A veteran labour leader in Imo State and former Chairman of the Imo State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists –NUJ Ben Osuagwu, has strongly condemned the recent midnight invasion of some communities in Ezinihitte Mbaise Local Government Area by cattle herders with their cows who were chased away by some youths in the area.
Osuagwu also condemned the decision that the communities whose areas, farmlands and crops worth millions of naira were destroyed by the cows should pay eight million naira (N8m) compensation to the herdsmen for alleging that 55 cows were missing in the area. He said that the decision should be other way round.
In a press statement in Owerri, the former Imo NUJ Chairman said that the herdsmen breached so many laws of the land as at the time the incident happened and therefore should be charged to Court instead.
According to Ben Osuagwu, as at the time of the incident till date, Nigeria with the entire world have been battling to find solution to the Corona Virus disease that has shaken the entire universe. As a result various governments declared Lock Down Order, Stay At Home Directives and in Imo State, Curfew was imposed in all parts of the state from
6pm- to 6am and wondered why the herdsmen should disobey the law and move about by such time in the night yet, there were security agencies in all the roads they traversed, and none could stop them.
In addition, Osuagwu said the herders breached the Imo State law and the South East Zonal Law on Anti-grazing in the region. He said that instead of the powers that be to blame the herdsmen for disobeying the law and moving into peoples territory late in the night when there was Lockdown, Stay At Home Orders and Curfew, the vigilant Youths and their Communities are being punished for protecting their areas.
Osuagwu wondered what would have been the plan B of the so called herders if they had moved unnoticed pointing out that in most places they visited the same way they wrecked havoc adding that they usually start by moving around with their cows as a ploy.
The trade Unionist noted that when the incident happened, the owners of the cows went round the communities with the Security Agencies and they could only trace one or two places where what they said were their two cows were slaughtered. When they visited one other place where a cow was slaughtered, they said that the blood of the cow was not their own cow which goes a long way to show that they have blood covenant with their cows or they have a means of identifying their cows.
Osuagwu maintained that if really 55 cows were missing as they claimed, they would have used some mechanism of identifying the blood of their cows to find where they were. He wondered how the people could be asked to pay what was not verified only based on what the cow owners said.
Osuagwu called on Imo State Government to intervene and cancel the decision of asking the people of Ezinihitte or Ezinihitte Local Government Council to pay eight million naira compensation to the herders. He said that the rumor making round the state that Ezinihitte Local Government Council has paid the eight million naira to the herders is highly regrettable.
He pleaded with the State Government to take over the responsibility of such compensation pointing out that if the communities of Ezinihitte Mbaise or the Local Government Council are allowed to pay such a compensation to the herders, the situation may escalate to other communities in not only Imo State but to various states and their communities across the federation. It could lead to a situation where any place they are asked to leave they will claim that so many number of their cows are missing. This situation portrays a dangerous trend if not checked immediately.
Osuagwu advocated the pacifying of the communities whose areas and culture were desecrated by the herders, adding that those who breached the law should be punished. He said that the youths of those areas should be commended for their vigilance rather than blame them.
Osuagwu drew attention to what happened in Rivers State on Thursday May 7, 2020 when a trailer load of cows and some almajiris were apprehended during the lock down, stay at home period and the State Government directed that the cows and the truck be auctioned while the almajiris were turned back to their states. Such a decision is applauded as it will serve as a deterrent to others that nobody is above the law and people should respect the law of other states.