How Enugu Govt intends building a ranch to settle Herders in Nimbo Community of Uzo-Uwani LGA

0
87

Uzo-Uwani Professionals Association, UZPA, a foremost non-political and non-partisan group of Professionals of Uzo-Uwani extraction, said it has watched with increasing alarm, the attempt by the Enugu State Government of Governor Peter Mbah to site the location of a ranch to settle nomadic cattle herders in Nimbo Community of Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area.

The association made this known in a press release issued by its President, Barr. Chinedum Odenyi and Chief Dan Asogwa, Secretary General, UZPA.

The Association stated that it deliberately delayed in releasing any statement in order to have the benefit of a contextual analysis of the perspectives and nuances of all points of views on the issue.

The statement read, “The Government through the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Aka Eze Aka, released a statement clarifying the intention of Government, stating that it was part of the plan of government to implement the Prohibition of Open grazing law of Enugu State through the designation of specific areas of grazing, in order to discourage and enforce sanctions against open grazing.

“The State Government also intends to use the ranch project to curb the rising insecurity, including kidnapping, murder and rape being perpetrated by mostly herdsmen in the Local Government. Uzo-Uwani happens to be one of the three Local Governments chosen for this initiative, the other two being Isi-Uzo and Oji River Local Governments.

“We have also heard from many other government officials clarifying and justifying the proposal and the suitability of the choice of location. We have also reached out to the Chairman of Uzo-Uwani LGA, Hon. Chukwudi Nnadozie, who gave us insights into the plans of the government on the programme.

“The people of Nimbo, and Uzo-Uwani in general have stoutly risen in unison in opposition to the proposal, reading a more sinister objective in the proposed project and calling on the government to stop any further exploration of the subject around the geographic entity of Uzo-Uwani LGA.

“UZPA, having considered all the reactions on the issue, finds everything wrong with the proposal and calls on the Enugu State Government to immediately halt any further design and attempt to implement the proposed ranch project in any part of Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area. The project is not only insensitive, it is abrasive to the sensibilities of the people of Nimbo Community, and of Uzo-Uwani in general.

“APPROACH TO COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: To first underscore the government’s ill-intention, the total lack of community engagement in the concept and design of the project is befuddling. The first time anybody from Nimbo heard about the project was a phone call to the President General of the Community by the Chairman of the Local Government, informing him that the Government had decided to site a cattle ranch on the borders of Nimbo with Kogi State, on the banks of the Eshi River, and that State Government surveyors were arriving Nimbo the next day to be shown the area so that they map out 500 hectares as the site of the proposed ranch for immediate commencement.

“This is the best the State Government thought of as community engagement. It is as puzzling as it is starkly insensitive. And to think that the proposal for ranch was never in any of the promises made to the people of Uzo-Uwani, and specifically to Nimbo Community during the campaigns leading up to the election of His Excellency, Peter Mbah, as Governor of Enugu State.

“It is even more obnoxious that of the six Local Government Areas in Igbo Nsukka of Enugu State, the only Local Government then Candidate Mbah won was Uzo-Uwani, which gave him the edge over the Labour Party Candidate, and unarguably gave him the keys to the Lion Building. It is such a disappointing outcome that the first developmental project the Mbah administration would cite in Uzo-Uwani is a ranch, or RUGA, to settle herdsmen who have caused so much grief and agony to the people of Uzo-Uwani.

“Would the first step be to send surveyors, or to engage? We have it on good authority that even the Traditional Ruler of Nimbo community was not as much as informed about these plans, let alone consulted for his opinion and royal guidance. Land in Uzo-Uwani is owned by specific villages and families. Nimbo does not own land as a community. Was there an effort to engage the community, so as to identify the families and villages who own the vast stretch of land around the vicinity of the Eshi River to engage them, and make offers of compensation? Was this expropriation in the overriding public interest for which a State Government could acquire land as required under the Land Use Act?

“THE MASSACRE OF NIMBO PEOPLE BY FULANI HERDSMEN IN 2016: The rearing and keeping of cattle is the major occupation of the Fulani ethnic group. And in Enugu State, it is still this group who constitute the herdsmen who wander from place to place, seeking vegetation as fodder for their cattle. On April 25, 2016, while the town slept, Nimbo was invaded by herdsmen who massacred the people at will, killing, maiming, burning homesteads and livestock pens. When the fire of their bloodthirsty orgy died down, about 50 indigenes and residents of Nimbo lay dead, those who survived had their limbs hacked.

