A community leader in Kogi State, Dr. David Atte has expressed great concern about the influx of Fulani herdsmen who are not of Nigeria heritage into Okun communities of Western Senatorial axis of Kogi State.
Dr. Atte who spokes on the sidelines of a news item published in some national dailies on Monday and quoted on same issues, said though he did not speak with newsmen on the issue before, as the publication was picked from a WhatsApp groups he belonged to, where he expressed his opinion.
He however said inspire of that, there is need to put further clarity on the issue, as the publication both in the national daily and online blogs did not carry his opinion completely.
Atteh in a rejoinder issued on Monday said, “My attention has been drawn to the story captioned above, and credited to an interview with me and published in the Tribune Newspapers of August 17, 2020. I wish to state that While many of the quotes in the story correctly reflect what I had written elsewhere, and while it is true that I had expressed anxiety, about the dangers posed by the influx of Fulani armed with sophisticated weapons, to MY COMMUNITY, OKUNLAND AND NIGERIA, AS ANY CONCERNED CITIZEN SHOULD , I state categorically that I did not grant any interview with any Reporter from the Nigerian Tribune.
“While commenting on this issue in a WhatsApp conversation, where a number of people expressed fears for their communities over increasing attacks by armed herdsmen, I cited the case in my own community as part of shared experiences.”
Atteh, a former Commissioner for Education in the defunct Kwara state further clarified the issues thus, “As I had stated in numerous fora, we have lived peacefully with Fulani herdsmen in Okun Communities without a problem for generations. In the last few years. because of environmental problems in the North, thousands of Fulani have moved South in search of food for their cattle. These were the Bororo Fulani. They used to come seasonally and go back, but now they are staying permanent, occupying Peoples’ land without permission, deforesting the land and at times using force to ensure occupation. It is happening all over Okun and elsewhere. No doubt their numbers are alarming and it is causing problems.
“On 1st Sept. 2002, I alerted President Okusegun Obasanjo in his office in the Villa, to the impending danger facing Nigeria if nothing was done about reafforestation in the North. It was part of my report to him on the Community Forestry Project in CRS. As an expert in this field. I alerted that if nothing was done to improve the environment in the North, both herdsmen and ordinary people there would move to the South, causing conflicts. What I predicted is happening. Whatever reports of Fulani activities in Okun land and the South are not alarming. THEY ARE TIMELY SO AS TO AVERT CRISS IN FUTURE.
“In my Community of Amuro in MopAmuro LGA, Mr Ebiromi of Takete Ide and Hon. Serebe of Okagi communities were shot dead on the farm by Fulanis in the last 3 years. Will people of those communities not be alarmed when they see more Fulani acting differently from the Fulani they had lived with peacefully for generations?
“From about 2016, Nigerians have been aware of excessive bloodshed in Adamawa, Taraba, Benue, Plateau, Kaduna etc. It has been reported all over the News in Nigeria and abroad that this was the work of armed herdsmen. That Fulani armed with AK-47 rifles have been sited in almost all parts of Nigeria had been reported widely. Banditry and bloodshed is also reported to be on the increase. Once it was said in official quarters that the perpetrators of these terrible acts were and are not Nigerians. All these are in the public domain.
“In 2018, a trailer load of Fulani discharged many Fulani (about 50) on the federal road between Aghara and Iluke in Kabba /Bunu LGA in Kogi State. The spot they were dropped is some 9km from my own village. When they were accosted they said they were going to Igbolehun, a farm area shared by Yagba and Bunu Farmers. Reports were made to the Police and security Agents and the President of Okun Development Association in whose domain this happened cried out. Before they could be apprehended, they melted into the bush. They are still in Igbolehun area. Security people can ask people in Aghara where Igbolehun is.
“What was happening in the Middle Belt and the factual experiences of my people caused us to cry out in fear sometime in March 2020 when a new group of Fulani camped between Ayede and Takete and another group between Takete and Aghara and occupied the land without contact with local people. Even the Fulani who had been living with us for a long time abandoned their camps and moved their families into the village proper, for safety. Baba Ojonla, the Oba of the Fulani in MopAmuro is there to testify to these facts.
“When they were accosted, one group said they came from Mali to farm. The other group said they came from Niger and that they had the permission of the government of Nigeria (unverifiable but they said so) to settle in the place. They were given a week to leave. It was when they refused to move that I now wrote to three senior government officials to report what was going on.
“In Ogga area of Yagba East LGA, both armed Fulani and Community members have lost their lives. We in Amuro have lost two. I named them above. Currently, there is palpable tension in Iyara, Ijumu LGA, due to confrontational attitude of the Fulani there.
“In Ekunrin Adde in the same LGA, Fulani attacked farmers last week, including damage to a farmer’s motor cycle which was hacked with machete. Expired bullets were recovered. Photos from these attacks are available. Every sane thinking person must know that there is danger ahead.
“My WhatsApp post referred only to the last groups described as foreign armed herdsmen. The herdsmen themselves said where they came from. That is a fact. They said so I did not report to government officials about the Fulani in general. I can state that thousands of the middle group (the seasonal Fulani who have become permanent and taken people’s land without permission, run into thousand in Okunland and form potential dangers not only to the security of the people (they do react with force when challenged) and also causing massive environment.
“My WhatsApp post was designed to draw attention to critical issues on ground so that something could be done about it. Note that my WhatsApp post came four full months after I had done the citizen’s duty of reporting to officials of the State pleading for intervention.
“My post was not intended to create tension. I wish to let the public know that the greatest desire of my heart is for a Nigeria in which peace reigns. A Nigeria where there is security of life and property of all. A Nigeria where all citizens are equal and treated as such and a Nigeria where all, though tribes and tongues May differ, live in peace and harmony with one another. Communities have a duty to be law abiding while government has the onerous responsibility to protect the people.”