Indegenes and residents of Odighi community in Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo State yesterday protested to the palace of Oba Ewuare II of Benin, and thereafter to Edo State Police Command Headquarters following incessant attacks by Fulani herdsmen and arrest of members of their comminunity since March 27 this year, and that there has not been any information on their whereabouts.
They said men of the Edo State Police Command have been raiding and arresting their members over the alleged killing of Fulani herdsmen, and for setting ablaze their make shift camps in the forest. Mr Idukhase Ikuvbogie, one of the protesters and an undergraduate said “my brother, Alex Ikuvbogie was shot on his leg by the police”. He added that “the community elders decided to form local vigilante groups to keep watch over our community, after all efforts to get the police and government to provide us with the necessary protection”. He added that the fulanis have taken over our forests.
One of the protesters, Mrs Odion Amayo said they fled into the bush on Tuesday and Wednesday nights in March this year when policemen stormed the community. She added that doors and windows to their family home were shattered by the police and that they were yet to return home. We can’t go to our homes, we can’t go to farms anymore, she said.
Another man who said his name is Mr John Aghahowa said: “I am over 60 years old. We can no longer go to the farm. Any time we go to the farm, we always run back home. We ran away when the police came to arrest people in the village. Our doors and windows were broken.”
The protesters said the Fulani herdsmen warned them not to enter the bush for any farming activities this year.
The protesters were armed with various inscriptions on their placards, “Fulani herdsmen have made us orphans”, herdsmen have driven us from our community”, no farm for Odighi people”, “Obaseki must come to our aid and herdsmen must go”, release our husbands and children to us”
Their spokesman, Mr. Osaro Amayo, a youth leader, said their protest was to let the world know about their suffering in the hands of herdsmen and the police.
“We came here in respect of what is happening in our community by Fulani herdsmen. We in Odighi community and neighboring Odiguetue community are being terrorized by fulani herdsmen. They rape our wives and kil our farmers; taken over our land and their cattle eat our crops”. Meanwhile, we made several reports to the police, and protested to both Edo State House of Assembly and to the Governor in the past to no avail. These processes were facilitated by prominent sons of our community, Mr Monday Agharowa, Mr. Johnson B. Amayo, Mr. Sylvester Ikuvbogie, Mr. Edwin Aigbe, Mr. Asien Omoruyi, including myself. These people’s farms were among those destroyed and set on fire by Fulani herdsmen”.
Also speaking, another protester, Mr Peter Omoruyi said: “We want the government to hear us now as this is not the first time we will be protesting against the wantom destructions and attacks by the fulani herdsmen. He added that “our brothers were arrested and we have not heard anything about their locations or whether they are still alive or not. Some of them have gone into hiding for fear of being arrested and probably killed.
“They are killing our people but if you kill one of their cows, the whole world will hear and the police will come after you”. Are we not one Nigeria? Are we not serving the same country? Are we slaves in our own lands? These are the many questions that bothers them, according to Mr. Omoruyi.
“Governor Obaseki said we need agriculture. This is agriculture we are talking about now. if you want to load plantain in my community, you will load eight trucks a day but today we don’t have any plantain again. They destroyed our crops including pineapple, cocoyam; they will root off your cassava and give the tubers to their cattle. What they are saying is that they will not feed their cattle with elephant grass, that plantain is better than elephant grass.” This is sad because we seems to be treated as slaves in this country. In one of our earlier protects, our brother and one time commissioner in this state said he was shocked that the police raided his community and alleged that a conspiracy was unfolding.
He said: “I spoke with the commissioner of Police to protest the humiliation meted to our people who heeded an advice by the DPO at Ekiadolor to go to the Police Command in a Benin City to formally lodge a complaint against the invasion of the community by Fulani herders firing AK 47 rifles resulting in some fatalities.
“I am simply unable to understand why people should now be afraid in their ancestral land because cows must graze. Guess what, those who went to the police command spent the whole day at the CID more or less detained and were asked to sign an undertaking to be of good behavior. Can you beat that? The victim/complainant becoming the accused/defendant at the police command. This was a few years back when some of our brothers were arrested for allegedly disturbing fulani herdsmen’s business.
“I protested this to the Commissioner of Police. He sounded nice and officious. I perfectly understand he has a job to do. He said they had information that four Fulani herders were killed.”
The Commissioner of Police (Police CP) could not be reached for comments. We want everyone to know that fulani herdsmen have sacked us from our ancestral homes and farms. Many have relocated to their houses in Benin City.