Kinsman murder: Enugu communities order herdsmen to vacate their land
By Olisemeka Obeche & Millicent Onaga
About 29 communities in Oji River local government area of Enugu state have issued ‘quit notice’ to Fulani herdsmen to vacate their land over alleged incessant criminal activities and attacks and destruction of farmlands in the area.
Angry youths, led by the president general of the community, stormed the Enugu state Government House on Wednesday to register their protest following the gruesome murder of their 62-year-old kinsman, Mr Eugene Ilobani, by suspected Fulani herdsmen who decapitated him and left his badly brutalised body right there on his farm at Isiokwe Amankpunato community.
The protesters demanded the exit of the pastoralists from the area, insisting that their leaders (of Oji River town) had resolved to demand immediate evacuation of the herdsmen and their animals from their area.
Orient Weekend gathered that the protesters, numbering over 100, displayed placards of various inscriptions like “Save us from herdsmen,” “Fulani herdsmen, leave us alone,” “Our lives are in danger!” and “They have finished us; our people don’t go to farm any longer” etc., prayed Enugu state Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to order the pastoralists out of the area and save them from further bloody attacks from herdsmen and destruction of their farmlands.
Spokesman of the protesting communities and the coordinator of Achi Community, Ejike Ilo, who addressed the governor’s representative, explained that the murder of the 62-year-old man in his farmland on June 29, 2020 was a clear signal that the safety of their people was no longer guaranteed as along as armed herdsmen continue to bestride the area and wreak havoc on their farmlands. “We were stunned with the reality of the murder of our brother, late Eugene Ilobani from Isiokwe Ukwu in Isiokwe Amankpunato, Achi Autonomous Community while farming to fend for his dependents as it is customary in Igbo land,” he said, stressing that people of the area would no longer fold their arms and watch herdsmen killing their people.
Ilo expressed regret that similar killing carried out by suspected herdsmen in the area about two years earlier, as well as attacks and rape of women in their farms in the area had continued and remained unattended to with nothing happening to the suspects. He then urged the state government to order the herdsmen to vacate their land.
Governor Ugwuanyi, in his response, appealed for calm from the residents of the community, urging them not to take laws into their hands as his administration was doing everything possible to ensure that the perpetrators of the crime were arrested and brought to book. The governor, who spoke through his ADC, Mr Peter Nnaedozie, equally promised to award scholarships to the children of the deceased, to cushion the effect of the death of their breadwinner.
The protesters equally appealed for the intervention of the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in the alleged criminal activities of the suspected herdsmen in the area. This paper gathered that they actually accessed the president general of the apex socio-cultural organisation, Chief Nnia Nwodo, in Enugu and that the Igbo chieftain consoled them on the death of the deceased and implored them not to take laws into their hands. He urged them to allow the government and the security agencies handle the matter in accordance with the law.
The leader of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACABAN), in the South East, Alhaji Gidado Sidiq, described the call for exit of herdsmen from the area as irrational.
“The decision they took in calling for Fulani herdsmen to leave their communities is not the right one. The death of that man is not enough to take that decision, unless they have other grudges with the Fulani. As far as I know, the Oji River local government chairman has put in place mechanism for peaceful coexistence of Fulani with the local communities.
“They should have allowed the mechanism on ground to deal with this and allow the police to conclude investigation before embarking on the protest. When they said it’s Fulani man that have killed that person, it’s not my responsibility to say ‘no’ or ‘yes’. It’s the law enforcement agents that would investigate and say what happened.
The MACABAN leader adds: “I’m saying sorry to the family of the man killed and the people of the area over the loss of their brother and father. I’m equally appealing to the leaders of these communities to reconsider their action because it’s not the right one. We have structure in place to work together to find out what actually happened to that man. He was killed inside the bush and nobody saw Fulani men there. They only suspected that it’s Fulani that carried out the attack. Anyone could have committed such act. So, it’s not good to indict Fulani directly like that without clear evidence. I beg them to allow the government address this matter.”