South East Governors’ Forum Chairman and Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi, has urged herdsmen who fled the state to stay out of the state for now.
The Governor emphasised that the tension created by the recent killings associated with the herdsmen in Egedegede and other localities in Ishielu local government area of the state was still very high, warning that their return could escalate insecurity.
Governor Umahi made the call on Tuesday while briefing journalists on decisions reached at the weekly State Security Council meeting held at the Government House Executive Council Chambers, Abakaliki.
Umahi explained that neither the government nor the people of the state had asked any herdsman to leave, and observed that their fleeing the state was suggestive that they were privy to the killings.
The Governor however, insisted that the state government has not found any evidence to blame the recent killings in Ngbo, Ohaukwu local government area on the herdsmen.
He maintained that recent developments have continued to grow suspicion that the recent killings at Umuoguduakpu, and its adjoining villages of Ngbo were perpetrated by the Agila people of Benue State.
Umahi said: “On the issue of herdsmen, we want to place it on record that no herdsman is in Ebonyi state as at now.
“We didn’t ask them to leave; they left on their own, meaning that they were privy to the attacks on Ebonyi state.
“I have been talking to the national leadership to please beg them that what is going on in the various states, that no state governor that has control of bandits and because of the killings of defenseless Ebonyi people and for the safety of them, they should please not return now.
“And so, we have sent messages to the leadership of Miyeitti Allah: please, Ebonyi state is under tension because of these killings and we will want them to still stay out until such a time that it will be safe for the traditional ones to show face.”
The governor further directed the Vigilante groups in the state and the local government authorities to totally enforce the existing state laws against open grazing, charging Ebonyi people to confront any AK-47 riffle-bearing herdsman in any part of the state.
“On the open grazing, there is no need of talking about that because there is no cow in Ebonyi state now and there is no herdsman in Ebonyi state now, but the position of Ebonyi state government is that we have a law on open grazing and the natives cannot continue to blame security agencies because the security agencies cannot be everywhere.
“So, we are directing vigilante to enforce the open grazing law of the state.
“At national level, the governors have said there is no open grazing.
“We don’t expect the security people to be everywhere but working with the vigilante, the local government chairman should enforce the ban on open grazing anytime the healthy herdsmen will return because we will confront any herdsman coming to Ebonyi state with AK-47.
“I have directed that they should be confronted if you are coming to Ebonyi state with AK-47 and my directive is just obvious because Mr. President had already directed as such.
“So, if you are a herdsman and you are coming to Ebonyi state with AK47, you will be confronted with the same measure that you are bringing to Ebonyi state.” the governor stressed.
Meanwhile, Governor Umahi during the briefing strongly condemned the recent attacks on police stations, and killing of policemen in some.parts of the country, blaming the development on indigenous bandits.
He charged the Police to sternly confront any person or group of persons bringing any attack on them, noting that the budding monster being created in the name of banditry in the South-East would be regretted by all.
“We condemn totally, the killings of policemen and burning of police stations in the South-East.
“They are not being done by herdsmen.
“They are done by people across the South east: bandits and criminals, and my directive to policemen is that if you see anybody coming to kill you, demobilize the person, that is the rule of engagement.
“Police people should not fold their hands and be killed; vehicles burnt, police stations burnt and I want South east leaders to rise up to condemn this.
“How do we feel if because of the killings and burning of police stations in the South east, the federal government decides to withdraw all the police people from South east?
“We should rise up to condemn what is evil and this is very important,” Umahi fumed.
The Security Council meeting which lasted about one and a half hours was attended by heads of security agencies in the state, members of State Executive Council, chairmen of local government areas, among other stakeholders.