Following comments credited to Kogi Governor Mr. Yahaya Bello, that the state government was ready to volunteer land for a cattle colony, the Igala speaking people of the Kogi East Senatorial District have dissociated themselves from the move.
According to them, in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, their bitter experiences with Fulani herdsmen informed their position.
Writing under the group, the Igala Project, they cite instances in the last two and half years:
“Mr. President, between June 2015 and December 2017, Igala land has witnessed several incidences of killings as a result of herdsmen violence in several areas including Ebeje where eight people were killed and farms set ablaze, Agbada/Agojeju where 19 people were slaughtered, Edede – two persons were killed, 6 people killed in Oganenigu, three people killed in Ojapata, five people killed in Ojuwo Anawo. All these happened in Dekina Local Government Area.
“The story is not different in Ofu local government area at Ojuwo Omachi and Akpagidigbo where the incessant attacks of herdsmen have claimed the lives of over 20 persons. In Abejukolo and Bagana in Omala Local Government Area, the reign of terror resonates loudly, so much that our people no longer move freely, to and from their farm lands, because of the fear of killings, maiming and rape, with some villages like Ebakume wholly sacked and entire farm produce granaries/silos completely burnt.”
It would be recalled that Governor Bello, had in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mrs. Petra Onyegbule said: “The governor wishes to allay the fears of the citizens of Kogi State, especially on ownership of communal land, that the policy is never an indirect attempt by the Federal Government to take and handover ancestral land to herdsmen.
“To ensure that everyone is carried along in this process, Kogi State, through the Ministry of Agriculture, will soon be embarking on a series of stakeholders’ engagement to sensitise the people, farmers, cattle breeders and other stakeholders on the implementation of the new policy.
“The traditional rulers, leaders of various communities, opinion leaders, religious leaders and the entire citizens will all be carried along in the course of the stakeholders engagement, so that we can collectively study the merits and demerits of the policy.
“This will enable us to jointly find solutions to the demerit and at same time improve on the merits to make it work for our state and for our people without any form of grievances.”
“The insinuations and speculations from various quarters across the nation that the Federal Govern-ment is conspiring to take over communal land and give it to herdsmen is far from the truth. “The planned cattle colonies is for the interest of our people; to ensure their safety, develop and boost agricultural production; in turn boost the economy and a better life for all.
“It is a Federal Government initiative and the Federal Government will fund the project, but we will need to contribute our quota to this laudable initiative at the state level by making land available for the project in Kogi State and ensuring proper implementation to ensure the goal is achieved.”
But the Igala Project group, claiming to represent Igala speakers in Kogi-East cutting across nine LGAs namely Ankpa, Bassa, Dekina, Ibaji, Idah, Igalamela/Odolu, Ofu, Olamaboro and Omala local government areas virtually told Buhari that Governor Bello is on his own, adding that Bello’s venture will eventually lead to breakdown of law and order with killings and wanton destruction of property, because the Igala, who are largely farmers, are not prepared to host Fulani herdsmen or cattle colony masters.
Excerpts of their petition to the President reads further: “Despite the brazen nature of the aforementioned acts of criminality by these would-be occupants of the so-called cattle colony, none of them has been arrested or made to account for these crimes, as these heavily armed cattle herders terrorise our land, flaunting their prowess in the handling of AK 47 rifles and double barrel guns.
“Dear Mr President, our opposition to this move and the hasty approval given by the Kogi State Governor is further reinforced by the inescapable fact that under your Presidency, murderous Fulani herdsmen have enjoyed subtle protection and favouritism to the extent that these herdsmen, who now treat Nigeria as a conquered territory, will eventually go beyond the purview of the so-called colony to destroy farmlands, maim and kill under the slightest provocation.
“In view of the above and many more, we the undersigned concerned people of Kogi-East, Kogi State, North-Central, Nigeria state as follows:
“We do not want cattle colony or grazing reserve in our land. We reject any attempt to convert or transfer the ownership of ancestral lands in Igala land to cattle colony master or owners who operate by killing people, destroying communities wholesale, and destroying farmlands while enjoying government protection from counter attack, arrest or prosecution.We reject attempts to turn Igala land into the next killing field of marauding Fulani herdsmen.”