Saturday, July 6, 2019

Fulani herders owe farmers over N10m in damages, we don’t want them in our community again –Nenwe residents

SATURDAY STORY
Fulani herders owe farmers over N10m in damages, we don’t want them in our community again –Nenwe residents
Published July 6, 2019
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Raphael Ede, Enugu

Agbada Nenwe community in Aninri Local Government Area of Enugu State was recently in the news after a viral video showed people believed to be from the community escorting some herders suspected to be Fulani, and a large number of cattle out of the place.

The police and Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria in the South-East have denied the video, saying such a thing never happened there, but Saturday PUNCH investigation has shown that the video originated from the community.

Contrary to the police report denying that some herders and their cows were driven out of Agbada Nenwe by members of the community, some members of the community, who spoke to our correspondent when he visited the community during the week, confirmed that they actually drove the herders with their cattle away from their community. According to them, the herders and their cattle were allegedly driven to the community from other adjoining communities, although, they did not mention such other communities.

Some of those who spoke to Saturday PUNCH ascertained the veracity of the online video showing youths of the community chasing herders and their cattle out of the community, and also justified their action. However, it appeared that members of the community had been advised to be silent on the incident, but some of them recounted what they had lost in the hand of Fulani herders in the last four years.

They took our correspondent to hectares of land that were claimed to have been abandoned and uncultivated because of the activities of herders in the community, as they said they wouldn’t want them to return to torment the community again.

They claimed that the herders owed the community N10.9m worth of crops their cattle had destroyed in various farms there.

The state police command had in a statement by its Public Relations Officer in the state, Ebere Amaraizu, a Superintendent, dismissed as false the report and online video showing herders and hundreds of cows being asked to leave the host community.

The police had in its statement said, “the Nigeria Police Force wishes to inform members of the public that its attention has been drawn to information in existence that a large herd of cattle and some herders were escorted peacefully out of Nenwe, Aninri community of Enugu State on 29/6/19 by youths believed to be from Agbada Nenwe and further wish to update members of the public who may have been misinformed with the state of things.

“On receipt of this information, the state Commissioner of Police directed for an investigation into the alleged development and that following preliminary enquiry conducted, it was revealed that such situation never existed and that it was only the movement of cattle and herders from Cross River State through Uburu in Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi State and a neighbouring town for grazing.

“That the herders and their cattle were on transit and had got nothing to do with escorting out of herders and cattle out of the said community.

“That the said piece of information in circulation is viewed to be the handiwork of mischief makers who want to brew rancour, cause panic and fear and also sow seeds of acrimony as well as instigate violence.”

It further stated that the command had commenced investigation to arrest those spreading the “mischievous information” so that they could be brought to justice.

Toeing the same narrative, the state governor, Mr Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, denied that such incident happened as he appealed for peaceful coexistence between cattle breeders and members of their host communities in the state.

The governor, who visited the Agbada Nenwe on Monday, had while addressing a joint meeting of members of the community and their Fulani counterparts, described the state as peaceful and a home for all.

Igwe Francis Imo, traditional ruler of the community, however, described what happened on June 29, 2019 as a ‘spontaneous incident’ that did not amount to chasing herders from the community.

“What you saw was a spontaneous reaction and not that Fulani people were driven out of Agbada Nenwe,” he said.

On his part, the Zonal Chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Gidado Siddiki, described the clip as misleading and inciting.

“We seek understanding devoid of inhibitive suspicion in our commitment towards a more conducive environment for our business to thrive in a more vibrant and progressive state economy,” Siddiki said.

But a member of the community, who gave his name as Obinna Ofudo, said the atrocities the herders had unleashed on the community in the last four years were unimaginable.

“Before now, herders cohabited peacefully with people in our community. They didn’t steal and destroy our crops, they didn’t rape our women.  But from four years ago, the new faces of herders that have been coming to our community have been terrorists. They are too hostile; they uproot our cassava to feed their cattle.

“Can you imagine that a herder would come to your farm while you are harvesting your rice and tell you to hasten up, that his cattle want to eat? If for some reason you could not finish harvesting the crops that day, before the next day, their cattle would have consumed the farm crops.

“So, if you want good things, do not destroy other people’s properties. Their cattle are their business and our farm is our own business,” he said.

Similarly, a resident who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being attacked, said, “(Regarding) the issue about if there is anything they can do for us to accept them back again, (I will say) they should leave our farm for us because they want to put us in hunger. In fact, it is not that they want to do that, they have already put us in hunger. A young person or an old woman will plant crops that they need to feed their family with, but before it is time to harvest the crops, they will take their cattle to the farm and destroy everything. You cannot get anything. All your efforts, your money and everything, they will destroy.

“Since they started destroying our farm crops, they have not paid any damages or compensation for what they caused. They have never done that in this area. In a neighbouring village, people there said that they were trying to drive their cattle away and wounded one of them, they (herdsmen) collected money because of that, but for their things and the crops that they (the cattle) destroyed, they (herders) did not pay anything for them.”

He said the herders started acting with impunity about four years ago.

“They had been coming before; we didn’t have any problem with them. They would come when we had already harvested our crops from the farms and we wouldn’t quarrel with them. And when it was time for next farming season, they would leave with their cattle. But at some point, they started coming before the harvesting period to destroy our farms.

“We have complained to the police and other security agencies but nothing has been done about it and they will come the next time and destroy even more things. Even police have visited our farms to see things for themselves – farms the herders had destroyed with their cattle. So, we are saying we don’t want them again in our community,” he said.

However, midway into the investigation, our correspondent was accosted by the President General of the community, Prince Horace Oguejiofor, who was in company with some local security men. They said they were scared and demanded to know who sent the reporter. The reporter was held up for 30 minutes, and pictures of his car and identification card were taken. Despite his explanation, they claimed that he might have been sponsored by the herdsmen to spy on the community. It took the intervention of The PUNCH to get him freed.

When the President General was sure that he was not on spy mission, he confirmed to Saturday PUNCH that “the herders owed my community over N10.9m worth of crops that were assessed to have been destroyed by their cattle. The document is with government and the police are aware of it. They told us they would come and pay the damages but regrettably as we speak, they have not done so”.

Meanwhile, when the zonal leader of Miyetti Allah in the South-East, Siddiki was contacted on the telephone to respond to the allegation that herders owed the community millions of naira in damages, he did not answer his calls.

As at the time of filing this report, he had not called back or replied the text messages sent to his phone number.

https://punchng.com/fulani-herders-owe-farmers-over-n10m-in-damages-we-dont-want-them-in-our-community-again-nenwe-residents/