GOVERNOR David Umahi has asked all traditional rulers across Ebonyi State to start compiling a database of all cattle herdsmen operating within their domains as part of a renewed drive to clamp down on insecurity.
Like most of Nigeria’s 35 other states, Ebonyi has been plagued by insecurity of late as heavily armed Fulani cattle herdsmen and unregistered miners patrol the countryside. These armed men destroy crops, engage in kidnapping, rape women and attack villages whenever they are confronted by local people.
Across southwestern Nigeria, the governors of the six states decided to form a regional security network called Amotekun to combat the menace but in the southeast, the governors opted for community policing to address the problem. Governor Umahi, who is the chairman of the South East Governors Forum, recently held a meeting with all traditional rulers and miners in Ebonyi State in Abakaliki to highlight how the plan will work.
Under Governor Umahi’s plans, traditional monarchs are to collate data on herdsmen operating in the state for easy identification. Pointing out that the decision was reached after series of meetings with security agencies, various committees and representatives of herdsmen in the state, the governor added that the data should include herdsmen’s names, location and the contact phone numbers of their leaders.
Governor Umahi said: “Traditional rulers should hold constant meetings with the herdsmen so that they can identify those from Niger Republic and other areas that foment trouble. We have been living in peace with the herdsmen for several years but still maintain that there would not be movement of cattle from one area to another in the state.”
He urged the traditional rulers and other concerned authorities to agree on grazing locations with the herdsmen where they would be restricted for their grazing activities. In addition, the governor warned that from henceforth, anybody that killed herdsmen’s cows would make double payments with the herdsmen collecting one part and the ministry of local government and chieftaincy affairs, collecting the other.
Governor Umahi said: “I will provide amenities such as water in such locations because the state government does not have the resources for ranching. When the grasses in such areas finish, you should arrange for another location for grazing because we would not tolerate cattle eating or destroying crops on our farmlands.
“Trouble is inevitable but we can handle them maturely through the various committees on herdsmen in the villages, communities and state levels. The herdsmen will be severely warned if they destroy farmers’ crops and when such persists after investigations, the herdsmen would be forced to leave the community.
“We also want to put restraining measures in place to prevent cattle rustling because the cows are dear to the herdsmen while the crops are dear to the farmers. In addition, we would send a bill to the House of Assembly to make it illegal for traditional rulers or town unions to lease mining sites without government’s clearance.”
Samuel Okoronkwo, the Ebonyi State commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs, noted that the ministry had intensified efforts to check the activities of illegal miners, especially those from neighbouring Imo State. Charles Mkpuma, the chairman of the Traditional Rulers Council in the state, pledged that traditional rulers would collaborate with the government to check illegal mining activities.