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Herders Take Over Part Of Delta Community, Sparks Controversies

 

Okpanam, a community, in Oshimili North Local government area, Delta State has been taken over by a large number of Fulani natives, mostly herders. The Fulani, about three hundred (300) in number, have slowly but effectively turned the area into an indigenous community without any proper authorisation or permission from His Royal Majesty Michael Ogbolu, the traditional ruler (Ugoani) of the Okpanam Kingdom.

In a meeting involving the three affected parties, the indigenes of the community, the chairman of Oshimili North LGA, Mr. Innocent Esewezie, and the Fulani leaders, a discussion was raised by HRM Ogbolu in regards to the new unwanted occupants of the community, and a verdict reached in which the Fulani herders were given a 15-day ultimatum to leave their occupied areas.

The indigenes were of the notion that ever since the invasion of the Fulani in the woodlands of Akwukwu-Igbo, Okpanam, and the other communities, there has been a surge in insecurity in the affected communities, with an increase in the rate of killings, kidnapping and maiming of residents, which forced the council to pass an executive order in 2020 under the leadership of Louis Ndukwe, that ordered “all herders and strangers residing in undergrowth of the communities to vacate and relocate to the towns where natives live.”

According to Vanguard, the monarch, who was spoken to on the phone, yesterday, said: “Fulani people just went to occupy one part of Obodogba land belonging to Okpanam community. In our previous engagement, Obi Eluunor told us that anything concerning the Fulani people, we should route it through his office.

“I wrote to Obi Eluuno, I gave him seven days to remove the Fulani people from our bushes.

“Then the Commissioner of Police wrote, fixing a meeting for last week, at the same time, the local government chairman, Mr. Esewezie, came around, asking that we sit down to address the issues. He galvanized the whole of them and we met here in my palace and I told them that the matter is very simple, only that the government in Delta State does not respect the laws made by it.

“During the tenure of the former council chairman, Louis Ndukwe, the council came up with executive order requiring all Fulani people, herders and strangers in our bushes to vacate and come and live with us in the town, but nothing was done.

“Our position is that the chairman of Oshimili North, Esewezie, should give effect to the executive order; we cannot accommodate these people in our bushes. We are predominantly farmers, they bulldoze their way into the bushes, they eat up our farm crops and also rape our women.

“The long and short of it is that we gave them 15 days with which to relocate and that by July 14, 2022, the council chairman will go there (occupied area) himself to witness the evacuation.”

 

Vanguard could not reach Esewezie for comments, but sources said the council boss has waded into the matter and met on Sunday with the herders.

However, a community leader, said: “The council chairman held a meeting with Fulani herdsmen even on Sunday, you know that the former council chairman came up with an executive order in 2020. It has to be implemented.  Few days ago, he also met with Fulani people; he is dealing with the security challenges community by community.

“The truth is that these people (Fulani) went to Okpanam, forcefully took a parcel of land and as we speak, they are turning themselves into a community of over 300 persons without authorisation from the community.

“They just come into any community, bulldoze their way and are doing all sorts of nonsense. Luckily for us, the leadership of the Fulani is cooperating with the council, the police are also cooperating.”

Ndukwe added: “We have agreed with traditional rulers and stakeholders. We have informed the police and other security agencies.

“What we are saying is enough is enough. We do not want to accommodate anybody in our bushes anymore. It is about the security of our people.

“If you want to live in Oshimili North, buy a piece of land and stop living in bushes,” he added. 

The directive of HRM Ogbolu did not sit well with a good number of the Fulani’s which led to them staging a protest on the Benin-Asaba highway, speaking through their spokesperson, Idris Abubakar, they said that they were to be considered legal occupants of Oshimili as they pay their rents.

Further speaking, he said; “The Federal Government should come to our aid so they can allow us stay as legal occupants. The government should come to our aid and halt the council chairman from passing this so-called executive order.

Whoever is living in any place is a legal occupant of that place. We have receipts that they gave to us. We pay tenancy each year.”

In reaction to the protest that had ensued due to their directive, Ndukwe said that their intention was not to victimize any tribe or people but was genuinely out of concern for their safety, by ridding the bushes of criminals using the scrublands to perpetrate crimes.

However, Mr Charles Aniagwu, the state Commissioner for Information while reacting to the development, said the state government was not aware of invasion of part of Okpanam land by herdsmen.

Going on, he said there were some northerners in the area doing menial jobs to earn a living, urging Nigerians to learn to live together as one.

Acknowledging that there were some bad elements from the north, he said it was not enough to label every northerner a herdsman.

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