Edo State Government has warned Fulani herdsmen and local farmers in the state to maintain the peace or face the wrath of the law, saying the government will neither ban grazing nor ban farming.
Speaking during a stakeholders’ meeting to find lasting solution to the lingering crisis between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in the State, Governor Adams Oshiomhole said if not properly managed, the crisis “can escalate beyond what we can manage quietly.”
He said: “Edo State government will prosecute any rapist, any kidnapper, any rustler who takes people’s cows. I think listening to all the stakeholders, whether royal fathers, farmers, Fulani herdsmen, everybody agreed that neither rape, robbery, destruction of farms, rustling of cattle is acceptable. And I think we are all committed to ensuring that we put an end to any of these practices so that all of us can continue to live together in peace, harmony and in security.
“In every conflict, you will find someone you can describe as their oppressor. Somebody might be blamed, but every conflict can be resolved if all the parties approach the solution with honest intentions and whatever agreement reached, we faithfully try to implement. That way, there will be peace. There will be no war without a quarrel, but what matters is the capacity to resolve those quarrels and to continue to live in peace.”
He said, “It is clear to me that Nigeria can only explore ways and means of living together; not ways of how not to live together and create small islands. It’s not going to happen. And even if we isolate the Fulani herdsmen challenge, we still have other pockets of boundary issues in various communities, even within the Benin Kingdom, within the Esanland, within Afemai, others versus others. So, it seems to me therefore that we cannot expect a world without conflicts, but we can develop the skills to manage and to resolve conflicts when they arise. And that is the purpose of this meeting.
“Like the migrant Fulani representative said, ‘you cannot decree a solution, but we can work towards a solution.’ And we have to use both carrot and stick approach. We offer incentives and support to those who want to do honest business and severe sanctions for anybody who breaches the rules of engagement, including imprisonment. The Edo State government will prosecute any rapist, any kidnapper, any rustler who takes people’s cows. Anybody who infringes on the laws will be dealt with firmly without any sentiment. I believe that is the responsibility of government. We must reward good behavior and be hard on bad behavior. That way, people can choose whether to be on the wrong side of the law and suffer from the consequences of breach or enjoy freedom which democracy offers by submitting themselves to the rule of law and conducting their businesses in accordance with agreed rules of engagement.”
He continued, “So, we will follow up on all that we have discussed. I think clearly, the decision that can be deduced from the various suggestions and comments is that we need, not on ad hoc basis, we need to have at least nineteen committees, one committee in each of the 18 Local Government Areas. And the membership will be drawn from the traditional rulers in these local governments, the farmers, community leaders, youth leaders, and then the representatives of the resident Fulani herdsmen, and representatives of Fulani herdsmen in our neighbouring states that might be migrating through our state. Because from my limited understanding of the law and even of our executive capacity, I am not sure we are in a position to decree that nobody shall pass through our boundaries.”
According to Oshiomhole, “The only thing that seems viable is to regulate the conduct of those who are passing through and agree on the way they must behave. And if they deviate, we will impose sanctions, including jail term. And if they kill, we will try them, and if they are guilty, under the law they will also be executed, that is the law of the land. Once we can enforce the law, sustain dialogue, renew our friendship and recognize that we just must live together, nobody should contemplate how not to live together. We can’t ban farming and we can’t ban grazing. The two must co-exist. Therefore, the only responsibility we have as leaders, all of us here are here in our representative capacity. I am the governor today, but I don’t have any greater stake in our peace and security than anyone of you, but this is our country.
The stakeholders’ meeting was attended by security chiefs in the State including the Commissioner of Police Mr. Chris Ezike, the Commandant, 4 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Brig. Gen. Farouq Yahaya, the State Director of State Security Service, local government chairmen, traditional rulers, community leaders, youth leaders, Fulani herdsmen and farmers.
The interactive session enabled the stakeholders to bare their minds on their experiences, the root causes and solutions to the feud between Fulani herdsmen and farmers.