By Levi Odoh
I was miffed, if not disenchanted, at the way a section of the media has been muddling the circumstances surrounding the unfortunate crisis between the Fulani herders operating from Benue State axis and farmers from communities in Eha Amufu, Isi-Uzo Local Government Area of Enugu State.
Reports have it that the disputes which have left people from the both parties dead started over 15 years ago prior to the inception of the present regimes in Enugu and Benue states and have been lingering because of dangerous politics, disunity and lack of defined leadership among the people of the affected four communities in Eha Amufu – Mgbuji, Agu-Amede, Umujiovu and Ebor – which have boundaries with the Agala community in Benue State.
This was recently confirmed by the Eha Amufu stakeholders during an emergency security meeting with Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State.
This insincerity of purpose has been frustrating the concerted efforts of the Enugu State Governor, Ugwuanyi, in decisively tackling the challenges in Eha Amufu.
It was reported in the national dailies that majority of the Eha Amufu stakeholders who spoke at the meeting had blamed leadership gaps, division, dangerous politics being played among their people, and an attempt by some Fulani herders to “acquire, annex and intimidate the people to occupy their land” as responsible for the killings in the area.
The Eha Amufu stakeholders, according to the reports in the national dailies, also alleged that the Fulani herders had always collaborated with some Benue people to attack their communities to acquire spaces to settle down.
There was also accusation and counter-accusation among the stakeholders over the allegation that some persons from Mgbuji community, years back, sold a part of the village land to the Fulani herders who reside with them, which some factions among the villagers are resisting.
It was revealed at the meeting that while the land was purportedly sold to the herders, another group organized themselves and were logging the economic trees in the village for personal monetary gains. Claims were made that about N50 million realised from the sale of the economic trees which belongs to the community was misappropriated. The factional group used part of the contentious money to buy over some youths to protect them and their business and political interests.
As reported in Thisday Newspaper of December 22, 2022, page 42, “In their separate responses (at the said meeting) Bishop Olinya (Bishop of Eha Amufu Diocese, Anglican Communion), among others, said one of the problems fueling the crisis was the absence of clear cut leadership in the town and politicisation of issues by politicians.”
Also during the meeting, some of the stakeholders were frank to the extent that they accepted that they have failed God and Governor Ugwuanyi by their people’s inability to comply with various resolution mechanisms fashioned out at various peace meetings in the state, requesting that the community should go and apologise to the governor for failing him and the state.
One strange act that has left many in grave suspense is the fact that this is the first time it would be alleged that Benue people are aiding or joining forces with the Fulani herders to carry out attacks on people of a neighbouring state. Benue people and Fulani herders have been engaged in cat and dog fight over the years. Benue State is having boundary issues with Enugu State in that area under attack.
Besides alleged reports that those attacks on Eha Amufu communities were reprisals, the truth must be told that both parties, Fulani herders and Eha Amufu people, have on different occasion attacked and killed each other.
It is quite unfortunate that in an ugly circumstance where a governor is working round the clock to resolve a crisis and put an end to loss of life and property, the people he is trying to protect are taking laws into their hands.
We easily fail to accept the fact that governors in Nigeria as Chief Executive Officers of their states unfortunately do not have full control over the security agencies.
Constitutionally, the security agencies are establishments of the Federal Government and consequently take final instructions from their headquarters in Abuja. In most cases, the security agencies regrettably do not act without confirmation signals from their headquarters.
We tend to forget that such bureaucratic arrangement poses a serious challenge to governors’ efforts towards realising their objective of dealing decisively with security challenges in their various states. Enugu State shares in this ugly experience.
This notwithstanding, Governor Ugwuanyi, since the inception of his administration, has by all measures, placed premium on peace and security, resulting in the enviable status Enugu has enjoyed as one of the most peaceful and safest states in the country. It is on record that the governor through his administration has never abandoned his obligation of providing security for the people of Enugu State. He has rather made several interventions in assisting and boosting the morale of security agencies in the state to effectively discharge their duties – a feat the Service Chiefs in Nigeria and other stakeholders have widely acknowledged and publicly applauded.
Only recently, the Inspector General Police, IGP Usman Alkali Baba was in Enugu to inaugurate the 76 Police Mobile Force Squadron newly constructed by Governor Ugwuanyi’s administration and granted the governor all the requests he made (with Eha Amufu and other areas in mind) regarding deployment of more police personnel and equipment such as drones and Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) to frontally confront and contain unrepentant criminal elements.
Reports equally had it that Governor Ugwuanyi, in the wake of the previous attack on Eha Amufu, stormed the affected communities at night, visited different forests, markets, village squares and other locations where he interacted with the indigenes to obtain first-hand information of the remote cause of the crisis with a view to addressing the lingering issues in the area decisively.
Besides being the first governor to visit Eha Amufu over the 15-year period the crisis has lingered in the area, the governor equally donated N10 million for the immediate needs of the victims, among other interventions.
In view of the above, the allegation that Governors Ugwuanyi and Ortom of Enugu and Benue states respectively are gallivanting with Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State locally and internationally while armed herdsmen have launched massive war against communities in Eha Amufu is not only misleading but also untrue and a biased pronouncement lacking substance in facts and figures, and should be disregarded.
At this juncture, it is pertinent to advise leaders and stakeholders of Eha Amufu to embrace peace as being constantly preached by Governor Ugwuanyi, keep politics out of their communal issues with the herders, unite and cooperate with the state government and security agencies to end the lingering crisis in the overall interest of their people and the state.
It is also crucial at this point for leaders of the Fulani community to rein in their members who adamantly take laws into their hands and escalate the crisis, undermining the frantic efforts of Governor Ugwuanyi in addressing the issue.
The Federal Government-controlled security agencies should as a matter of urgency do everything possible, without any form of bias, to arrest the situation and deal with those taking laws into their hands by killing people and destroying property in the area.
Levi Odoh, wrote from Enugu
Last modified: December 29, 2022