There is palpable tension in the Seven Communities of Ekpetiama Kingdom in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State over protest by indigenes and farmers over alleged illegal grazing and destruction of farm lands by suspected fulani herdsmen.
The angry indigenes of affected communities,made up Gbarantoru, Tombia, Agudama, Bumoundi, Akaibiri, Boumondi Gbene and Ikibiri. in their protest to security agencies,want government and security agencies to prevail on Herdsmen who lead cattle to graze in the area to desist from destroying their farmlands.
The farmers, community leaders and inhabitants of the Kingdom alleged that the activities of some of the Herdsmen who according to them are unable to control their herds of cattle which ravage their crops.
They appealed to the Authorities to wade into the matter in order to prevent any breakdown of law and order.
According to the Communities, “During the dry season when the area is not flooded, community members often engage in farming, planting crops such as cassava, water yam, potato and plantain.However, there seem to be tension in recent times between farmers and herdsmen over alleged destruction of their farms and crops.”
The Ibenanaowei of Ekpetiama Kingdom, King Bubraye Dakolo,who confirmed the development, draws the attention of government and security agencies to the plight of his people, calling for urgent measures to address the situation before it degenerates.
‘What is happening now is a recipe fordisaster.It is very difficult to watch your crops which are doing well being eaten up by cows.Imagine your one hectare of land you have managed to till at a great cost in terms of money, sweat and energy is now being devoured by some animals”.
“So, you go and plant water yams, cassava and plantain, by the time you realize it, they have been devoured.It could spark some clash someday between farmers and herdsmen’, King Dakolo posits.
A farmer based in Tombia community, Ibomo Odigi narrates her experience: ‘This Malu(cattle) they brought here, they have destroyed all our water yam, cassava.Some of the herdsmen are even armed with guns.They said everybody should go to farm and that is what we have done but these cattle have eaten everything. One woman is lying critically ill at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital with High Blood Pressure after her crops were destroyed’
Another farmer from Agudama, Preye Kala-Okpoya has her own story to tell: ‘Last month, they invaded my farm and destroyed everything.Last year, the same thing happened in my farm and when I went to look at it, I saw their guns hidden there’
Head of the Yenagoa Office of the Environmental Rights Action, Alagoa Morris says timely intervention by relevant authorities would avert any imminent danger.
‘This might escalate into violence if nothing is done and we don’t want violence.The Herdsmen are not n total control of their cattle which veer off to eat crops and plants in farmlands rather that feed on grasses.The relationship between the farmers and herdsmen is getting to the level where it is no longer healthy.We think the government should come in to ensure that anything that would lead to bloodshed is averted. It should be live and let live’, he asserted.
Some days ago, some of the farmers in Ekpetiama Kingdom took to the streets to protest the destruction of their crops and farmlands by cattle led by the Herdsmen.