Alexander Okere and Justin Tyopuusu
Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki on Sunday announced a ban on grazing in some communities attacked by suspected herdsmen in the state.
The affected communities include Odighi and Odiguete, in the Ovia North-East Local Government Area of the state.
Obaseki also ordered the arrest of any erring herdsman during the period of the ban, which he said would last for 90 days to enable the government to identify those lawfully allowed to graze in the areas so as to prevent further attacks.
The governor’s order came 48 hours after residents of Odighi community protested at the Government House against the killing of a pastor, the late Pius Eromosele, by suspected herdsmen.
The protesters, who laid the coffin of the deceased at the entrance to the Government House, had called for the arrest and prosecution of the killers.
The remains of the pastor of the Church of God Mission were said to have been found decomposing in a bush during a search by hunters and vigilance group members on April 2.
Speaking during a meeting with members of the Odighi, Owan and Odigwuetue communities at the palace of the Enogie of Odighi, the governor said the ban became necessary to stop further killings as the duty of his administration was to protect the lives and property of the people.
He also stated that a special task force, comprising various security agencies, would go round the affected communities within two weeks to get information that would help dislodge the criminals who posed as herdsmen in the forest.
Obaseki said, “We have set up a special task force made up of the Nigerian Army, the Nigeria Police, the Department of State Services, hunters and vigilance groups to comb bushes and dislodge squatter camps of killer herdsmen and ensure that no grazing takes place in Odighi, Odiguetue communities and their environs.”
He stressed the need to separate herdsmen from cattle rustlers, whom he said stole cattle, invaded farms, raped and killed people, even as he assured that efforts were being made to identify the “real herdsmen” in the state.
“Before now, Fulani herdsmen were known for carrying sticks around to control their cattle. Today, some of them have become criminals,” he added.
Obaseki also said his administration would boost agricultural activities in Odighi community which was once known as the food basket of the state.
He also pledged to fix the water system in the area and reconstruct the old roads in the community to open up the area for development.
The governor said, “We have taken the designs of the old roads in these areas and in two weeks’ time, we will start the reconstruction of the roads. Tomorrow (Monday), government officials will be here to check the water system in the communities and fix it; so that the people will have access to potable water.
Herdsmen killed four after soldier’s withdrawal – Taraba LGA boss
The Chairman of the Donga Local Government Area, Nashuka Ipeyen, on Sunday said four persons were killed in an attack at Sabon Gida hours after soldiers were withdrawn from the area.
Nashuka also said an internally displaced person was slaughtered at Tunari, while three others were missing after they went to pack some of their valuables and get foodstuffs for their families.
“The presence of the mobile police personnel deployed in the area, however, prevented the attackers from razing Sabon Gida village. I use this medium to appeal to the people to avoid going to the hinterlands until the security situation in the area improves,” he said.
In a related development, the Chairman of the Takum LGA, Shiban Tikari, has described as laughable, the statement by the Nigerian Army that Mr. Danjuma America and Danasabe Gasama, arrested in the middle of the night in Takum recently, were perpetrators of crises in the Takum and Ussa council areas of Taraba State.
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Texas Chukwu, had in a statement said Danjuma and Gasama were arrested on Friday by troops deployed in a community in Takum for Operation Ayem Akpatuma following a tip-off.
Tikari urged the military to stop diverting attention of Nigerians from the main issues of their complicity in the attacks and killings going on in the state.
“We have been crying on top of our voice that army operatives of Operation Ayem Akpatuma were out for something.
“How come they have not told Nigerians about the arrest of the mastermind of the attack in Jandeikyula in the Wukari LGA where over 25 people were killed?
“They have not arrested those killing our people in villages since the killings in Takum and Ussa. These two boys they have arrested are indigenes of this area. Would they burn their houses and kill their own people?
“We have told them the routes the attackers are using to attack us, but rather than go to these areas and arrest the armed Fulani militia attacking us, they have been busy harassing our people.
“As we speak, the Commanding Officer of the 93 Battalion Takum, Lt. Col. Ibrahim Gambari, has withdrawn all soldiers at various checkpoints in the Takum LGA,” he said.
Tikari said he had tabled his complaint on the action of the military before an investigative panel on the collusion of the military with bandits to kill people in the state.
Taraba, army disagree over withdrawal of troops
The Taraba State Government on Saturday expressed shock over an alleged sudden withdrawal of the military contingent deployed in the state to enforce peace and security.
In a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Mr. Bala Dan-Abu, the Taraba State Government lamented what it described as unceremonious withdrawal of the troops from the state.
“The surprise is that no reason was given for the withdrawal and government was not aware.
“At the moment the reason for the withdrawal of the soldiers is not known to us,” the statement read in part.
The Chairman of the Donga Local Government Area, Nashuka Ipeyen, told one of our correspondents that soldiers deployed in trouble spots in the local government started pulling out around 1am on Saturday.
Ipeyen said he contacted the Commanding Officer, 93 Battalion Ada Barracks Takum, Lt. Col. Ibrahim Gambari, who said he ordered the withdrawal of the soldiers.
“I complained to him over the withdrawal of soldiers because we received information that some villages were going to be attacked, but he told me he couldn’t risk the lives of his soldiers.
“The commanding officer insisted that he was withdrawing the soldiers until the state government wrote an undertaking that it would take responsibility if any of the soldiers was attacked or killed.
“I don’t know why the state government would have to do that for the soldiers when the attackers are killing civilians on a daily basis,” he said.
But the Assistant Director Army Public Relations, 23 Brigade Yola, Maj. Kamarudeen Adegoke, said no soldier was withdrawn from the local government area.
“Our men are still stationed at their various duty posts. I don’t know where the state government got their information that troops have been withdrawn, but what I can confirm to you is that our men are fully on the ground,” he said.
Our correspondent, who was in Donga, noted that five trucks conveyed army personnel out of the local government area, while checkpoints along Rafinkada-Donga Road were not manned.
Meanwhile, the Internally Displaced Persons taking refuge in five primary schools in Donga town in the Donga LGA have lamented the hardship they face.
Mrs. Terhemba Nyijimi, a 42-year-old mother of 10 who is one of the IDPs at Dozinga Central Primary School, told our correspondent that lack of water, food, medicines and clothing were major challenges in the camp.
The Chairman of the Donga LGA, Nashuka Ipeyen, who took journalists round the five camps, said the number of the Internally Displaced Persons had risen close to 5,000 from the initial 4,000 about a week ago.