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AK-47 wielding herdsmen occupy 7 communities in Edo State, villagers flee

StanbicIbtc
Leaders of seven communities in Edo State have called on the state government and security agencies to save them from those they termed criminal herdsmen terrorising them.

They lamented that their areas have been besieged by the herders who they accused of kidnapping, killing, raping and destroying their farms.

The affected places in Orhionmwon Local Government Area include Ologbo-nugu, Umoghun-nokhua, Orogho, Owuo, Urhehue, Evboesi and Evbonogbon.

They are at the border of Edo and Delta states by River Ethiope, off Benin-Abraka Road. The people lamented that their farmlands have also been destroyed by the herdsmen.

Narrating his experienc, a victim, Gaius Osifo, who hails from Evboesi, said his three farms were destroyed, saying he can no longer access them for fear of being killed by the herders.

Osifo said, “On January after the New Year celebration, I decided to go to my farm. “I went with bamboo to work in my barns.

“When I arrived, I discovered that the herdsmen had destroyed the yams I harvested. “I had to quickly take my motorcycle and ran back to the village so that I wouldn’t be attacked.

“They could have killed me. I went home to tell my people what had happened. “The next day, I went with other farmers to the farms to gather what was left. We reported the matter to our Enogie, Duke. “Ever since the incident happened, we have not been going to the farm. They ate the tubers of yam. “And the ones they did not eat, they cut them into pieces. I now find it difficult to feed and don’t have money since I cannot harvest anything to sell.

“There was a time we drove all the herdsmen in Evboesi away and I believe this set came from a neighbouring community or Delta State. “They ate our plantains and other cash crops.

“Since I was born, I have never seen this kind of thing in our farms. My father cultivated here for many years before I took over after his death. “I don’t know who brought these herdsmen. For now, I only pray to God to help us as nobody can go to the farm to harvest plantain.

“Nobody can harvest cassava to make garri. We have abandoned the remaining crops that we are yet to harvest. “I went to Abudu to report to the police, but they said I should go to Ugo to also report to the police there.  “I showed them the pictures of the destroyed farm and crops. The police promised to call me, but I have not heard from them. “We want government to come to our aid and provide security. The crops they destroyed in my farm are over N3m.”

In a save our soul letter to Governor Godwin Obaseki, the people said they are scared for their lives.

They said herdsmen now threaten their ancestral homes. The letter was signed by 12 elders from the seven communities. They include Nathaniel Ogbemudia, Ologbo-nugu, Charles Aghavbere, Ologbo-nugu, Okoro Nelson Okuonghae, Edward Omomagiowawi, Umoghun-Nokhua, Christopher Aisagbonbu ,Umoghun-Nokhua, Victor Levels Urhehue and Osaro Lease.

Others are Victor Onoko ,Evbonogbon, Friday Egbon, Evbonogbon, Alex Eko, Friday Omoruyi and Chief Johnbull Evbenobose.

In the letter, they said: “Our farmlands from centuries ago spread from Benin-Abraka Road to Ugo- Oben – Jesse Road, all under Ugo and Iguelaba police divisions. For about four years now, some fierce-looking herdsmen accompanied by AK47- wielding teenagers have invaded our farmlands with hundreds of cattle. “They destroyed our crops and fed their cattle with our produce comprising yams, plantains, cassava and more.

“We took pains to identify the owner of the cattle whom we found to be a Fulani merchant based in Warri. “In our latest contact with him, he disowned the cattle and herders now in our farms, insisting that they are cattle rustlers with stolen cattle from Kogi State. “He said he has since taken away his herders and cattle from our neighbourhood, adding that those now terrorising us are common criminals.

“He said he has since complained at Ugo Police Division that the herdsmen currently terrorising us are common criminals. “He advised us to cry to the government to comb the bush with a joint military team and flush out the bandits.

“We are now forced to cry to our governor as the bandits have started killing our people, raping our wives and daughters.

“Late January 2022, they killed a father and his 3 children at Evbonogbon Their bodies are still in the mortuary.

“On February 2, 2022, they abducted three women from Ologbo-nugu, tortured and raped them serially.

“They released them with a warning to their husbands that they will be coming to wipe out the various communities soon.

“Since then, we have sighted them at different points spying on our communities.

“On Thursday, February 3, they abducted seven other women from Evbonogbon and treated them exactly as they treated the three from Ologbo as narrated above.

“Now we are afraid to enter our old farms to harvest or start cultivating new farms. There are several other victims.

“However, on Friday, January 4th, the gallant vigilante team of Ologbo-nugu stormed the occupied farmland and arrested one of the bandits that raped their women.

“The arrested bandit has been handed over to Edo State Police Command and he has confessed to the crime, but refused to name members of his gang or show us where they hide their weapons, which he initially volunteered to do.

“Hence we are crying to our governor to order his Joint Military Task Force to lead our vigilante groups to comb the area and flush out the criminals from our land before they kill more law-abiding citizens.”

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