Illustration: Fulani herdsmen

By Emmanuel Acha

The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) said no fewer than 10 herders have been killed in parts of Ebonyi State, including Afikpo between May and September 2020.

The Southeast Zonal Chairman of MACBAN, Alhaji Gidado Siddiki, disclosed this on Thursday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Enugu while raising concern about worsening security situation in parts of Ebonyi State.

Siddiki who was reacting to the Sept. 28, 2020, attack on herders’ settlement in Ukwuachi Forest, Ishieke, in Ebonyi Local Government Area of the state noted that until recently, members of the association had enjoyed cordial relationships with their host communities in the state.

He said that the herders in the South East are not violent and have had a good understanding with members of their host communities.

The MACBAN zonal chairman said that in spite of the good relationship they have in the area, the herders in Ebonyi were not finding it easy to do their business due to the hostile environment.

“The Fulani people in the South East are not violent and we are not here to undermine the business of the people of the area.

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“However, we have experienced a lot of challenges in Ebonyi, including the death of our members. I am constrained to say this publicly,” he said.

Siddiki said that the worsening security situation in parts of the state, including Afikpo, had led to the death of no fewer than 10 herders between May and September 2020.

He said that the state government, the state police command and sister security agencies had done their best to contain the situation “but nothing has changed.

“The government and security agencies have been doing their best to stop these attacks on our members and that is why we did not want to complain before now.

“If the situation has gone beyond what the security agencies in the state can contain, then we will be calling on the Federal Government for assistance so that it will not get out of hand,” he said.

He said that it was worrisome that in spite of what their members had suffered, some women were mobilised to protest against them in the state.

Siddiki said that all that the herders are seeking is a cordial and peaceful relationship with the people of the state.

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When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Ebonyi State Command, DSP Loveth Odah, confirmed that some herders had been on the receiving end of some security threats.

Odah said that the Commissioner of Police, Mr Philip Maku, had condemned the recent attack which resulted in the death of two minor herders and had ordered a manhunt for the hoodlums.

“The police commissioner has ordered a full-scale investigation into the matter with a view to arresting the perpetrators who fled the scene after the incident,” she said.

She appealed to the herders to remain calm and not to embark on any reprisal attack, promising that the command will arrest the perpetrators in the interest of justice.

She, however, said that it could be misleading to assume that the attackers are either indigenes of Ebonyi or attribute it to a community attack.

The PPRO said that the herders in parts of Ebonyi were not the only group that was being attacked by hoodlums, adding that natives had also been on the receiving end.

“We cannot conclude that the attackers are residents of Ebonyi, neither can we say it is a community attack. This is because the hoodlums also attack the natives,” she said.

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Odah said that the Fulani community in Ebonyi have a cordial relationship with members of their host communities, adding that they even intermarry and do things in common.

She, however, appealed to herders in the state to observe the grazing law which forbids a minor from leading herds of cattle as well as the movement of cattle in the night in the state.

She named the two herders who died in the attack as seven-year-old Adamu Ibrahim, and Jubril Ibrahim, 15 years old.

Odah urged the association to look inwards as the outcome of previous security breach investigations had revealed the involvement of fellow herders in such attacks.