Distraught farmers in Mbiafun Nkwongo villages and the neighbouring Nung Ukim Ikot Etefia, in Ikono local government area of Akwa Ibom State yesterday protested over the invasion of their farms by suspected herdsmen.
While counting their losses to the invasion, the farmers said the herdsmen led their cattle to plod and graze on their farms in defiance of the state government’s ban on open grazing. The farmers said they escaped being killed by the armed herders after failed attempts to prevent the invasion.
One of the affected farmers in Mbiafun Nkwongo village, Mr Sampson Udo, said, “the herdsmen used to parade their cattle to the farms at sun down and at a time when people must have retired to bed at night.
“The action of the herders in the communities is a clear violation of the law prohibiting open grazing recently signed by the state government into law, which should be viewed seriously.
“The sudden return of these menaces after the ban, if not checked, may result in another round of clashes, killings and tension between the indigenous farmers and the Hausa/Fulani community in state”, he stressed.
He, therefore, advised relevant government authorities to caution the perpetrators in order to safeguard crops and the farmers.
Chief Effiong Inyang, recalled that “in 2020, some herders invaded our farms with their cattle destroying crops worth millions of naira”.
He said some youths who attempted to resist the herdsmen from entering their farms in other communities were arrested by security agents on allegation by the herdsmen that their animals were slaughtered in the process.
According to him, some youths were made to pay over N300,000 before being released.
Corroborating the story, another farmer from Nung Ukim Ikot Etefia, M. Augustus Okon, said it was “unacceptable for the herders to allow animals to destroy people’s crops having invested heavily and expecting profits, just like the herders with their cattle.”