulani herdsman had strained the
good relationship they have with their host, the Enyanwuigwe village,
adding that they have lived in peace like brothers before the
incident.

The Ardo commended Governor David Umahi for his love and disposition
to ensuring peaceful co-existence among all diverse ethnic and
religious groups living in his state and pleaded with him to continue
to restrain his people from going for reprisal attack, saying that the
Fulani herdsman that attacked the villagers was acting on the
influence of hard drugs and has been arrested and was facing
prosecution.

Visibly angry Governor Umahi noted that the unprovoked killings must
stop as he cannot withstand the sight of killings of Ebonyians under
whatever guise.  However, he warned that the incessant killings by
herdsmen needed to be properly handled and addressed so as not to
spark off war.  He ordered herdsmen around the trouble community to
leave temporarily until he was able to calm down the embittered
villagers to avoid reprisal attacks.

”It is unprovoked killing, life is so sacred. You can’t kill people as
if they are fowls. Izzi people are warriors; I physically held them
not to go for retaliation. The herdsmen there  in Izzi have to leave
the place for now until I calm everybody down. The way we are going,
it can provoke war and it will not help anybody

”The life of every Ebonyian is very dear to me. This is a National
problem; we don’t want our people to be continuously killed. We must
use wisdom to handle this problem. It is very easy to say, I want all
the herdsmen to leave Ebonyi but there are lots of implications”, he
said.

In the face of this challenge, governor Umahi has also adopted several
approaches that seem to be bringing an end to these clashes. The state
government has banned movement of cattle in the night. The government
noted that it has alerted security agents of such movements and urged
the people of the state to take note of the ban and report any further
movements of cattle at nights to the security agents.


Part of the magical moves the governor made that has brought peace to
the state between farmers and herdsmen was extension of  free
education to both farmers and herdsmen in the state from primary to
secondary levels with a view to ensuring that both children of the
farmers and that of the herdsmen have equal access to education. This
move was highly applauded by the leadership of Miyati Allah who
promised to take the message of the Governor to other states as
panacea to sustaining and enduring peace.

Umahi has equally directed Traditional Rulers in the state to register
herdsmen within their communities with a view to knowing them more as
well as hold regular meetings to resolve their differences. He also
banned herdsmen from entering Ebonyi state without following due
process.

"The National President of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association
and his Secretary told me something; they said, no herdsmen suppose to
come from Enugu or any other state to Ebonyi State without first
getting approval from the Ardo of wherever he is coming from. The Ardo
in charge of where he is coming from must first write a letter to the
Ardo of where he is going to in Ebonyi. And the Ardo here must approve
his coming. The village Head/Traditional Ruler must also agree that
the herdsman should come. If the two of them say no, then, the
herdsman cannot come”.

Umahi also introduced as part of his peace initiative means of
balancing profit and loss between the farmers and herdsmen by
sacrosanct holding their means of livelihood sacred and should be
respected by all parties. In that regard, he said that any herdsman
grazing on the farmer’s crop will pay the cost of the crops damaged by
his cow and still face prosecution while farmers who kill the
herdsman’s cows must pay for the cows and still face prosecution. This
was accepted by both farmers and herdsmen amidst loud ovation
signifying acceptance.

"To ensure security and safety of our people and herdsmen who have
lived peacefully with us all these years without problem and to ensure
there is no infiltration of killer herdsmen from neighboring states
and countries, Traditional Rulers are to collate data on herdsmen
operating in their communities across the state for easy
identification and maintenance of peace. The data should include
herdsmen's names, location and contact phone numbers of their leaders.
Traditional rulers should hold constant meetings with the herdsmen so
that they can identify those from outside that foment trouble"

Governor Umahi further came up with some rules that stipulate that
nobody has the right to carry cattle by route to Ebonyi state.  He
banned farmers from carrying guns to farm and herdsmen from carrying
guns or cutlass to rear cattle. He equally said no farmer should kill
herdsman cow and no herdsman should destroy a farmer's crops, adding
“any farmer that kills herder's cow will pay twice the cost and still
face prosecution, just as any herder who destroys a farmer's crop will
pay double the value and still face prosecution. Any farmer whose farm
is destroyed or a herder whose cow is killed should report to the
village Head/Ardo rather than taking laws into their hands as
offenders are liable to be prosecuted. The two parties have agreed to
abide by these rules”

However, the most recent of Umahi's efforts to ending farmers and
herdsmen clashes in the state was the setting up of a committee
comprising representatives of herdsmen, farmers, security agencies and
the state government. The committee is mandated to check clashes
between farmers and herdsmen in the state with a view to finding
permanent solution to the menace.

In all these approaches so far adopted by governor Umahi's
administration, some unique strategies that have played immeasurable
roles in the success of each of them are: The involvement of farmers,
herdsmen and their leaders in every stage of their formulation.
Constant engagement of the herders, farmers and their leaders in
dialogue as well as meeting with them from time to time to agree on
certain policies before implementation. And the appointment of some
Fulani herdsmen into government as Technical Assistants (TAs) on
herdsmen and farmers relations by Governor Umahi as another antidote
to the farmers and herdsmen clashes in the state.

The committee which is headed by the Honourable Attorney General and
Commissioner for Justice, Barr Cletus Ofoke with the Senior Special
Assistant to the Governor on Internal Security, Dr. Kenneth Ugbala as
secretary also has security chiefs, members and leadership of Meyati
Allah, traditional rulers and farmers as members.

Though the issue on ground concerning the farmers and herdsmen clashes
so to say had assumed a national issue with various groups and
interest groups raising various concerns that tend to add to the
tension on ground, Umahi quickly knew that never in the history of
mankind has life ever been lost without injuries in the hearts of the
living.

He called for more collaboration between government, farmers,
herdsmen, security agencies and leadership of Miyati Allah in tackling
intermittent outbreak of crisis in the state and assured the people of
the state that no part of the state shall be given out for the purpose
of cattle ranching or colony.

It was a solemn moment for both farmers and herdsmen and even security
agencies to know that Nigerians must realize that the conflict between
herdsmen and famers/natives will never stop as far as cattle are
allowed to move into Nigeria from ECOWAS Countries with herdsmen
unchecked.

This is the first thing Governor Umahi did in Ebonyi state by
restraining the movement of cows from one place to the other in the
name of grazing as well as banning grazing in the night.

Umahi was not oblivious of the fact Ebonyi state population is on the
increase, whereas land is on the decrease due to climate change effect
and following from the fact that Ebonyi state has a very limited
landmass which has been taken by over 70 percent of solid minerals,
leaving an infinitesimal 30 percent for agriculture which is the
mainstay of the state, it will be suicidal for the state government to
fold its hands and allow the only source of her citizens’ survival
destroyed by herdsmen.

Photo of Umahi and Osinbajo

Uzor is CPS to Ebonyi State Governor 
Ending farmers, herdsmen clashes: Governor Umahi’s example By Emmanuel Uzor Ending farmers, herdsmen clashes: Governor Umahi’s example  By Emmanuel Uzor Reviewed by Odogwu Emeka Odogwu on Monday, April 16, 2018 Rating: 5

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