The Urhobo ethnic group in Delta State has raised the alarm over activities of Fulani herdsmen in some communities within Urhoboland saying the development is already creating fears of attacks among the locals.
The ethnic group also joined other nationalities across the country in condemning the proposal for the creation of cattle colonies for Fulani herdsmen, insisting that not one inch of Urhoboland would be conceded for any herdsman. The group said the proposal was not only unconstitutional but also strange and repressive.
Speaking during a press briefing in Lagos yesterday, President General of Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), Olorogun Moses Taiga said the persistence herdsmen killings across the country is a fundamental problem that demands special attention, if Nigeria must remain united and in peace.Taiga said many atrocities are being perpetrated by armed herdsmen in Urhoboland, which he said are currently endangering lives and property of the peace-loving people of the area.
According to Taiga, “It is with a heavy heart that I address you because my people, the Urhobos in Delta State, face a clear and present danger. “You would have been reading about the incessant attacks of Urhobo people by Fulani herdsmen in their towns and villages for some time now. Our men are being killed and our wives and daughters are being raped. The attacks are going on in Abraka, Uwheru Kingdoms and towns, Ovwor and many other towns and villages in Urhoboland.
“Last week, they struck in Ovwor, attacking three men and raping one woman. Ironically one of the men they attacked is a butcher going to his place of work very early in the morning. These herdsmen are very daring and callous. Even a butcher, who patronises them by buying their cows, is not spared of the attacks.”
While he called on President Muhammadu Buhari, Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa and the security agencies to, as a matter of urgency, dislodge the herdsmen from Urhoboland, the UPU leader said, “at present over 300 herdsmen are illegally occupying shops in an ultra-modern market not in use between Otovwodo and Ogor towns in Ughelli North Local Government Area. There are fears that the number of the herdsmen might double in no time.”
He further expressed concerns that currently, most Urhobo people live in perpetual anxiety and trepidation in their homeland, saying, “Security authorities must dislodge these hoodlums immediately before they wreck havoc.” Olorogun Taiga warned that the recent disaster in Benue State, where 73 people were killed by the herdsmen “must not happen in Urhoboland or any other place, for that matter, again in Nigeria.”
On the suggested cattle colonies, Taiga said, “I want to use this opportunity to inform the Federal Government that the Urhobo nation is against the proposal.
“Cattle rearing is a private matter and individuals should make their private arrangement, just as crop farmers do, in that regard. Has government established cassava, yam, cocoa or plantain ‘colonies’? These squatters are trespassers and have to stop.
“Also, no colonies have been established for poultry farmers throughout the length and breath of Nigeria. Why the special arrangement for cattle farmers? They should sort out themselves peacefully and stop behaving like an army of occupation.”
Suggesting ways by which the menace armed Fulani banditry could be addressed, Taiga proposed that the Federal and state governments should pay special attention to the latest 2018 version of the London Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), which listed the world countries that are affected by deforestation, saying, “Between 1990 – 2014 the loss ration of arable land showed that Togo lost 60 percent, Nigeria, 57 percent and Uganda, 53 percent followed by Mauritania and Honduras.”
He said Nigeria needed a major policy of afforestation, in which it must plant trees and grow the forests “also we need to increase our irrigation projects. There was a time that the Lake Chad basin was as large as the arable land in the entire Southeast of Nigeria, today the lake is not larger than Yaba in Lagos.”
The UPU President General also reiterated the earlier stand of the Urhobo people for a return to the 1960 Constitution “where regions managed their resources and only contributed a percentage to the Federal Government. That is one of the ways to achieve lasting peace in Nigeria. It will also bring back the healthy competition among regions, which helped to speed up growth and development in the 60s.”
Although, he did not condemn the position of some ethnic nationalities and individuals who have decided to arm their people to meet force with force during herdsmen attacks, Taiga said he believed the matter could still be brought under control.“While I will not, for now suggest or support the move to meet force with force, I still believe that the government and the security agencies in the country would act and address the anomalies, which is why we are raising the alarm now.”