Herdsmen turned trophy hunters
And the governor wept. At Odo-Nimbo in Uzo-Uwani Council, the scene of the recent display of savagery by suspected Fulani herdsmen, Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi broke down.
He was touched by the scope of the carnage, and as sources hinted, the failure of security and bureaucracy to grind out a proper and adequate response to forestall this. He could not hold back the tears.
Broken bones and souls, butchered bodies and torched homes told the tales as graphic as the severely wounded, lying in critical condition in various hospitals in the state.
With eyes painfully starring into space in bemused wonderment, they are overwhelmed in their dumb and breathlessly feeble efforts to even mouth explanations or understand how they have become victims of this frenzied rage.
Addressing a gathering at the forlorn scene of the carnage, Ugwuanyi, visibly disconcerted by the magnitude of it all, prayerfully invoked divine intervention.
Why Nimbo, a community, which tragically lies within the corridor of the border with Kogi State and the butt of the joke that its indigenes have more in common with the Igala people in Kogi than with their kinsmen in Nsukka.
Reeling in the image of a backwater council, Uzo-Uwani enjoys its status as an agrarian community; Adarice in Adani is the biggest rice plantation in the state.
For the second time in recent times, Uzo-Uwani is caught in the web of this violence in the hands of suspected killers.
This time, there was an advanced warning, an alert, ostensibly to dare the community to brace up for a fight.
That warning reportedly was the basis of several security meetings between the commissioners of Police in Enugu, Kogi and Nasarawa states, and an appeal by Ugwuanyi to President Muhammadu Buhari for an action to forestall the bloody incident.
This attack has heightened fears in a state in which councils like Agwu, Ezeagu, Udi and Nkanu East have been attacked or engaged in skirmishes with herdsmen in the past.
The incident makes Uzo-Uwani the second council to be attacked in the last three months, after Agwu, albeit with tragic and debilitating consequences.
Abi community in Uzo-Uwani was attacked on February 9, this year by suspected herdsmen from Nasarawa, who invaded the community from neighbouring Kogi.
It was learnt that during that attack, four herdsmen were killed and their deaths made their compatriots to reportedly vow to avenge their deaths, even if it takes them 20 years.
Was this, therefore, the anticipated retaliation by the herdsmen from Nasarawa? The fear persists that most of the herdsmen involved in the attack on Odo-Nimbo were ‘imported’ from Nasarawa by other herdsmen operating in Enugu.
A native of the community and victim of a previous attack, Ezeugwu Emmanuel, said: “We were all in the farm when the men, many of them, mostly masked, emerged. I was shot in the back, but escaped. I was lucky.
“But the 52-year-old late Felix Okozie wasn’t as lucky, as he was shot from the back too in his cocoyam farm. He tried to run, but the bullet had shattered his legs.”
As recent as March 17, suspected herdsmen also clashed with farmers in Ugwuleshi community of Awgu Council.
Despite various versions of reports, at the end of the incident, soldiers arrested 76 farmers, following reports that they destroyed houses and attacked the herdsmen with dangerous weapons.
Three weeks after their arrest and incarceration in the prisons in Umuahia, Abia State, they were granted bail after the intervention of governors of Abia and Enugu.
The matter is before an Umuahia High Court.
New Fear Fuelled By More Rumours
MEANWHILE, a new rumour is ravaging the community and fueling a new fear of the unknown and that another attack lurks in the darkness.
In Nimbo and the underlying autonomous communities in Uzo-Uwani, Adani, Nkorogwu, Abi and Ugbene, the fear pervades.
Adani, the commercial centre and most cosmopolitan town in the area and about 30 kilometres to Odo-Nimbo, is now a ghost town.
Despite the presence of a Police Division, commercial activities was at a standstill; the Hausa and Fulani residents have left, joining a stream of indigenes of Odo-Nimbo and environs seeking a haven as far as Nsukka.
The president general of Adani Town Union and Chief Lecturer in the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu, Mr. Emmanuel Utazi, lamented: “We have never seen anything like this before. If government had done what it was supposed to do, this would have been averted.
“The rumour of the attack were strong, our people informed government and security agencies were aware. We learnt that they came and immediately they left, the people struck.
“We want a permanent military and Police presence here. There is a Police Post in Nimbo, but that is not enough. There are only two Police Divisions in Uzo-Uwani Council, located in Adani and Umulokpa.
“If the Inspector General of Police makes good his promise, we will have a third one. But we want another division, not promises any more. We want action. Right now, we are relying on self-help.”
He continued: “There is need to restore the confidence of the people in the security agencies; they have lost trust in the security.
“Right now, even the Police is harassing some of the youths who studiously risking their lives to watch over the town round the clock, in the absence of Policemen, on why they should be carrying guns without licence. These are den guns that doesn’t offer much, in terms of anything, but we are in a difficult situation.”
According to him: “There is a reign of fear and the implications are serious. Right now, I have left my students to be here to ensure the return of normalcy.
“We have mobilised our youths into vigilance teams for a 24-hour watch over the town.”
Conflict And Resolution
AS the different government delegations throng the area, the concern is how to forestall future occurrences, how to restore peace in the area and convince the people that their fears are baseless.
Ugwuanyi had claimed that he recently met with the leadership of the herdsmen in the state, where an agreement was reached on how they could live in peace with their host communities.
During his visit to Ugwuleshi, the governor had told the wailing natives: “This is a temptation, but since we have a living God, I believe we will solve this. It is a security matter. It has happened in Uzo-Uwani, it has happened in Nsukka and we resolved all of it.
“So, this one will also be resolved.”
In the meantime, Uzo-Uwani, a council with the largest landmass in the state is under-policed and no security agency rallied to the rescue of the victims.
Incidentally, in the wake of the attack, soldiers from the 82 Division of the Nigeria Army in Enugu and men of the state Police Command were
“on the ground” to take stock of the killed, maimed and destroyed property.
An unimpressed president general of one of the town unions, who pleaded anonymity, sneered: “It is obvious that they came to forestall a retaliatory attack from the community. We are witnesses to the events in Abi.
“This is very serious and dangerous. This community will never be the same again.”
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ebere Amaraizu, might have confirmed that much when he said: “We moved in to ensure that the situation did not degenerate beyond control and right now, everything is under control.”
A source, who craved anonymity, said: “There are different perspectives to this murderous inclination of these so-called herdsmen. Are they really herdsmen or the Police arm of the herdsmen?
“What is more worrisome is their nomadic nature and military precision in their operations. Do they cast the image of people who can sit down and negotiate peace with?
“They are well armed, act like people who are well trained and are prepared to strike fear into the hearts of the people. It is frightening.
“It is a challenge to the security authorities, who sadly know where this is coming from, but keep acting as if they don’t know what to do. Maybe again, they don’t know, which makes it the more scaring.”
He added: “So far, it would seem that the most vulnerable communities are those like Uzo-Uwani and the Aguleri and Umuleri in Anambra State that share borders with Kogi.
“This has become a corridor of violence and if government thinks this is a child’s play, then it is making a huge mistake.
“The Middle Belt is fast becoming a launching pad for this unrelenting menace into anywhere in the South by mercenaries parading as herdsmen.
“The time has come to look beyond the imaginary and convenient issues of herds of cattle and look at the risk to lives to human beings, because what we have here is a situation where communities invaded on the excuse that cattles were killed or the shepherds cautioned to respect people’s property.”
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