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Edo: Group raises alarm over alleged plot by Obaseki to cede communal lands to herdsmen

accuses Governor of insensitivity, desperate bid to please Fulani friends

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An indigenous Edo group, the Edo Development Forum (EDF), has accused the state Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, of an alleged plot to cede communal lands in the state to marauding herdsmen whom they claim are responsible for killings and violent displacement of local owners of farmlands across the state, particularly in rural communities.

At issue is a controversial clause contained in the Anti-Open Grazing Bill transmitted to the House of Assembly by the Obaseki-led Executive branch of government. According to the EDF, in clause 5(7) of the disputed Bill, the Edo State Government granted the allocation of 20% of lands across the state to the pastoral herdsmen under the guise of a ranching system.

If passed, as it looks likely to considering the near-absolute control of the partial Assembly by Governor Godwin Obaseki, Edo State would become the first southern state in the country to write into the law the public concession of lands to herders who stand accused of numerous atrocities in the state and across the southern region.

In a Monday statement signed by Barrister Felix Isere and Mr. Baron Mike, the Executive Director and Director of Media and Publicity of EDF respectively, the group claimed that the Governor plans to trade lands in the state in exchange for favors with his “Fulani friends”.

They said: “Edo State is now faced with the existential threat of losing ownership of at least 20% of her land in all the districts of the state to marauding herdsmen who have killed, raped, and maimed our people with impunity.”

“This is because Governor Godwin Obaseki, in his usual and outrageous political calculation, has ranked his friendship with his Fulani backers over and above the safety, well-being, and future of Edo citizens, including our women and children.”

“Whereas other southern states have stood solidly in their rejection of any plan to cede even an inch of their lands to herdsmen or any foreign group under any arrangement, be it ranching or whatsoever, we now have hard proof that Mr. Godwin Obaseki is yet again traveling in the opposite direction with the transmission of his Anti-Open Grazing Bill to his partial Assembly, which contains a clause that mandates the gazette of 20% of lands to herdsmen under the pretext of a establishing a ranching system.”

“In effect, Governor Godwin Obaseki is attempting to legitimize the reign of terror of these herdsmen who have shown blatant disregard for the territorial integrity of our state and the rights of our people to assert their ownership of their communal and ancestral lands.”

“In communities such as Okokhuo, Agemokpae, Iguhoro, Ugbokuli, Agekpanu, Okoghohon, Abumwenre II, Ugboke, Ariyan, Okokodo, Oshodin, Iguogho, Ofitebe, and Igolo, the death toll continues to rise as our people are butchered by these herdsmen who march their cows into people’s farms, destroy their crops, and lay siege to hunt human beings for sport.”

“Instead of ensuring justice and committing resources, including the nearly one billion naira monthly security vote he receives, to the stamping out of these criminals who have have refused to obey existing laws on property rights and business operations, Governor Godwin Obaseki has decided to reward their murderous campaigns with a concession that will imperil the safety of our communities, and leave our unborn sons and daughters at the risk of being landless and second-class citizens in the lands of their forefathers.”

“If herdsmen wish to finally embrace reason and heed the sensible advice shouted across the southern region for them to halt their violent invasions into people’s farmlands and instead adopt the modern, peaceful ranching approach, then they must set aside funds to lease lands from owners so willing, instead of a forceful conscription through outrageous legislations sponsored by their elites.”

“Governor Obaseki’s Bill and acquiescence to these Fulani invaders is an affront to all free-born citizens of Edo State, and an act of political desperation taken too far.”

“To add salt to injury, we are aware that the Governor has enlisted highly-paid propagandists to sell this treacherous and unfortunate Bill as a “solution” to the herdsmen crisis. What kind of solution rewards suspected criminals with lands to carry out a private business? How many businesses enjoy such a law-backed concession in Edo State?”

“We wish to state in no uncertain terms to Governor Godwin Obaseki that we will not fold our arms and let him carve out our state and sell it in bit and pieces to his Fulani friends.”

“As citizens concerned with the future of the state, we are mobilizing Edos in their thousands across all the senatorial districts to resist this systemic dispossession and treacherous act. His appendages in the House of Assembly should note, too, that the passage of such a Bill will mark the end of their political journey in Edo State.”

“We have historically resisted plot by foreign invaders, who find willing collaborators in traitors within our ranks, to seize our lands and appropriate our ancestral possessions at any cost. That has not changed. We remain ever committed to defending lands bequeathed to us by our forebears. Governor Obaseki is advised not to test the resolve of the people on this issue.”

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