•Our women are sacred, Fulani herdsmen should respect our cultural and religious heritage— Bishop Onaga.
•We don’t want to push anybody away but let them not push us away— Clergymen.
•5 of the suspects have been arrested and now in police custody— Gov. Ugwuanyi.
ENUGU— In what could be best described as a prayer procession rally against the growing menace and repeated attacks perpetrated by the Fulani herdsmen in Awgu, Nimbo and Nsukka communities in Enugu state titled: “An Inter-Diocesan Prayer Procession for Greater Security in the State, in the Wake of Repeated Attacks by Herdsmen in Various Parts of the State,” organized by the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese Most Rev. Father Callistus Chukwuma Onaga in league with the Catholic Bishops of Awgu and Nsukka Dioceses and the Catholic communities in the state.
The rally which took place on Saturday 2nd July, 2016 at the Holy Ghost Cathedral Catholic Church saw a huge number of Catholic faithfuls from different churches in the state, Reverend Fathers and Sisters, including members of different church groups such as Boys’ Scout in attendance. It also witnessed the presence of many Catholic Priests in Enugu state while Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka was conspicuously absent.
|Catholic Bishop of Enugu, Most Rev Callistus Onaga Addressing the protesters|
The rally which kicked off at some minutes after the hours of 10 in the morning, saw the participants carrying different placards and billboards with inscriptions such as: “President Buhari, we want to hear you ‘speak’ on the menaces of Fulani herdsmen,” “No to grazing bill,” “The grazing bill will destroy our country,” “Boko Haram is using herdsmen as cover,” “Relocate and graze your cows at Sambisa Forest,” “Keep all cattle away from our farms,” “Confine all cattle to private ranches and abattoirs,” “Stop the rape of our women,” “Stop killing our people,” “Fulani herdsmen, stop kidnapping our priests,” “God, protect us from violent herdsmen,” and a host number of others.
While addressing BIAFRA WRITERS, newsmen and other media reporters; the organizer of the protest/rally and the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most Rev. Callistus Onaga said they have gathered to offer prayers and make peaceful movements to protest against the menace of Fulani herdsmen.
Decrying the repeated killings, rape of community women and constant clashes between herdsmen and farmers, Bishop Onaga said: “We are here today in order to use prayers and very peace movements to protest or rather say that the conflict between the Fulani herdsmen in this part of the world and our farmers, our women and men is really not good for us and that we’re not happy for what is happening.
|Bishop Onaga Of Enugu Diocese Addressing Biafra Writers And Other media|
“Secondly, that actually, we should produce; our farms here should be able to feed our people and not just been destroyed by some other aspects of economic goods which are cattle, rather that this co-existence we have had before, should continue in a sense but with moderation now because recently we’ve witnessed that the Fulani herdsmen are now acting with some kind of impunity without respect to anybody, without respect to lives and that we’re appealing to government to call them to order.
“It is no more enough to simply say ‘we’re sitting on the problem,’ No, let something be done to stop them from this kind of actions that does not respect our cultural heritage, does not respect our religious heritage, does not respect our rights as citizens of this country.”
On the proposed national grazing bill for Fulani herdsmen by the government, he has this to say: “Grazing bill? We’re saying, let it be dropped, rather we’re proposing ranches, let them stay in a place and not be walking around.
“In Igboland, in the Southeast, we’ve as well people who rear cows and cattle, but they’ve them in a particular places, they don’t go around and they serve the economic needs of the people, they also serve the cultural needs of the people because some of these animals are used for cultural purposes and they feed the people as well. So why can’t it apply to the herdsmen?
“Let them stay in a place. First of all they’ll be able to now stop destroying crops, they’ll be able to stop creating conflicts between our people, the communities and themselves. They’ll help us check the insurgency already ripping lives in this country because a police cannot do anything if they themselves are having their AK 47, who is the criminal, we do not know, so let them now help even the federal government to check crimes in this place by staying in a place peacefully, all we want us peace.”
