Less than a week after herdsmen demanded a whopping 750,000 square metres of land for their business in Delta State, suspected Fulani men armed with dangerous weapons have reportedly chased farmers in Obiaruku, Ukwani Local Government Area of Delta State out of their farms and took them over.
According to a Punch report, the incident, which occurred last Saturday also saw the herdsmen taking some of the farmers hostage, adding that the incident has raised tension in the community as the residents gathered on Thursday discussing the fate of the farmers, who had yet to come back home.
Youths from the community working with local vigilantes were, however, said to have stormed the bushes on a rescue mission, against the herdsmen, said to have also seized food items, while residents of Obiaruku called on the relevant authorities to intervene.
The report quoted an indigene of the community, who simply identified himself as Uti, as saying that the farmers had refused to return to their farms since Saturday when the incident occurred.
Uti stated: “The herdsmen held the farmers hostage, drove the Obiaruku people from their farms and put their cows on the farms to eat up cassava and other crops. The people are no longer going to their farms, that one I can ascertain.”
Also, one of the farmers, Mrs Maria Obinta, reportedly said: “On my own farmland, the crops have been destroyed by the herders; I’m no longer going to the farm to harvest my cassava, because cows have eaten up the crops.
“Yes, some people were held hostage. The Chairman of the local government was in Asaba to speak to the Commissioner of Police about the matter. The chairman said he was consulting with security operatives to know what to do so that the people being held hostage can be released. It is almost getting to a week now; people are no longer going to farms; the herdsmen are heavily armed, so we are afraid.”
The Chairman, Ukwuani Local Government Council, Possible Ajede, who confirmed the incident said security agents and community leaders were already on top of the situation.
Ajede stated that due to the rapid response of a combined team of the police and local vigilantes, eight persons earlier held hostage by the herdsmen had been rescued, adding, however, that three natives of the town were still being held.
“It is painful that you are going to your farm only to meet armed herdsmen with their cattle eating your entire investment.
“When we came on board in March, we invited the leaders of the Fulani herdsmen for a meeting, and after that meeting, they appeared to be on a holiday.
“But we heard recently about the hostage and the menace of the herdsmen. So, we mobilized our security operatives into the bush. When they saw the operatives, they abandoned the hostages and took to their heels,” he said.