OgbaKha-Edo, a Benin socio-cultural group, yesterday lamented the activities of Fulani herdsmen in different parts of Edo State, alleging that they were taking over farmland and forest illegally.
Also, the group lamented the influx of hundreds of youths from the north into the state, calling on security agencies and the state government to address the issue before it gets worse.
In a statement by its Secretary-General, Dr. Osaretin Izekor, the group said apart from eye witness reports, the social media was awash with videos of young men coming into the city through long haulage trucks, or streaming in a dreadful surge in the streets of Benin City.
The statement said: “Ogbakha-Edo has in recent weeks observed with concern the sudden influx of hundreds, if not thousands of young able-bodied jobless men ostensibly of the Hausa/Fulani tribe from the northern parts of Nigeria and from outside the country, into Benin Kingdom, nay Edo South.”
“This is more worrisome. It looks like a well coordinated deployment of idle young men from among a people who in recent time have allegedly come to be notorious for their intolerance, hostility, violence and a propensity to dominate their hosts and grab their lands and other assets.”
It added that the fear of these suspicious people “is heightened by the unenviable reputation they have gained as easily and allegedly inclining to armed robbery, kidnapping and terrorism, and who have allegedly laid siege to our highways and villages with the attendant threat to lives and property.
“While Ogbakha-Edo does not want to join in the stereotyping of this particular group of new arrivals from the north as criminals, we cannot however help but to express the feeling of great concern and a sense of insecurity their presence has awoken in our people.
“As we speak, there are reports of the Fulani herdsmen coveting forest reserves and farmlands in Ovia and Orhionmwon, from where they are said to launch alleged criminal attacks on unsuspecting farmers and travelers.
“Of note is the occupation of the Odighi Forest where unconfirmed report has it that there are over two thousand Fulanis that have forcefully occupied a vast expanse of the forest as their habitation and their fortress.
“The reports that many of these newcomers have drifted into the forest to join their Fulani relatives or to form their own cells have fueled the suspicion that there is a sinister motive behind their coming to Benin Kingdom.
“This has raised the fear that great trouble may be brewing in Edo South if these people are not investigated, and if found wanting should be apprehended and evacuated to where they may have come from”, he stated.
The statement, therefore, called on security agencies and the state government to as a matter of urgency, take steps to see that the fear of the people about the influx of these persons mentioned is not only allayed but to see that it does not become the ugly reality if proactive measures are not taken.
As responsible citizens of Nigeria, the statement observed that freedom of movement of any Nigerian from one part of the country to another or from one community to the other was guaranteed under the 1999 Constitution.
Nevertheless, the group said it believed that ‘such movement, if it portends danger or insecurity to the host community, must be put in check.”
It noted that the influx of a large number of jobless people into a community or a society grappling with economic imbalance “is latently dangerous to that community. It is no gainsaying that faced with hopelessness, out of desperation, they could resort to criminality to survive.” (THISDAY)