However, Bishop Onaga declined comments when asked about his assessment of the APC-led Federal government by simply saying, “Am not for that.”
After minutes of sermon, prayers and intercession, the congregation, clergymen, and some school pupils lined up in a queue. In a procession, they proceeded to the exit and entrance gate of the church gate, went round and then returned back to the arena of the rally.
The statement read thus: “For decades, our people here in Enugu State— a peaceful and God-fearing population of predominantly peasant farmers, traders, and civil servants, have played hosts(not without some difficulties) to a succession of Fulani herdsmen and their cattle in various parts of the state. Over the years, there have been frequent disagreements between the herdsmen and the local population, but such were mostly minor and tolerable inconveniences that one should expect in order to make accommodation for another within the same space.
“The most recent and widely reported incident at Nimbo, Uzo-Uwani LGA, in which several of our farmers and fellow citizens were savagely butchered to death in their own homes, was the culmination of a growing culture of impunity, arrogance and dare-devilry among the herdsmen, some of whom have become increasingly lawless.
So far, the responses of the various security agencies to these attacks and needless provocations have not been enough to give the people a sense of being protected by them.
“As responsible citizens, clergymen, spiritual leaders and opinion leaders, we have been praying about and deliberating on these mounting challenges.
At the end of a long prayer session with the members of our flock and after careful consultations with thoughtful men and women across the state, we have come to the following conclusions:
A) That the free grazing of cattle in our area has now become a threat not only to the growing crops, which is the mainstay of our sedentary people, but also to our lives.
B) That the nomadic lifestyle makes policing and the pursuit of criminals much more complex and hazardous, while providing terrorists like Boko Haram operatives with ready cover for penetrating every nook and cranny of our country.
“In the light of this, therefore, we call on the Federal government to drop, without further delay, the so-called “Grazing Bill” which is quite capable of tearing apart the fragile unity of the country. Nigerians are already suffering much on account of the economic hardships in the country at the moment. To add to this by abdicating its responsibility in the provision of security for the people would amount to insensitivity on the part of the government. We equally believe it would be wrong for the government to think that the patience of the people in these difficult times is unlimited.
“We urge all our local community leaders to refrain from entering into agreements with herdsmen or with any other groups of persons that would create room for tension and crisis. We would advise that all such agreements already in existence be renegotiated in a way that would ensure justice for all the parties.”
Governor Ugwuanyi after the press statement, on behalf of his Deputy, Speaker Enugu state House of Assembly and other accompanying state government functionaries, mounted the podium.
In observing the protocols and greeting the congregation, he said: “Recognizing the Catholic Bishops of Enugu, Awgu and Nsukka Dioceses, respected Reverend Fathers and Sisters, Seminarians, School pupils, gentlemen of the press, and all of you brothers and sisters in the Lord here present, I greet you all in the name of God of Abraham, God of Isaac and Jacob.”
|Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu state Addressing the protesters|
“It’s worthy of note that long before now, the church in its wisdom and in obedience of the biblical admonition in 1st Timothy chapter 2 verses 1 to 3, urging us to pray for our leaders, initiated and sustained the prayers for Nigeria in distress and some governance in Enugu state.”
Talking about the incident he said: “It will be a day that will remain ever dark, sad and sullen in the memory of the people of Enugu state and indeed Nigeria at a large. We’re however consoled that the whole world has stood by us, offered us sympathy and solidarity ever since the incident occurred. You’ll recall that in my speech during the burial of the victims, I did assure our people that by the grace of God, such incident will never happen again.”
|Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi Addressing the protesters|
Speaking on the efforts made by his government to prevent further attacks and future occurrences he said: “On our own, we have continued to take necessary measures against the reoccurrence of such incidence in the state. We have reactivated the Neighborhood Watch Association(NWA) in every community in the state and approved the initial seed sum of N100 million to aid the victims.