“Today, eight years later, many are still carrying the physical and psychological trauma of that unprovoked sadistic revelry. It is astounding that it is lost on the Mbah administration the tragedy of this proposal in the context of the historical grief: that the innocent victims of a murderous invasion, would have their land, their most prized asset, expropriated by the State Government, to settle the perpetrators of the massacre. Such an irony; such pain. This is nothing short of rubbing salt into injury. Indeed, UZPA finds it a sign of a larger structural disdain for the people of this Local Government that the State Government even contemplated this project and had the sobriety to suggest that the location shall be Nimbo.

“UZO-UWANI AND STATE GOVERNMENT PROJECTS: This is not the forum or the appropriate space to adumbrate on the utter neglect of Uzo-Uwani by successive Enugu State Governments, such that today, we are the only LGA in Enugu State whose pathetic lack of infrastructure and governmental presence has been acknowledged by all. Even Governor Mbah did so in his campaigns, promising us a University of Agriculture and many roads, to leverage on the comparative advantage of Uzo-Uwani in Agricultural potentials, with its rich vegetation, lush foliage and the vastness of its landmass, with rivers crisscrossing the whole Local Government, from Adada, to Obina, From Eshi to the borders with Anambra State that flows into the Omabala. Uzo-Uwani is also rich in hydrocarbons and mineral deposits.

“The silt sands that have formed hills around Nkpologu, Ugbene, Nrobo, Uvuru etc, are some of the best in the world, and a ceramics or glass industry would be a natural project there.

“Uzo-Uwani people are not known for cattle business. We are known for crop farming, and vast timber reserves. How come the first project we are receiving is a cattle settlement? Which roads would the people who want to buy the cattle ply to reach the location?

“The Adarice Project is a vast resource in Enugu State that has the potential of securing for the whole of Igbo land self sufficiency in rice and other crop produce. Adarice is languishing. Only about 5000 of the more than 50,0000 plots have been parcellated and connected to the irrigation channels built by the Micheal Okpara government of the old Eastern region.

“How come this giant wasteland did not jump into the thoughts of the state government? If reactivated, Adarice could take many willing but wasting youths off a life of despondency and hopelessness.

“What about activating Agricultural inputs centers across the Local Government, for the provision of tested and improved seedlings, fertilizers, Agro-chemicals, tractors, ploughs and harrows, harvesters and other modern agricultural equipment and implements to aid the people in their production. Why a cattle ranch, an occupation unknown to our people?

“OUR WORRY: UZPA notes with great concern, that despite our acknowledged comparative advantage in matters of Agriculture, Uzo-Uwani is treated with levity. In early January of 2024, the Enugu State Government of Governor Mbah, in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development – Value Chain Development Programme (IFAD-VCDP), inaugurated rice mills, solar-powered boreholes and cassava processing centres in five local governments of the State to assist rural farmers. The LGs were Aninri, Enugu East, Nkanu East, Isi-Uzo and Udenu. Uzo-Uwani was conspicuously omitted. This was strange, when we consider that rice and cassava are staples Uzo-Uwani is known for across the world. The distinctiveness of akpu Opanda, akpu Uzo-Uwani, Ji Uzo-Uwani have receive global acclaim.

“We cannot help but note the rather disdainful treatment of Uzo-Uwani by the Peter Mbah administration. Not one single Uzo-Uwani indigene made it into his numerically bogus transition committee; not one could make his Special Adviser or Assistant; to get a Commissioner, a constitutional entitlement, was like climbing a hill. We are beginning to see beyond this ranch. Governor Mbah is too distant from the things that concern Uzo-Uwani. Disdain is becoming a pattern.

“CONCLUSION: The psyche of the people of Uzo-Uwani has been violated by the proposal of the Enugu State Government to establish a Fulani herdsmen settlers ranch in Nimbo community of Uzo-Uwani, giving the factors recounted and analysed above. In view of that, and all things considered, the Peter Mbah administration is informed that Uzo-Uwani people reject the proposal and will not lend their support to any such design, as it debases our people and invokes the memory of inflicted sadism.

“We do not also see any serious economic reason for the project. To tackle the insecurity which our people are facing and for which we have consistently pleaded for help, the Mbah administration should be in the forefront of implementing the State Police proposal which President Tinubu is mulling and make haste to secure our forests and homesteads from the evil machinations of marauders and blood merchants.
A stitch in time, saves nine.”