No fewer than 15 communities in Edo State in collaboration with civil society organisations, on Wednesday, barricaded the Lagos-Benin Road in protest over herdsmen activities which they said had resulted in killings, destructions of farm produce and forceful evictions from their ancestral homes.
The protest, which lasted for several hours, led to gridlock on that axis.
Some of the communities at the protest were Odiguetue, Ofintebe, Igolo, Okokuo, Abumwenre I and II, Obarenren, Uhiere, Uyimo I and II.
One of the protest leaders, Osagie Obayuwana, said residents were worried about the crisis brewing in the various communities in the state and orchestrated by armed herdsmen.
He said, “We want the whole world to know what our people are experiencing. We are particular about Ovia North East communities because the 15 communities have been under siege for some years. Farmers have been prevented from going to their farms. Another planting season is gradually passing by and they have not been able to go to their farms. They are hungry and this has an implication for the larger society. It is one of the reasons the price of food is rising beyond the reach of even those in the middle class.
“So far, we have not seen serious efforts to address this issue. Our people have gone to various offices both at the legislative and executive arms. They have also gone to traditional rulers without any result. Right now, the matter is degenerating to an extent that people are being driven out of their villages.
“We are concerned that what has been happening in Benue and Plateau states is gradually coming to Edo State where armed herdsmen drive people from communities, change the names of the communities and occupy the houses. We don’t want that to happen here.”
A former spokesperson for the Edo State Civil Society Organisations, Osazee Edigin, said the level of insecurity in Edo communities had gone from bad to worse as he called on the government to come to their rescue.
Another protester, Aik-Ikhuokhuo Uwaifo, from Uhiere community, said in the past, herdsmen and the people in his community lived harmoniously together.
He said the story had changed, alleging that herders had been moving into farms to kill, maim, destroy crops and forcefully evict people from their houses.
Another protester, Mrs Rhoda Ogba, from Odigi community, said cows don’t eat grass anymore, but yam, cassava and cocoyam.
She said residents were hungry as they could no longer go to their farms for fear of being killed.
The Edo State Commissioner of Police, Abutu Yaro, represented by the Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, ACPJames Chu, while appealing to the protesters to be calm, said the command understood their pain.
He said machinery had been put in place to curtail the excesses of herdsmen in the various communities in the state.