Residents of Ayakoromo, an Ijaw community in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State are reportedly panic-stricken as Fulani herdsmen are said to have threatened to forcefully acquired part of their land for grazing.
Expressing fear over the development, a group of activists from the local government has raised the alarm against the threat, warning the recalcitrant marauders to steer clear of the area.
Acting president of Ayakoromo Activists Forum, Comrade Austin Ozobo and a member, Alaowei Cleric, in a statement made available to journalists in Warri on Tuesday, related the trepidation of people of the area at the threats issued by three emissaries of the herdsmen after a visit to the community.
“Our hearts are bleeding with grief over the news that Fulani herdsmen are threatening to enter Ayakoromo Community in Burutu LGA of Delta State.
“Our worries are compounded by the facts that the said Fulani herdsmen are threatening to acquire grazing land from Ayakoromo people by force.
“This is because the community simply told three Fulani herdsman who entered our land without invitation on December 30, 2016 and who on enquiry claimed to have been sent to the community by their boss in Asaba, Delta State that we have no land to be given out for grazing purposes and besides, the community is celebrating its annual festival which forbids any individual from entering into the community forest.
“The three herdsman responded by saying that they had freedom to move their cattle to anywhere in Nigeria and as such, they would come to Ayakoromo town with their cattle whether we liked it or not,” the statement read in part.
Continuing, the activists added: “When our people insisted on observing our sacred tradition, which forbids people from entering any of our forests for as long as the festivity lasts, the herdsman said they would go and get further directives from their boss in Asaba Delta.
“Ayakoromo is a waterlogged community which is not suitable for grazing purposes.
“The only time we managed to see land is the dry season from December to February in every year and that is the period our people manage to cultivate farms in our swampy lands.
“There is no land in this riverine community that is available for herdsman to graze their cattle except they are saying that we should alienate our farms which is our only source of livelihood to them.
“We are aware that the Fulani herdsman like any other Nigerian have rights to move freely to anywhere in Nigeria with their cattle and acquire land if need be.
“However, such right is not absolute under our Constitution as where your right ends, another man’s right begins.
“The rights to freedom of movement and to acquire property cannot be enforced at the detriment of others who have the same rights.
“It means taking away our means of survival if we are to give out our few farming lands to cattle rearers.
“Is that the rights they are claiming? Don’t we have right to life?”
“We do not want to have problem with anybody and thus we are begging the Fulani Herdsman to respect our tradition.”
The Ayakoromo activists also alleged that “already they (Fulani herdsmen) have invaded our lands with their cattle and have destroyed no fewer than 20 farms belonging to Ayakoromo people.
“This is the height of provocation. We don’t think it is possible for any Niger Delta man to go to Fulani man’s land without seeking his consent.
“In our own case, they did not just encroach on our lands but also maliciously destroyed all crops in the farms.
“We take these as an act of aggression, an invitation to anarchy.”
Warning that the herdsmen’s destructive activities were already creating tension in the community, as many of their women cannot go to their farms for fear of being victims of rape and kidnapping, the group called on all relevant authorities to prevail on the Fulani invaders to quit their land to avert any incident.