Irigwe people of Bassa Local Government Area in Plateau State say they have lost over 660 kinsmen in four years of persistent herdsmen attacks.
The attacks, mostly unprovoked have left over five villages completely deserted with more than 10,000 women and children displaced, Paramount Chief of Irigwe, Rev. Ronku Akka said, Wednesday.
Due to the attacks which still persist, local farmers can no longer access their farms, leading to increased poverty and hunger, Mr. Ronku told visiting Officials of the Plateau Peace Building Agency in Meyango, Bassa LGA.
“We are not finding things easy here. Our people go to the farm and don’t return. The killings are too frequent and that has affected us psychologically and economically. Even as a Traditional Ruler, I am devastated because when your people are killed, will you rule over stones?” Ronku lamented.
The Village Chief however recalled that in the past, his Community coexisted peacefully with all its neighbors, Herdsmen included.
“We have lived peacefully with all of our neighbors and we welcome everybody to our domain. We are a peaceful people and cannot be seen to be aggressive towards anyone but these attacks are just unimaginable,” he said.
In his words, the Herdsmen perpetrating the attacks often come from outside the State and country. “Those that we have lived with for years are not violent and we still relate well,” said the traditional ruler.
He explained that Herdsmen who had stayed in the community for long but left for fear of reprisals owing to the violent activities of “foreign herdsmen” are welcome back, “but there must be conditions”, he said.
“If they want to come back and stay, we are a peaceful and friendly people and want them to come too. But they must be willing to accept our conditions,” said the Chief. He however did not specify the conditions for the return of the Herdsmen.
The Chief had set a local committee to reconcile his people with resident Herdsmen, a move applauded by peace Officials as “bold”.
Mr. Joseph Lengmang, the Director General of the Plateau Peace Building Agency said the Chief’s drive for peace has endeared him to the agency.
“This is the kind of example we want to see. The spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation exhibited by Your Royal Highness is worth celebrating and as an agency, we are ready to work with you to sustain this legacy,” said Mr. Lengmang.
The PPBA boss disclosed the commencement of special interventions in the locality, by some foreign partners of the agency, United States Agency for International Development included.
Representatives of the intervening partners along with staff of the Peace Building Agency will visit villages affected by conflicts to collect data relevant for the design of intervention programs.
The same notice was conveyed by the PPBA to the Chairman of Bassa LGA, Mr. Chindo Gona ahead of the assessment starting in few weeks.
Mr. Gona who regretted that attacks have persisted despite calls by concerned bodies and individuals for ceasefire, lauded the concern of the Peace Building Agency and its partners.
“The white man is smart enough to protect his own land and his brother but we are here killing ourselves. We should learn from these foreign agencies bringing help to us and try to be of help to ourselves. These killings will never help us,” he said.
The Peace Building Agency had paid a similar visit to the Chief of Ganawuri, Yakubu Chairman to intimidate him of the same interventions and seek his support. It is expected to visit that of Mangu, Dr. Nelson Bakfur and others in local governments hit by conflicts soon.