Ukomu IGALA writes President Buhari on cattle colony

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR

President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces

Federal Republic of Nigeria

Aso Rock

Presidential Villa

Abuja

Your Excellency,

WE REJECT CATTLE COLONY IN IGALALAND

Uk’Omu Igala Organisation is an umbrella body for civil society and cultural associations in Kogi East (Igalaland). Its cardinal objective is to foster the socio-economic development of Igalaland, and, by extension, Kogi State. This is carried out through the  enlightenment of the people and the entrenchment of  the values of justice, fairness, and equity in the state. Uk’Omu Igala has Youths, Women, Elders and Professionals wings which are active participants in our sensitisation and developmental programmes irrespective of religious, ideological and political persuasions. We, therefore, have the mandate of all Igala sons and daughters, whether in Nigeria or in the Diaspora, to speak on their behalf in all matters affecting the wellbeing of the Igala people. Over the years, Uk’Omu Igala has successfully carried out civic/developmental projects, although some of these are statutory duties of governments, across the length and breadth of Igalaland, which constitutes Kogi East Senatorial District. One of our major objectives in this particular domain is to demonstrate that the synergy with governments and harmony with civil stakeholders could become a potent instrument for development.  We, therefore, believe that the issue of cattle colony in Igalaland is important enough to draw our special attention.

PROPOSED ESTABLISHMENT OF CATTLE COLONY IN KOGI STATE

Your Excellency, one of the fallouts of the criminal massacre of 73 defenceless Tiv farmers and villagers in Benue State on January 1, 2018, by some suspected Fulani herdsmen (appropriately referred to as terrorist by the national press), was the not-well thought-out pronouncement made by the Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe, that the Federal Government planned  to introduce Cattle Colonies across the country. Chief Ogbe stated that 16 state governors had promised to provide 5,000 hectares of land for the implementation of the proposed Federal Government policy, which, in our view, is intended to placate killer Fulani herdsmen who have put the entire nation under siege in order to advance their cattle herding and trading businesses.

Governor Yahaya Bello, who has brought untold hardship to the hardworking people of Kogi State for the non-payment of salaries to the State’s civil servants for upwards of 12 months, has indicated his willingness to donate a huge portion of land in Kogi State for the pilot scheme of Cattle Colony in Nigeria. This, he did, without consultation with communities in the state. We would like to state unequivocally that all indigenes of Igalaland (Kogi East) totally reject such moves as no portion of Igalaland is available for such a Cattle Colony. The following are some of our reasons:

1.     To contribute to the national economy, particularly in the area of food production, the Kogi East Senatorial District needs small scale industries to process cashew products, palm produce, cassava and yam production. This will reflect the occupation of the vast majority living in Igala land and contribute to the wellbeing of the people. The Igala people are mainly involved in crop farming. As a result of the growing population, there is already tremendous pressure on productive land. Indeed, there is not enough land to satisfy the agricultural aspirations of the people who are wholly dependent on their farms for their social, cultural and economic survival. Most of the Igala sons and daughters who have been laid off from civil service or have not been paid their monthly emoluments, have had to go back to the land for survival.

2.     As an ethnic group, Igala people rank the 9th largest in Nigeria. However, at the moment, there is hardly any Federal Government presence in Igalaland, apart from the Federal Polytechnic, Idah, Federal Government College, Ugwolawo and the recently established Aquatic Bioresources Development Centre at Idah. A cattle colony that serves the interest of a select few is not the type of government involvement the people are looking for.

3.     The activities of Fulani cattle herders in Igalaland over the years have brought nothing but devastation to our farm lands and crops, pain, anguish and tragically death. Our cultivated farms are destroyed remorselessly by cattle herders at regular intervals, and when unarmed farmers attempt to call the herders to order, the latter, who are usually armed with dangerous weapons, have them butchered or mauled down in cold blood. Law enforcement agents seem to have cultivated the habit of looking the other way when reports are lodged or even by letting the criminal herders go without bringing them to justice.  The following are some of the highly publicised instances of such murderous attacks in the last 18 months:

(i)                In Ebeje in  Dekina LGA 8 people were killed and farms set ablaze.

(ii)             In Agbada/Agojeju in Dekina LGA 19 people were slaughtered.

