The Esan people of Edo State, occupying five local government areas of the state, on Friday, raised the red flag of an imminent famine in the senatorial district in particular, and the entire state in general. If the activities of killer herdsmen are not put in check.
Speaking under the banner of a newly floated socio-cultural group, Esan Okpa Initiative, EOI, the people expressed panic of a looming hunger, that would be occasioned by artificial famine in the entire five Local Government Areas of Esan West, Esan Central, Esan North-East, Esan South-East and Igueben, as farmers had abandoned their farms, following the activities of herdsmen, who they said had laid siege to all the farmlands and major roads in the area.
Speaking on behalf of EOI at the group’s maiden press conference held at the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Secretariat in Benin, to announce its birth, the President, and ex-Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Mr. Mathew Egbadon, demanded a time frame, within which all armed herdsmen ravaging Edo forests and farmlands must exit or be forced out.
The group, in addition to the demand, called on the Edo State Government, urgently enact the State Anti-Open Grazing Law, in line with the decision of the Governors of the Southern States of Nigeria, saying such laws should be in place by the Southern States by September 2021.
This was just as it expressed concerned about insecurity on the highway between Benin City and Ekpoma; and particularly within Esanland, where Fulani herdsmen and other notorious elements kidnap, kill and maim with impunity.
“Our people can no longer travel to Benin City, the state capital, to transact business without the risk of falling into the hands of kidnappers and bandits. We wonder whether the security forces have given up and allow these criminal gangs to operate freely without inhibitions day and night, on this road”, the group lamented.
“In addition, the entire Esanland has been seized by the jugular by these marauders and kidnappers, who have killed scores, maimed, raped our women, destroyed farmlands and property, and induced payment of ransoms by their hapless victims”, EOI, further agonised.
“No day has passed in recent times, without reports of these bandits wreaking havoc on innocent and law-abiding Esan people, many of whom have been forced to abandon their farmlands and trades for fear of being raped, maimed, killed or kidnapped and made an object of ransom negotiations and payments.
“The situation has become dire, as our people, who are subsistent farmers, are now faced with scarcity of farm produce and high prices of the few available goods”, the Esan Okpa Initiative lamented.
The group submitted that “A major issue that should be addressed, as a matter of priority, by the security agencies, is the allegation making the rounds, that when some of these marauders and kidnappers are caught and handed over to them, they are not made to face the wrath of the law by taking them to court, but instead are released together with their weapons”.
The group also drew the attention of the world to the spate of marginalisation of the Esan people in the areas of federal and state appointments, demanding that Edo State, which was founded on a tripod of Edo South, North and Central Districts, 30 years ago, should be run on the basis of equity, fairness and justice to all its component parts.
The group also lamented the decline of Esan Language and called on the Edo State Government to reintroduce the teaching of the language in primary and secondary schools in Esanland as a way of promoting the speaking and writing of the language.
It also hinted at the idea of setting up mini Esan Language Clinics in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and in the Diaspora, and called on the authorities of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma to include Esan and other Edo languages amongst courses in its Department of Languages.
It implored the state government to revive some of the now moribund industrial plants started by former Governor Lucky Igbinedion, in Esanland and also considers establishing new ones in the area.
On the state government’s recent direct intervention in the running of the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, the group appealed to the stakeholders of the University, that they must not, by acts of commissions or omissions, frittered away the solid achievements which the University had made since its inception, and which had brought glory and honour to Edo State.
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