Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi state has warned that the incessant killings during herdsmen and farmers clashes can ignite war in Nigeria if not handled carefully.
Umahi made this statement at a meeting on Tuesday, March 14, while reacting to an incident on Monday, when suspected herdsmen had attacked some farmers in Enyanwu Igwe Igbeagu community of Izzi local government.
Premium Times reports that leaders of cattle herders in the southeast and south south states, residents of the affected community, as well as all the security chiefs in the state attended the meeting.
The governor ordered herdsmen living in the affected community to vacate immediately to avoid further violence and let the government interfere and calm the people down.
Reacting to the killings in the Enyanwu Igwe community, Umahi said: ”It is unprovoked killings, life is so sacred. You can’t kill people as if they are fowls. Izzi people are warriors. I physically held them not to go for retaliation. The herdsmen there in Izzi have to leave the place for now until I can calm everybody down. The way we are going, it can provoke national war and it will not help anybody.
“The lives of every Ebonyian is very dear to me. God forbid, I can’t withstand where 76 people were killed like in Benue, I can’t withstand it. Some people may be fighting to die but we fight to live, let’s use wisdom and handle the matter.”
The governor said there was a prevous agreement between the state and herdsmen to ensure peaceful co-existence but the agreement has been ignored by the herders.
He said: “We banned under-aged herders, we banned night grazing in the state. We have no grazing routes in Ebonyi which means that nobody has the right to ‘carry’ cattle by route to Ebonyi State and we agreed on that. We also agreed with the herdsmen that the first offender must be prosecuted. We also said that no farmer should go to farm with gun and no herdsmen should rear cattle with gun or machete, it is stick. We must abide by these rules.”
Also speaking at the meeting was the national chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Bello Bodejo. He agreed with the governor that the state has been accommodating to herdsmen and promised that the leaders of the group will meet with herdsmen across Ebonyi state to speak with them.
He said: “Ebonyi state is very peaceful and it is accommodating to our members. It has been so accommodating to our members even more than some Northern states of the federation and we condemn these killing in this state. There are minors and migrants who are causing these problems. There are also criminals moving as cattle herders who are causing these havoc. The chairmen of Myetti Allah of various states in the South-east and South are all here and we are not happy with what happened, we condemn these killings in totality.”
Izzi local government area of the state which left four persons dead.
ASP Loveth Odah, the state police public relations officer, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the dead included three natives of the community and a herdsman. She disclosed that the incident had occurred when one of the victims had gone to tie down his cow inside his farm to feed it in the traditional way. She said it was in the process of this that he had encountered herdsmen whose cows were also feeding inside the farm.