A group photograph of some of the Ogoni women farmers, during a security tip programme organized by Lokiaka Community Development Centre in Port Harcourt.
From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
Farmers in Ogoniland of Rivers State have lamented the invasion of herdsmen in their farmland, thereby destroying all their cultivated crops to feed their (herdsmen) cows.
The farmers who are all women lamented that they have suffered badly following the attack by the herdsmen who entered their farmland with impunity claiming that they have rights to any parts of farm and bush in the area.
Some of the women that spoke with The AUTHORITY during a one day sensitisation programme on security defence, organized by Lokiaka Community Development Centre held in Port Harcourt, lamented that the herdsmen have brought untold hardship to them and their families.
Lamenting their ordeals in the hands of the herdsmen, Mary Amanikpo, a native of Lueku community in Nyo-Khana, Mercy Glory of Sogho community Khana and Yeye Nkani, a native of Eleme, said they have not been able to go to their farms because of the attacks, adding that some women are being raped by the herdsmen.
Mrs Glory said: “When the herdsmen came into my community since last year they have been destroying our cassava upto the extend we could not bear it again. Some time ago, my son approached them and pursued them out from the farmland but what they threaten my son with their dagger and matchets but my son narrowly escaped being killed.
“We went to the community and reported to the youth leader. We went back to the farm the following day, I personally asked one of the herdsmen what happened to my cassava that they have destroyed and I don’t have anyone to harvest for food or to sell for my children upkeep, he told me that my community chief have collected money from them and they will stay till their money is exhausted”.
Glory disclosed that all efforts to make their government representatives to help drive away the herdsmen and peacefully restore back their community proved abortive.
According to Glory “Our local government chairman and our representative at the state House of Assembly are aware of this but have not done anything to help us. We the Ogoni women are all farmers and it is what we profit from farming that we use in training our children and doing all we want to do as livelihood”.
She therefore seeks “the government to send all these herdsmen away from our land and empower our women to return back to active farming”.
Earlier, Martha Agbani, Executive Director of Lokiaka, disclosed that the meeting with the women was to sensitise them on how to be vigilant and security conscious while in the farm and also how to defend themselves in case of any attack by the cattle rearers.
She explained “We brought women together, especially Ogoni women farmers who have been facing violence from herdsmen, women whose crops have been destroyed severally, women who have been molested. We gathered some women who were raped by herdsmen in their farms in Ogoniland to now train them on how to have some level of defense for themselves whilst in the farm.
“We took them on security tip and we had one of the best security agencies in Nigeria handling the training for them today”.
Agbani however, urged that “Government needs to be more sensitive about issues on local areas because that is where we noticed today that violence takes place. There is more insecurity at the grassroot than we have at the urban areas.
“Government needs to beef up security on that regards and for these women who have been facing this, they have been complaining but government has been adamant about that. Government need to up their game on that.
“Government needs to start listening to what is happening at the grassroot. We need more security stations being put at the grassroot, there is need for them to increase their security force there so at to monitor these things.
‘Government should also come up with more enlightenment campaign and make people know what to do as we are doing today. We are taking up what government should have done by sensitising the woman putting them on guide to protect them.
“For those that have already faced this challenge, government should give them some palliatives, most of them are subsistent farmers, most of them borrowed money to buy fertilizers, stems and some seeds to cultivate with the hope of selling and returning the loans they took.
“As we all know where there is no farmer there is no nation and there is no food, government need to come up with subvention to assist them because we know they contribute heavily to the economy and the living standards of the people”.
The Assistant Commandant, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Rivers State Command, Dr Iyekolo Gbemisola who took the women on the security tips, stressed condemned the activities of the herdsmen in the farms, adding that the government is working hard to control the situation.
Speaking on solution to the menance, Dr Gbemisola said ” One of the permanent solution is border control whereby it is only those who are permitted to come into the country or into states that can come. Where you have these herdsmen walking on foot, they know these forests very well, they don’t care about the harsh conditions and wherever they reach they believe they have taken position of that land, which is wrong.
“That permanent solution is in the hands of the federal government and the government is trying to do their best, to take control of these herdsmen and we are hopeful that soon these problems will be under control”.