Favour Okugbo, a 14 year old girl, who was allegedly raped and assaulted by a herdsman.
The victim narrate how the incident happened; “I went to the farm to fetch vegetables when I was attacked by a Fulani herdsman. He came to our farm with his cows and crossed the cow around; he asked me if am with water and food, I said no. He now went and got more cows to surround me. He told me that if I allow him to have sex with him, that he will give me N700. I refused and started running away. He chased me and used the back of his cutlass on my back so I fell and he raped me”.
Activities of herdsmen
Okugbo of Umuifi community of Anioma-Isu in Onicha local government area of Ebonyi state, has therefore fervently called on the Ebonyi state government to look into activities of herdsmen in the community.
On the fateful day, according to Favour, she went to farm because her parents sent her to get some vegetables when a herdsman whose name was not disclosed, raped her in the farm.
According to our Reporter, the victim who is a student of Union Secondary School, Agueke-Isu, in the area was taken to an undisclosed medical facility for treatment.
Narrating her ordeal, the teenager said she has been sad over the incident, and called on relevant authorities to not only bring her attacker to book but also check the activities of herdsmen in Umuifi community in order to avert such incidents involving young girls in the near future.
Girls no longer safe to go to the farm
Hear hear: “I feel sad. I want the government to come to my aid as young girls like me are no longer safe to go to the farm and help our parent. The state government should make sure the arrested Fulani herdsmen is prosecuted according to the law. Every herdsmen with bad intention should leave our land.”
According to the teenager, she is demanding justice.
Threat to agriculture revolution
Chairman of the community, Festus Nwachukwu, who confirmed the incident, condemned the activities of herdsmen in the community, describing it as a threat to the agricultural revolution of the state considering how the herdsmen had been destroying their farm produce.
Nwachukwu also said the herdsmen activities were threatening the peaceful coexistence of the Onicha people.
He said, “even though the suspect has been arrested by the police, the act that was committed by the herdsman is an abomination to our land and we are going to carry out a cleansing rite ceremony on the land so that it will remain fertile.
“The herdsmen are destroying our farms, if you want to talk to them they will threaten you with knives, our major occupation is farming, we can no longer farm because of this menace, they are fond of using their cows to destroy our farmlands and crops.
Used the knives to beat her
“The government policies on agriculture are being threatened in Onicha LGA. I came back from church on Sunday of 9th April, and learnt that this girl was raped by a Fulani man when she went to the farm to get vegetables, and that if she refuses he will kill her, he used the knives to beat her on the back and then raped her.
“What has happened was an abomination in our land, the man has damaged the fertility of the land and we are going to use cows, fouls and many cartons of beers and palm wine to bless the land.”
Speaking on the development, a member of the State Committee on Herdsmen, Amechi Oken, who extolled Governor David Umahi , for putting machineries in place to checkmate the excesses of herdsmen in the state added that the Committee usually visit locations were skirmishes between herdsmen and farmers occur in order to proffer solution.
Although the State Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Loveth Oda, could not confirm the incident, sources in the state police command did not deny knowledge of the incident and promised to carry out further investigation.
Umahi, Bodejo warned on the clashes
It will be recalled that disturbed by the incessant loss of lives resulting from clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Ebonyi state, Governor Umahi too a drastic step to address the development, saying the clashes “are capable of igniting war if not carefully addressed”.
Umahi stated this in March this year, during a security meeting on the heels of attacks on some farmers in Enyanwu Igwe Igbeagu community of Izzi Local Government, by suspected herdsmen which left at least four persons dead with two others in critical condition.
Like Umahi, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria also warned.
This came through the National Chairman of Myetti Allah, Bello Bodejo, in Abakaliki during the security meeting called by the governor.
Both Umahi and Bodejo called for caution in handling the crisis.
Leaders of cattle herders in the South-east and South-south states, residents of the troubled community, as well as all the security chiefs in the state attended the meeting.
Describing the killings in Enyanwu Igwe village as unprovoked, the governor ordered herdsmen around the area to ”leave the place until he can calm the embittered villagers.”
”It is unprovoked killings, life is so sacred. You can’t kill people as if they are fowls. Izzi people are warriors. I physically held them not to go for retaliation. The herdsmen there in Izzi have to leave the place for now until I can calm everybody down. The way we are going, it can provoke national war and it will not help anybody,” the governor said.
”The lives of every Ebonyian is very dear to me. God forbid, I can’t withstand where 76 people were killed like in Benue, I can’t withstand it. Some people may be fighting to die but we fight to live, let’s use wisdom and handle the matter,” he added.
He regretted that agreement reached between the state and herdsmen in the area for peaceful co-existence ”had been destroyed”.
We must abide by these rules
According to the governor: “We banned under-aged herders, we banned night grazing in the state. We have no grazing routes in Ebonyi which means that nobody has the right to ‘carry’ cattle by route to Ebonyi State and we agreed on that. We also agreed with the herdsmen that the first offender must be prosecuted. We also said that no farmer should go to farm with gun and no herdsmen should rear cattle with gun or machete, it is stick. We must abide by these rules”.