Mega City

Multi-ethnic Edo community united by farming, threatened by herdsmen

Francis Ogbuagu BENIN CITY

 

For those living in the multi-ethnic community, second Abumwenre Ojigbelu Camp in Ovia Northeast Local Government Area of Edo State, they are anxiously praying for return of peace.

 

Recall that some suspected Fulani herdsmen dressed in military uniforms and brandishing AK-47 rifles had on Sunday January 2, 2022 invaded the farming community.

 

The marauders reportedly chased away the villagers taking over their farms, homes and property. The community comprising people from the North, South West, South East and the host Edo State is a rural community devoid of any sense of modernity.

 

The road stretches for more than 30 kilometres on the right of Ekiadolor from the everbusy Benin-Ore road, and is only motorable during the dry season, while its makeshift wooden bridges along the route can only take light weight automobiles.

 

 

The narrow pathway that serves as the road to the community hardly takes two cars at the same time, while members of the community do not think of electricity or telephony, as none of the four major telecom providers’ networks is accessible in the community.

 

But aside from these challenges, the community lives as one, not minding which ethnic group or language is spoken by anyone, their unity is in their farms. The community, which has as its three major crops – cocoa, plantains and cassava – has been enjoying peace, until three years ago when Fulani Herdsmen began to make incursions into their once sedate community.

 

According to Madam Monica Christopher, who has lived in the community for the past 20 years, and has had her plantain farms destroyed by the herdsmen’s cows:

 

“We have not been having problems here before, until the last three years when those Fulani people started attacking us here. They killed some people here in 2020. And they only come here during the dry season.

 

Once the rains start they will go. “So, the last one was last Sunday, (January 2, 2022) when they came here and destroyed our farms, they did not kill or rape anybody. They came with guns and warned us. But, because of fear people ran for their lives.”

 

 

The Odionwere (Village Head) of the community, Pa Solomon Omoragbon said: “Actually, I live in Benin; they said the herdsmen came on Sunday and asked them to go and bring their vigilante members and their guns, and they instructed them that they should call me for dialogue and that we should stop ringing our bell. The bell is for the vigilante or anything that happened in the community.

 

They said henceforth, no more nights that everybody should go inside and sleep. So this morning, I came    back to the community. I didn’t see them, but I saw the half eaten plantains. “I was expecting to hear that they burnt the community, raped and killed some people, but nothing like that happened.”

 

Another member of the community and relation to the Enogie, Osaro Omoragbe said: “They came on Sunday and the way they spoke, we went to Ekiadolor Police Station, but on getting there, they said that the DPO was not on seat, so they asked us to drop our phone numbers, which we did.

 

This morning the Odionwere called to tell us that soldiers are coming, if not, nobody was here again in this community, because of the instructions they gave us. “They were wearing Army camouflage uniforms and said that we should go and bring our vigilantes and their guns.

 

We told them we don’t have any, they asked about the sound they used to hear, we told them it was fireworks. “So, as we were talking, six of them just came out from the bush with AK-47 rifles. They told us that henceforth there were no more fireworks in the community and we all ran away to the neighbouring community.

 

“And this morning they came again  and started shooting and before we knew it they set fire on the farm over there,” he said pointing in the direction.

 

Also speaking, Mr. Pius Osai, a 54-yearold farmer, who hails from Delta State, said they came back this morning from where they ran to and when he got to hi  farm, he saw a young Fulani herder, grazing his cows in his cassava farm.

 

“As I came this morning with my wife, we saw a Fulani boy on my farm. He asked what I was doing here and I told him this is my farm. He said the cassava belongs to their cow, plantain belongs to them, and the cocoa belongs to us. I told my wife to let us go home because our life is important.”

 

Meanwhile, the Edo State Police Command and 4 Brigade Nigerian Army have deployed personnel to the troubled community in an effort to provide protection and keep the peace. The police team, led by an Assistant Commissioner of Police,

 

A B Wase in a joint operation with soldiers from the 4 Brigade, Benin City, led by Major AJ Isa, conducted an on-the-spot assessment of the situation.

 

Speaking to journalists after the assessment, the Police Public Relations Officer of the Command, SP Kontongs Bello said the joint force has gone around the area, to see for themselves and that there was no house burnt, and nobody was killed nor raped. “We want to assure the community and all residents of Edo State that the situation is under control.

 

The state government after seeing the report online sent the delegation to assure those from Edo and Delta states, and those from the North that they should go about their normal business because the joint team is there to maintain peace and order,” he said.

 

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