(iii)           In Edede in Dekina LGA  2 persons were killed.

(iv)            Six people were killed in Oganenigu in Dekina LGA.

(v)             Three persons were killed in Ojapata in Dekina LGA.

(vi)           Five people were killed in Ojuwo Anawo in Dekina LGA

(vii)        In Ojuwo Omachi and Akpagidigbo in Ofu LGA  the incessant attacks by herdsmen have claimed the lives of  23 persons.

(viii)      In Abejukola and Bagana in Omala LGA people no longer go to their farms or move freely because of the marauding Fulani herdsmen.

(ix)           A village like Ebakume in Omala LGA was destroyed and their entire farm produce granaries/silos completely burnt by Fulani herdsmen.

(x)             The murderous herdsmen have visited destructions upon several farming communities in Dekina and Bassa.

(xi)           All over Igalaland these killers mercilessly rape our women and molest our youths.

4.     THE Igala people are peace loving and have been very welcoming and accommodating of other neighbours and peoples. We have, however, discovered that this accommodating and non-violent attitude is not appreciated by the herdsmen, the Kogi State Government, especially the present one, and security agencies and even the judiciary. We wish to state that cowardice is not part of the make-up of the Igala race. Our history attests to the contrary. Why promise our cherished farm lands to herders on television to gain cheap political accolades from people who are not the Governor’s constituents?

Our Demands:

1.     Appropriate legislation on cow grazing: Kogi State Government and House of Assembly should enact appropriate laws to protect its citizens and curtail the criminal activities and excesses of cattle herders in the State.

2.     Ranches: All those involved in the business of herding and selling of cattle should set up ranches at their own costs. They should not be allowed to continue to use our farm crops to feed their cows, destroy our farmlands, increase poverty in the land and kill our people.

3.     No to Cattle Colonies in Igalaland: Governor Bello should immediately drop the dangerous experiment of fostering Cattle Colonies on Igala people and apologize to all Kogi indigenes for such a myopic and undemocratic decision; one which is antithetical and a threat to the people’s occupation, economic and social survival.

4.     ALGON’s advertised support for Cattle Colony in Kogi State: We totally reject the selfish and teleguided position of appointed (not elected) 21 Local Government administrators in Kogi State who have declared their support for the proposed establishment of cattle colony in Kogi State. They are not, in any way, elected representatives of the people of Kogi State. They are lackeys of misguided Governor Yahaya Bello. We call on the Presidency, all Nigerians and good people of Kogi State to disregard this ill-informed and self-serving advertorial by Kogi ALGON on this subject-matter. Igala sons and daughters are opposed to the proposed cattle colony.

5.     Cow herders as members of traditional councils in Kogi state:Governor Bello should rescind his oppressive and anti-cultural decision of imposing Fulani cow herders as members of the traditional councils in Igalaland. He has compelled the traditional councils at all levels, by threat of deposition of non-complying traditional rulers, to appoint Fulani cow herders to their councils. This is tantamount to an abomination. It is calling on us to commit cultural suicide. It is a violation of our cultural values as a people and a contamination of our freedom of association, beliefs and thoughts, as enshrined in the Constitution. We call on all members of Igala Traditional Council to immediately remove such sacrilegious members.

By his action, Governor Bello is selling our heritage and birthright to fuel his political ambition.   By the way, we have several other ethnic communities from other parts of Nigeria living and doing businesses in Kogi State for decades. Why is the Governor making a special deal for cattle herders in Kogi State? We are a peace-loving people, our patience should not be taken for granted by Governor Bello, whose tenure has been characterized by generalised hardship for the citizenry and non-payment of salaries, pension and other emoluments to civil servants who have served the State meritoriously.

Your Excellency, we pray that the Almighty will give you the wisdom to lead the country on the path of peace and tranquillity.Furthermore, we sympathize with the people of Benue, Southern Kaduna, Taraba, Adamawa and Plateau, Ondo, Ekiti, Enugu and other States affected by the dastardly acts of the herdsmen. We dream of a country in which all Nigerians are treated equally, and not a country akin to George Orwell’sAnimal Farm, where some animals are more equal than others.

Thank you, Your Excellency.

Yours Sincerely,

For: Uk’Omu Igala Organisation

Major-General Patrick Akpa (retired)

National Leader

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