By John Okiyi Kalu
Earlier Wednesday, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu while featuring in a Channels Television interview stated that Abia State Government has long set up machinery to resolve conflicts between herdsmen and farmers.
According to him, conflict is inevitable in human relations management but Abia State has in place a standing Conflict Resolution Committee headed by the State Commissioner of Police to settle conflicts arising from the two groups, at the state level, while similar committees exist at the various LGAs with Chairmen of the respective Local Government Areas heading the committee alongside the respective Divisional Police Officers.
To date, the committees at the different levels have resolved many conflicts and helped to engender peace within our communities.
In many cases, resolution involves compensating the farmer and/or herdsman for loss of crops and/or cattle. That way, the state is able to maintain peaceful co-existence among people of diverse backgrounds.
The highest amount usually paid for a cow is N100,000 while the farmer receives compensation based on the assessment of the damage done to his/her crops.
We see nothing cowardly about making peace.
But we have zero tolerance for criminality. If someone willfully destroys another’s farmland and expects to be compensated we will rather charge the person to court instead of compensating him for a crime. Likewise, if you steal someone’s cow or kill and eat another’s animal (including cow, goat, chicken etc), you will answer to the law for stealing.
What the government will never tolerate in our state are those who masquerade as herdsmen to attack, maim or kidnap our people. Those are criminals and we have zero tolerance for criminality in Abia State. There is no sane explanation for hiding in forests to attack innocent people and dispossess them of their lives and or property.
Abia State Government is committed to hunting down those criminal elements including the ones that attack security agents and our people, using all available resources,
It is important to note that for many years now, our people lived in peace with herders. Indeed, as typical of all Igbo, we welcome genuine peaceful visitors to our state. But we are not ready to concede any inch of Abia land to criminals under any guise.
It is also important to note that aside from Abia State anti-open grazing law which was signed by Governor Ikpeazu in 2018, there are existing laws in the country against willful destruction of farmlands, kidnapping, illegal possession of arms, stealing and murder. We expect security agents to fully enforce those laws without fear or favour.
Chief John Okiyi Kalu is the Honourable Commissioner for Information, Abia State