By Jonathan Ugbal: Government House Correspondent
One herdsman has been confirmed dead and a farmer injured in the fight that broke out Sunday afternoon in Ugaga community of Yala local government area of northern Cross River State.
Contrary to earlier reports where the Women Affairs Commissioner, Stella Odey said it was caused by a Fulani herdsman who cut of the hand of a farmer who had gone to harvest pepper, the Special Adviser Non Indigenes Affairs, Mr. Musa Maigoro told journalists that the “unfortunate incident which resulted in skirmishes between the Fulani herdsmen and the natives of Ogoja and Yala,” was caused by an attack on the herdsmen.
“In the evening of yesterday (Sunday), a group of young men attacked a Fulani resident in the Ogoja axis and during the ensuing problem, it resulted in the loss of a Fulani herdsman. That development is very very unfortunate, it is unbecoming, unwarranted, coupled with the fact that Cross River State is a very peaceful state,” Maigoro said.
He said the Governor, Senator Ben Ayade had directed him to put in place, modalities to “stem the tide of this ugly trend so that clashes between farmers and herdsmen which happens in other places is not replicated in Cross River State.”
He however failed to mention what warranted the attack.
Benue’s Anti-Grazing Law Caused This – Ayade, Contemplates Controlled Grazing Law
Meanwhile, Mr. Ayade arising from an emergency security council meeting with service commanders in the state on Monday blamed the rising cases of clashes between hersdmen and farmers on the full implementation of the anti-open grazing law of neighboring Benue state.
“The Anti-open grazing law of Benue state has put a lot of pressure on bordering local government of Cross River State to Benue, so there has been a massive exodus of Fulani herdsmen from Benue state to Cross River. This has become even more exacerbated by the changing climatic conditions where the pastures up north is getting drier and so there is a cumulative essence for this massive migration.
“The cumulative impact has resulted in an incidence where we had an incidence about 3, 4 O’clock yesterday (Sunday) where there was a skirmish between the herdsmen and the farmers which led to loss of life.
He said the state will “Institute a kind of mediation team that will mediate and address this issue and nip it at the bud,” as the farmers currently feel a deep sense of loss due to the continuous grazing on their land while the herdsmen desperately look for pastures to sustain their livestock.
He added that: “With the passage of the anti-open grazing law fully in Benue state and its implementation is taking a havoc effect in Cross River State. Today as we speak, the Cross River State government is under intense pressure to also do same by passing the same law.
“After consulting with my service chiefs, it is obvious Cross River State will come up with its own version and shortly too, which is the open grazing control law.”
Explaining the Cross River version of the bill, Ayade said that: “The open grazing control law will tend to provide for it in a very control manner where stiff penalties will be put in place, however, at this juncture, it will be wise for us to call on the federal government that this issue has become a very serious national issue and Government cannot continue to sit and watch it happen.”
He further averred that: “Of course with the passage of that law in Benue state, it is obvious that if Cross River State does nothing, the continuous exodus of uncontrolled hersdmen and cattle into Cross River State will result in a situation where more of these conflicts will happen.”
And, Mr. Ayade said he is under pressure to invite the speaker of the State House of Assembly, Honorable John Lebo “For them to take a public hearing on this subject.”
As at press time, the Commissioner for Police in the state, CP Hafiz Inuwa said security personnel had restored calm and order in the area and confirmed the casualty and wounded figures.