The Commissioner of Police in Abia State, Anthony Ogbizi, has advised communities and herdsmen in the state not to take the law into their hands in protest against any alleged wrongdoing in the course of cattle grazing in any part of the state.
Ogbizi gave the advice on Tuesday during a meeting of the Farmers/Herdsmen Peace Committee, which took place at the Police Officers Mess in Umuahia.
He urged the traditional rulers and representatives of the herdsmen, who were members of the committee, to restrain their people “from taking the law into their hands”.
He said: “No matter the level of provocation, you should desist from taking the law into your hands.
“Even if your crops are destroyed in your farmlands or your animals are killed, report to the police or other security agencies close to you.
“Herdsmen should also restrain themselves from taking the laws into their hands when their cattle are attacked or killed by angry natives.”
The police boss advised the farmers and herdsmen to report any acts of provocation from any quarters to the security agency in their area for appropriate action.
He said that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State had assured the committee that government would pay compensation for damages to farmlands and livestock suffered as a result of open grazing in any part of the state.
Ogbizi therefore urged farmers to ensure that damages to their farm crops or animals were not only reported but properly documented.
He said: “After reporting to the police about any destruction of crops in your farmland or animals make sure that the damages are properly documented.
“The essence is to make sure that government has a record of the damages so that you will get compensated.”
He further said that the committee would send a team to the affected farmlands to assess the extent of damage vis-a-vis the claims and make recommendations to the governor for the payment of the compensation.
The police commissioner, who is the chairman of the committee, expressed joy over the support from the governor to ensure the success of the group in averting any farmers/herdsmen clashes in the state.
Ogbizi said the governor had promised to purchase two operational vehicles for the committee to ease its job.
He appealed to the local government chairmen, traditional rulers, town union leaderships and community heads to collaborate with the committee to ensure peaceful coexistence between Abia State communities and herdsmen.
Speaking in an interview with newsmen, the representatives of the farmers and herdsmen expressed delight over the efforts by the government to enthrone lasting peace in the state.
Alhaji Yaro Danladi, who represented the Hausa/Fulani herdsmen, promised to ensure that herdsmen did not overstep the designated routes for grazing in order not to provoke the host communities.
Chief Dunlop Okoro, who is the chairman of Abia State chapter of the All Farmers Association, underscored the need for proper documentation and compensation for any damages suffered as a result of herdsmen invasion.
The meeting was attended by the Chairman, Abia State Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Eberechi Dick, local government chairmen and Divisional Police Officers.
The committee was set up last year in the wake of repeated clashes between suspected herdsmen and famers in some communities in the state.