We also constituted a judicial panel of inquiry to unravel the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident and also determine the best way to prevent this reoccurrence. I am confident that the panel will discharge this responsibilities successfully and satisfactorily.
Read also:ENUGU MASSACRE: BIAFRA WRITERS JOINS SOUTHEAST-CAN/UMUADA UZO-UWANI PROTEST TO ENUGU STATE GOVERNMENT HOUSE.
Continuing, he stated: “At the meeting with the Fulani communities in Enugu state, we collectively condemned the criminal act such as robbery, kidnapping, rape and destruction of farms that are associated with herdsmen and also agree to ban night grazing in Enugu state.
We have also empowered Chairmen of Local government Councils, the whole security meetings in their respective areas.
“We also held a meeting with traditional Rulers and President Generals of Town unions in the state where we took far-reaching decisions on how to prevent future clashes between herdsmen and their host communities.
More importantly we have enjoyed the support of Enugu people who has continued to believe in our leadership and in our ability to handle this matter satisfactorily.”
Read also:ENUGU MASSACRE: BIAFRA WRITERS VISIT TO NIMBO/UKPABI COMMUNITY.
Reiterating his commitment in ensuring that the lives and properties of the people of the state are protected he said: “On the issues you have raised in this rally, I wish to state that I address you today not only as a Catholic but as your governor and the Chief Security Officer of Enugu state.
While taking my oath of office, I swore to do everything within our powers to preserve the security of lives and properties of the people of Enugu state. You can be assured that I’ll not fail you in this responsibility and be further assured that whatever message you wish to convey through me to the appropriate authorities in Abuja will be properly delivered.”
Regarding the controversial grazing bill he said: “I also assure you that your decision on this matter will be duly conveyed to members of Enugu state in the House of Representatives and also in the Senate and am sure they will do the needful.”
Finally, he thanked the Catholic Bishop, Priests and other members of the Catholic communities for the well-organized peaceful rally and the privilege of letting him address the people; saying, “Am sure you’ll agree with me that Enugu state is in the hands of God and with you on our side, we’ll surely surmount all current and future challenges.”
Speaking to the congregation, one of the organizing Priests who lamented the growing nefarious activities of the herdsmen said they have transformed from ‘herdsmen to huntsmen’
“I never heard Fulani herdsmen will rape a woman, We never heard they were kidnapping people, we never heard that they were armed robbers carrying guns everywhere. We only knew them with their staffs, arrows and small knives but these days, what we see is AK47, they’re now carrying guns. Today it’s almost impossible for a woman to go to the farm alone. It’s almost impossible because if you go, they’ll rape you, destroying our women.
“This is the point we come to say, let us come and tell the governments of different levels our minds that we shall stood very prayerfully against these herdsmen and praying for peace, love and life, and we shall achieve that. We don’t want to push anybody away but let them not push us away,” he posited.
Read also:BIAFRA WRITERS VISIT TO NATIONAL ORTHOPAEDIC HOSPITAL ENUGU: INTERVIEW VICTIMS OF FULANI HERDSMEN INVASION AT UZO-UWANI ENUGU.
Another clergymen who stated that few months ago they(Fulani herdsmen) kidnapped two priests and recently three traders on their way to their businesses said: “the clashes and disputes between the Fulani herdsmen and the farmers and other members of their host communities are not good to us. We’re pleading with our serving governments in the local, state and federal governments to seriously look at this issue and not take it for granted because our people’s lives are at risk, our women are being raped.”
He asked: “How does it feel for a man to stand and watch these herdsmen rape their wives and daughters, and after that, they’ll still turn around and shoot or kill the man.”
Concluding he said; “the herdsmen should know that since they’re in our communities, they shouldn’t stop, block or close avenues through which our people sustains or akes out living or make lives unbearable for them. We’re pleading with them and the government.”
Reporting from Holy Ghost Cathedral, Enugu State.
Published By Nwosu C.S
For Biafra Writers