As activist condemns arrest of Okutukutu-Epie Woman Chief by police
Okutukutu-Epie women in Yenagoa LGA of Bayelsa State have sent a Save Our Soul (SOS) appeal to the Governor of Bayelsa State, Sen. Douye Diri to come to their aid over threat on their lives by herdsmen in the community.
The plea for urgent intervention is coming on the heels of repeated destruction of their crops and farmlands by these herdsmen which is the only source of their livelihood, saying that all efforts made to stop these herders and their cattles from destroying crops and farmlands have been unsuccessful.
Arising from a meeting at the Okutukutu-Epie town hall, Mrs Tina Etime who spoke on behalf the women said there has been constant harrasment, threat of rape from the herders, adding that some of the herders even bear dangerous weapon.
Etime stated that because of the repeated destruction of the crops and farmlands the women decided to report the matter to the police in company of the community Paramount ruler, but to their greatest surprise the police instead detained the former woman Chief, Mrs Sarah Wilcox, Mrs Ovieya Franklin and Mrs Victoria Emmanuel while freeing the herdsman.
She said: ” for over 10 years now these herders have been eating and destroying our crops until last year November the women have to report the matter to the police. Even the men of the community are afraid of the herdsmen because of what has been happening in northern part of the country where there has been killings of farmers by cattle herders.
” But on our taking one of the herdsmen to the police for destroying our crops, the herder was released and the three women that reported the matter were instead detained with a bail fee of N100, 000.00 for refusing to report to the police a week earlier.
” What is most annoying is that after we have cultivated our crops in the morning, these herders with their cattle will invade our farms in the evening and destroy what was planted in the morning. Some of these herders normally threaten us for daring to challenge them.
” As it is we the women are even afraid to go to our farms, because we do not know what will happen to us if these herders confront us as they normally bear dangerous weapon. They even boasted that our cassava leave gives their cattle enough milk as if that is not enough they said that the land doesn’t belong to us.
” We what the government to come and help us as we are helpless and do not know what to do to stop these cattle from destroying our farmlands. Our source of livelihood is being threatened and if we don’t go to farm what will we eat? So we want government to do something about our plights,” she stated.
Also speaking, Mrs Jesinta Okiese, Assistant Secretary of Okutukutu-Epie Women Council said ” Our women are not doing any other work apart from farming, it is through the produce from our farms that we us to take care of our families.
” If things continue as they are we don’t know what will happen next, we are praying that it doesn’t lead to killings. We are appealing to government to come to our rescue from the daily threat and harassment from these herdsmen.
Condemning destruction of the crops and farmlands by herders as well as the detention of the Epie women by the Police, Chief Bonus Wumbo, the Provost Marshall Epie-Atissa Developmental Assembly accused the Bayelsa State Commissioner of Police doing the bidding of his paymasters by looking the way when matters that concerns the destruction of crops and farmlands by herdsmen are reported.
Chief Wumbo who is also an activist noted that the laws of Nigeria does not provide for cattle herders to use their cattles to destroy farmlands belonging to others, but rather animals should be confined to a particular place to avoid the animals from straying about.
He said: ” The issue of herdsmen in our bush did not start now. It started about seven years ago, they have been coming to destroy our women crops and farmlands and when you report the matter to the police they will be looking as if we are not serious because the are trying to do the bidding of their paymasters.
” The law provide that if you want to rear animals it should be confined and besides we do not have any stake with cattles and our values, culture and tradition are not associated with herdsmen. For using the cattles to come to destroy our crops is as if we are second class citizens in our land.
” Even by omission or commission there is a place at Bayelsa Palm allocated for these herders and their cattles for the time being not that it is for the interest of Bayelsans. So, the leadership of Bayelsa State is conniving with the herdsmen and the Commissioner of Police to suppress our people because of the Commissioner’s non challant attitude to the pains of our people.
” From the arrest of the women by the police, it is unfortunate that the lives of the women is being equated with that of cattles. That is why the Commissioner of Police have to detain the women pending when the cattles were found in the bush.