he Ogoni Elders Forum, also known as GboKabaari Ogoni, on Monday, said it is compelled to raise an urgent alarm over the menacing encroachment on farmlands in some Ogoni communities by armed herdsmen who brazenly graze cows on farms.
In a statement signed by Monday Abueh, Chairman, and Desmond Nbete, Secretary of the Ogoni Elders forum alleged that for the past weeks, armed Fulani herdsmen have occupied vast areas of farmlands under effective cultivation in the Ogoni communities of Baa Luekun, Kpaa, Seme Luekun and Dae in the Khana Local Government Area and Eteo in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The statement read thus: “The invaders, armed with sophisticated weapons, especially the dreaded AK-47 rifles, some of which are strapped to their cows, have driven away farmers from their farmlands, forcibly occupied the farmlands, and are grazing their cows on cultivated crops.
“We are particularly concerned by the fact that when confronted by community leaders and representatives of our people, they threatened mayhem and even boasted that the powers-that-be and the security agencies are aware of their presence, and would decisively deal with our people if further confronted.
“With some sense of deja vu, when we became aware of arrangements by HYPREP for the drafting of soldiers to Ogoni communities ostensibly to provide ‘security services’ for the Ogoni clean-up and remediation project, we vigorously protested against the plan via letters to both the Vice President and the Minister of Environment. We saw the planned militarisation of our land as a ploy with some sinister motives since we could not understand why such militarisation would be needed for a clean-up exercise that we, as a people, enthusiastically want to be properly carried out to save our lives and environment. The current invasion by armed herdsmen and their boastfulness that they are being ‘protected’ by security agents now seem to justify our worst fears.
“We want to raise this alarm to the authorities-that-be and alert all lovers of justice in the world that our people cannot afford to be victims of another pogrom. We have had a pitiably sad history in recent times of being massively killed, as well as having the very basis of our livelihoods devastated by decades of wanton environmental devastation. Our people mainly depend on subsistence farming as their source of livelihood and sustenance and do not want any further attempt to add the menace of the marauding invasion by these armed herdsmen to the toxic mix. “We are, therefore, calling on the government and its apparatus to protect our lives and property as a people even as we demand the immediate evacuation of these herdsmen and their cows from our farmlands. The lives and livelihoods of our people cannot and must not be sacrificed for cows!”