By Chukwuemeka Opara
Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi has directed traditional rulers to collate data on herdsmen operating in the state for easy identification and maintenance of peace.
Umahi, who gave the order on Friday in Abakaiki at a meeting with traditional rulers and miners in the state, noted that the data should include herdsmen’s names, location and contact phone numbers of their leaders.
The governor remarked that the decision was reached after series of meetings with security agencies, various committees and representatives of herdsmen in the state.
“Traditional rulers should hold constant meetings with the herdsmen so that they can identify those from Niger Republic and other areas that foment trouble.
“We have been living in peace with the herdsmen for several years but still maintain that there would not be movement of cattle from one area to another in the state.”
He urged the traditional rulers and other concerned authorities to agree on grazing locations with the herdsmen where they would be restricted for their grazing activities.
“I will provide amenities such as water in such locations because the state government does not have the resources for ranching.
“When the grasses in such areas finish, you should arrange for another location for grazing because we would not tolerate cattle eating or destroying crops on our farmlands.
“Trouble is inevitable but we can handle them maturely through the various committees on herdsmen in the villages, communities and state levels,” he said.
Umahi warned that henceforth, anybody that killed herdsmen’s cows would make double payments with the herdsmen collecting one part and the ministry of local government and chieftaincy affairs, collecting the other.
“The herdsmen will be severely warned if they destroy farmers’ crops and when such persists after investigations, the herdsmen would be forced to leave the community.
“We want to put such restraining measures to prevent cattle rustling because the cows are dear to the herdsmen while the crops are dear to the farmers.
He noted that existing mining laws in the state would be reviewed to make illegal miners to get jail term of five years for engaging in such activities.
“We would send the bill to the House of Assembly as it would also become illegal for traditional rulers or town unions to lease mining sites without government’s clearance,” the governor said.
Chief Samuel Okoronkwo, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, noted that the ministry had intensified efforts to check the activities of illegal miners, especially those from neighbouring Imo and others states.
“We have also sensitised traditional rulers, town unions and other stakeholders to engage the government in mining activities in their areas to enable government to generate the accruing revenue.’’
The Chairman of the Traditional Rulers Council in the state, Igwe Charles Mkpuma, pledged that traditional rulers would collaborate with the government to check illegal mining activities.
A miner in the state, Chief Basil Igboke, noted that mining business was capital intensive and appealed to the government for financial assistance to support miners.