Abia Media Forum, the umbrella organisation of senior journalists in Abia State, has accused the state police command of bias in dealing with clashes between Fulani herders and local farmers in the state.
The forum in a statement by its chairman, Ben Okezie, took particular exception to the Police’s treatment of the people and a First-Class traditional ruler, Eze John Akaniro, the traditional ruler of Umuobasiukwu Ozuitem, despite latter-day denials by the force and the citizen involved.
“Senior journalists in Abia State place on record our dissatisfaction with the Abia State Police Commissioner’s handing of recent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in parts of the state,” the statement read.
“Our platform, the Abia Media Forum, takes exception to the Police’s treatment of the people and a First-Class traditional ruler, Eze John Akaniro, the traditional ruler of Umuobasiukwu Ozuitem, despite latter-day denials by the Police and the citizen involved.”
The forum accused the state police of repeatedly failing act when they were informed about herders’ invasion of farmlands, but when farmers were forced to react, the same police came to harass them for doing so.
“The people of Ozuitem first reported to the Nigerian Police Force the destruction of crops in their farmlands at Ogboko community by herders and their cows. When confronted, the herders pointed their AK 47 at the farmers. The Police did nothing about the report,” the forum said.
“The next time, the community reacted when a herd of cows invaded the farmlands, the Abia State Commissioner of Police, Janet Agbede, then “invited” the traditional ruler and seven community leaders to the Police Command Headquarters in Umuahia.
“The Abia Media Forum condemns the apparent deployment of unbalanced scales by the State Police Command. They did nothing when the farmers reported damage to their crops but rose to their official height when the same farmers acted against the invading cows. We do not accept such apartheid in justice administration in our state.
“We are glad nevertheless that Commissioner of Police, Agbede and Eze Akaniro deny earlier reports of detention of the traditional ruler and former chairman of the Abia State Council of Ndi Eze as well as seven citizens. Eze Akaniro in later accounts claimed that the Police only invited him to clarify the situation, asked him to state that they did not detain him, and set him free the same day. Next time we urge the Abia State Police Command to offer the same courtesy of going to the palace of revered traditional rulers in Abia State as they do in other geopolitical zones.
“We commend Governor Okezie Ikpeazu for his criticisms on the situation. The Ikpeazu-led government of Abia State has denounced continued clashes between herdsmen and farmers and decreed the seizure and destruction of buildings and other structures used by kidnappers.
“We must return to the harmonious co-existence of farmers and herdsmen that existed for many decades in our communities. It led to the existence of several Hausa communities (Ama Hausa) in the state who respected the laws and traditions and earned the love, respect and trust of the host communities.
“The Abia Media Forum groups in senior journalists of Abia State origin practising across Nigeria and the Diaspora. AMF is committed to developing Abia State and supports all efforts to push the frontiers of progress in our beloved state.”