South-East Governors’ Forum says herdsmen terrorizing, killing people and raping women in the south-east region are AK47-armed 'foreign' herdsmen who do not speak Fulfude, Hausa or English.
The Chairman of the Forum, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, stated this while journalists after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Thursday.
Umahi said he formally presented a request (regarding joint security operations to address the issue of 'killer' herdsmen) of the South-East people including the governors, leadership of Ohaneze, the leadership of Nzuko Umunna, the clergy, bishops and national assembly members who would want to have an interaction with Buhari during the meeting.
The governor stated: "We also told Mr. President about the foreign herdsmen that come to our land with AK47. It has heightened tension in the region. They kill and maim our people; rape our women and people are very much afraid of going to farms and most of these people are in the thick bushes in the South-East.
"So, we requested joint operation with security forces to flush these people out. We don’t really have issues with our traditional herdsmen some of them have been living with us for quite a long time.
"But the foreign herdsmen, most of them don’t even speak Hausa neither do they speak Fulani nor English and a number of them are being caught by security agencies and it’s introducing a new dimension in the name of herdsmen.
"We have informed Mr. President that as governors of South-East, we have banned these foreign bandits in the name of herdsmen.”
Umahi said another issue also brought to the attention of Buhari was the Enugu airport.
The Ebonyi governor said, “I came to see him on behalf of our people on the closure of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu.
”We are very happy with him for ordering the closure of the airport consequent upon our letter to him to intervene and that closure has saved a lot of lives because if you land on that tarmac you will see that the tarmac was gone.
”We are aware it wasn’t constructed by the present administration but the tarmac became bad as soon as it was completed.
”So, we have discussed the timeline for the completion. We are all aware that towards December, we have a lot of heightened social-economic activities in South-East and Enugu is our base – it’s our capital. What Kaduna is to the north, it’s what Enugu is to the South-East.
”So, we pleaded with Mr. President for the extension of the tarmac so that it can accommodate bigger aircraft. We pleaded with Mr. President to do what he did when we had the same issue with Abuja International Airport, which he intervened in a number of ways.
”He provided a number of palliative like buses with escorts armed, provided helicopters (though the government didn’t pay for that but they paid for vehicles) which they did through a number of transport companies.”
The governor added: "I know that in the last administration we had to rehabilitate Port Harcourt International Airport and because it went through budgetary provisions it lasted for two years.
"But similar intervention by Mr. President in International Airport Abuja, he had to provide special funding and then it was later included in the budgetary provision and the fund was accordingly replaced.
”So, we are pleading for similar gesture for Enugu International Airport so that special funding could be given to the Honourable Minister of Aviation.”