By: Princess Ekwi Ajide

The history of Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries when they started migrating into Northern Nigeria from the Senegambia region. But during those early time, they were known with sticks and water bottles as their trade marks.  But today, fierce looking men with AK 47 riffles have taken over the profession.

There have been reported cases of conflict between Fulani herdsmen of old with farmers, like they are today and causes of such conflicts have remained destruction of crops, contamination of streams by cattle, zero grazing of land, disregard for local traditional authorities, female harassment, harassment of nomads by host communities youths, indiscriminate bush burning, defecation of cattle on roads, cattle theft, and straying of flock. However, unlike Fulani herdsmen of old, modern day herdsmen resort to killing, maiming and callous destruction of their victim’s farm produce.

The herdsmen are found in countries like Nigeria, Niger Republic, Senegal, Guinea, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Benin Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, and Cameroon. In many of these countries the Fulanis often constitute a minority group but may be regarded powerful. With the recent insurgence in South East Nigeria and as a result of the escapades of these Fulani herdsmen in the region, South East Governors have banned the movement of herdsmen who move about with AK 47 guns and cutlasses and have called on security agencies to implement their decision.

After their meeting in Enugu recently, the governors also resolved to set up a continuous joint air patrol operations to flush out bandits from all forests in the South East. The Chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum; Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State who addressed newsmen after the meeting, said the forum further agreed to put measures in place to restrain movement of herdsmen and their cattle from one place to the other which is a source and point of conflict with the natives and the farmers. And also to restrain the movement of cattle and herdsmen from community to community across farmlands.

Below is the text of the statement of the governor:

“We commend very highly, Governor Lawrence Ifeanyi Uguruanyi of Enugu State on the establishment of Forest Guards in the state. This was part of the decisions of the governors of the region at their meeting. We therefore call on other governors in the area to implement this decision without further delay.
“South East governors never invited the army or were South East governors informed on any of the operations of Python Dance until the operations were already started in the states.
“South East governors would like to write to Mr President to request for a meeting with him and all the south East chiefs on security to douse tension in the region.

“We acknowledge the safety reasons given to us by the honorable minister of Aviation Senator Hadi Abubakar Sirika for the closure of Enugu Airport. It’s a matter of need to save the lives of our people. The deterioration went for a long time but the statues is in such a deplorable situation that it has to be closed to save the lives of our people. “We acknowledge his measures and we are very satisfied with him, with his passion and with readiness to uplift the airport. The honorable minister of Aviation has assured us that the Akanu Ibiam International airport would be constructed to meet the Abuja international Airport standard. “The runway shall be reconstructed and extended and the landing equipment shall be replaced with a better night light landing installation. He has assured us that work will be going on day and night and it shall be completed before December 2019.

“Other works like the cargo airport, the extension of the tarmac buildings that we’re damaged by rainstorm and others are also in the package. The governor assured that two sets of contractors have been pinned down for any of them to be used like Julius Berger which we requested.
“Palliative measure is being arranged and South East governors will have a committee with the ministry of Aviation and the ministry of works to discuss on the palliative measures.
“We are very committed as South East governors to the safety of our people, for the convenience of our people to ease all the inconveniences and this we are going to do. Some states have already started and other states will also follow but in the next one week we will roll out our palliative measures and we assure our people of their safety and we will go back in to continue to discuss safety and security, to discuss safety along these roads that our people will be following as a result of this closure.

For the Sam Mbakwe Airport, the Honorable Minister had already met with Imo Government and there are a number of face lifts to be given, like the barbed wires, the tarmac, the buildings, they are all going to be given face lifts where most of these flights will be diverted to and we are very happy with that.

“South East Governors already have set up security committee. We shall inaugurate them today, one per state and they will play major roles with our security chiefs and of course play major role on the airport closure and diversion of flights. These are the decisions reached at the meeting held recently, by the governors, Governor Umahi said.

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