Leaders of Oviri-Olomu community in Ughelli South local government area of Delta State yesterday issued a quit order to the Fulani herdsmen inhabiting their community. The leaders, comprising mostly women, said the herdsmen had become a security threat to the entire clan and now constituted nuisance by destroying their farmlands and raping their women in their farms.
The chairperson of Olomu Women and spokeswoman of Oviri-Olomu community, Mrs. Esther Monday, said the women had been complaining for years about the nefarious activities of the herdsmen but nothing was done until it got to the present state where the herdsmen now want to occupy the land with force. She said the herders would run to security agencies and the state government to complain that they were being maltreated whereas they were the aggressors.
A drama occurred in the community yesterday morning while they awaited the arrival of a police team to investigate the destruction of farmlands by the herdsmen. Some of the herdsmen were caught in the act allegedly planting incriminating evidence in a farmland by slaughtering a cow on the land with the intention of convincing the police to believe the cow was killed by the community residents.
A respected leader in the community, Chief Amrevuawho Peter Edariese, said the herdsmen issue had gotten out of control and needed to be addressed with all the seriousness it deserved. Edariese accused police authorities in the area of displaying sympathy towards the herdsmen and urged the state government to intervene and save the community from Fulani herdsmen incursion.
He said: “What is happening in Oviri-Olomu has made everybody pensive, there is tension in the air, and it is the activities of the Fulani herdsmen who are using their cows to destroy lands of women and farmers and leave us poor by the day.
“The women folk in the entire Olomu kingdom whom the cows have been ravaging their farmlands and who have been suffering raping and various forms of criminal activities saw the need to take their destinies in their hands to avoid a repeat of what is happening in Uwheru and Abraka kingdom, by leading a peaceful protest to the King of Olomu and appeal to him to help them and ask the herdsmen to leave their farmlands, so that they don’t die of hunger.
“This protest led to a discussion with the king, who knew that what is happening Olomu is also happening in other places. He told the people that the matter was beyond him. So, the women led a peaceful protest not armed with anything and went into their farmlands in Oviri-Olomu where they saw the cows destroying their farmlands. They summoned up courage and discussed with the herdsmen that they should leave the community, that they don’t want them again.
“The herdsmen fearing an attack left the farmlands on April 30. Two days after, a herd of cows with fierce-looking men entered the community telling everybody who is not afraid of their lives to challenge them. At the point, the women felt that hell had been let lose on them.”
He said that the herdsmen wrote a petition to the Area Commander in Ughelli alleging that the president-generals of over 10 communities had stolen their cows and that they should be brought to book, compelling the Area Commander to use policemen to fish out the president-generals. The Area Commander, according to Edariese, told the president-generals to pay for the 100 cows that were allegedly killed, but later asked them to go.
A senior police officer who pleaded to remain anonymous in view the office he occupies, told The Guardian that trouble started when some Fulani herdsmen wrote a petition and copied his office alleging that their cows were killed and their houses destroyed.
He said he personally invited the president-generals of some communities in Olumu kingdom and the herdsmen to his office in Ughelli to resolve the pending issues and that during the meeting he told leaders that any community with evidence of cows damaging their crops would be compensated by the herders, if a joint investigation of all parties is able to verify such.
The senior police officer told The Guardian that during the meeting, the herdsmen disclosed that they were born in Delta State and had not visited any northern state since they were born. He said he pleaded with communities to allow the herdsmen rear their cows since they were Nigerians.
The secretary of Olomu Women group, Madam Blessing Agaga, said that at some point, the women grew suspicious that the herdsmen were paying rent to some powerful persons in the kingdom and communities, the reason nothing was being done. This elicited the protest to the palace at Ohworode of Olumu kingdom only to discover that the monarch’s hands were tied. She said the women would carry on with their agitation and protest until government intervened and moved the herdsmen out of the kingdom.