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January 30, 2020 at 7:08 AMLambert
By Chinedu Adonu
ENUGU– HERDS were let loose by herders in Oji-Agu in Akpugo community, Nkanu East Local Government Area of Enugu State, where they invaded and destroyed a rice farm worth over N17 million.
This happened in the face of the forest guards set up by the Enugu State Government to protect the rural areas from criminal activities such as the case at hand.
Activities of the herders, some of whom engaged in criminal activities like kidnapping was the reason the South-East governors agreed to set up local vigilantes in their various states which are backed by-laws made by their state assemblies.
The herders have been frequently accused of wanton destruction of people’s farms, raping and killing of women, kidnapping and other criminal activities.
Enugu State is on record for setting up a rural-based security outfit known as Forest Guards, constituting 1,700 able-bodied men of 100 per Local Government area; and magnanimously equipped with over 260 vehicles, 260 motorcycles and other security gadgets to help secure the farms in all 260 wards in state.
But critics have pointed out that some of them only hover around council headquarters leaving other parts of the council at the mercy of criminal elements.
Critics said the attack on the rice farm in Oji-Agu, Akpugo community should be a wakeup call to them.
Lamenting the massive destruction of the rice farmland, the Manager of Excellent Integrated Farms Ltd, Mr. Ekene Uzodinma, said that herds of cattle ate up over eight hectares of rice farm belonging to the company.
Uzodinma alleged that the herders also made away with some heaps of unprocessed padded rice stored in the farmland, which was waiting to be sent to the milling machine.
“From the market value of local rice now, the eight-hectare should produce at least 80 tons of rice as a finished product and it is nothing less than N17 million in evaluation”, he disclosed.
“Currently my workers, other farmers and villagers are afraid to go to the farms again due to the unrelenting activities of the herders”, the farm manager said, pointing out that the herdsmen are even threatening to brutally deal with anybody stopping their cattle from grazing in the farms.
“Initially, we tried our best to send them away especially during the rainy season and the swampy nature of the rice farm also kept the herdsmen and their herds away.
“However, when we started harvesting and the dry season rolled in; in early December, we were constantly chasing them away until December 15 when they started coming into the rice farmland during the late evening and night hours.
“On that fateful day, I was summoned to the farm by my workers at about 7 p.m. when they were overwhelmed in chasing away hundreds of them and before the next morning, they had eaten up and totally devoured and devastated the whole rice farm”, he lamented.
Uzodinma said that he had written twice to the state governor, police commissioner, other security agencies and the state Farmers/Herders Peace Committee for about a month now but there was no response and no phone call from these quarters.
“It is only the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps that came to the scene of the devastating and anger-provoking farm to ask some questions, took some notes and pictures”, he said.
He said that he was exploiting diplomatic means to seek redress and get the authorities to intervene especially as the company plans to cultivate 200 hectares of farmland in the state this year by involving no fewer than 100 youths in agriculture.
“It is shocking that we do not have political authorities and law enforcement agencies that really care about the people as activities of these herdsmen and their cattle had made many villagers not to go to farms any longer. ”
Why should herds of cattle graze at night? Why a large number of herds should be controlled by underage youth.
“What is the fate of farming and government plans to return youths and people to the farm in the state and boost the state economy through farming. What is the fate of various Federal Government farming
intervention programmes as the farms are no longer safe for our people”, Uzodinma wondered.
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