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When herdsmen spewed death on community

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A burnt building (Inset: a victim being conveyed to a hospital (left); another victim in a ward)  PHOTOS: LAWRENCE NJOKU

A burnt building (Inset: a victim being conveyed to a hospital (left); another victim in a ward) PHOTOS: LAWRENCE NJOKU

• Fear Persists, As Residents Struggle To Pick Up Pieces
Ukpabi Nimbo in Uzouwani Council of Enugu State has remained in the headlines since Monday’s attack by gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen. The community, which shares boundary with Kogi State, was before now not in the reckoning of Uzouwani council or the state. Its only road is in deplorable condition. Its two schools (primary and secondary) are old and dilapidated. There is no health facility. The people are predominantly farmers, and according to Ikenna Ugwuja, a resident: “We are only remembered during elections.”

“The politicians come here to canvass for votes but never return. The level of decay here is massive. No government has paid attention to our infrastructural needs and that is why we have always wondered whether we are part of Enugu or Kogi State. Even the council administration has not reckoned with us in its programmes,” said Ugwuja.

Although electricity poles in the community have been fitted with wires, it has not enjoyed power supply. A trip from the community to Nsukka lasts about an hour, while a journey from the community to the headquarters of Uzouwani local government takes over three hours, a situation blamed on poor state of roads.

Monday’s attack by herdsmen from neighbouring Kogi State left over 20 people dead, with destruction of property, farmlands and livestock. It made the community desolate, as the residents fled.

The attack, which happened around 7am, led to the destruction of 10 houses including the parsonage of the Christ Holy Church International. Fourteen persons sustained varying degrees of injury. Some had deep machete cuts to the head, neck, hand or back. It was gathered that six others at a morgue and others already buried had either their hearts ripped out or fingers cut.

Mr. Ugwu Ogbu, one of the deceased, whose body was recovered from the bush, a day after the incident, was a teacher posted to the community from Enugu Ezike. He had left his house for the farm the fateful morning. When his corpse was displayed in a police patrol van, it was found to be without fingers, even as the body bore several machete cuts.

Mr. Ugwu Ogbu, one of the deceased, whose body was recovered from the bush, a day after the incident, was a teacher posted to the community from Enugu Ezike. He had left his house for the farm the fateful morning. When his corpse was displayed in a police patrol van, it was found to be without fingers, even as the body bore several machete cuts.

Reeling in pain on his hospital bed at Holy Cross Specialist Hospital, former Ward II councilor, Kingsley Ezugwu, said: “I was coming out of the house when I heard the community bell ringing. I decided to go with a friend to find out why, only to see several Fulani men armed with guns and machetes. They pursued us and killed my friend. They shot at me but missed. They caught up with and used machetes on me until I lost consciousness. They thought I was dead and left. A good Samaritan brought me here.”

Eze Patrick Okechukwu, who has machete cuts all over his body had, two weeks earlier, returned to the village from Jigawa State, where he had participated in the National Youths Service scheme.

Okechukwu, a graduate of Geology from the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), was referred to the orthopedic hospital, Enugu. Looking frail as he lay on the rear seat of the vehicle that was about to convey him to the hospital from Bishop Shenahan hospital, Nsukka, he said: “The pain is too much. I was attacked by five hefty men all wielding machetes…”

Oke Samuel, Akogu Utazi, Ngene Anthony, Celestine Akogu and Onah Vincent are still in critical conditions at the Bishop Shenahan hospital, bandaged heavily. Michael Utazi, Innocent Ogbebe and two others lie unconscious at the Nsukka district hospital. Three others are also in a critical state at the National Orthopedic Hospital.

Decrying the situation, the traditional ruler of Nimbo community, Chief John Akor, said: “This is not the first time we have been attacked by these herdsmen; the only thing now is that they came to annihilate the entire village, apparently to take over. They kill our men, they rape our women, they destroy our farmlands and what have you. They dare us and tell us that we are nobody.

Bewildered... A gathering of the community members following the attack

Bewildered… A gathering of the community members following the attack

“In this latest attack, they swooped on the community early in the morning and started with those who had gone out for farm work. They came with machetes, they came with guns, and they came with other dangerous weapons. They came here to kill everybody. And because there is a police presence, we took our security for granted. We have not counted our losses yet because we are yet to return to our farms. But our appeal is that government would come to our aid and put necessary infrastructure here.”

He added: “This is a quiet community; the inhabitants are not troublemakers. They go about their daily farm work and other activities. We are not known for killings. On several occasions, we have appealed to the federal and state governments to intervene on the problem created by the herdsmen. We are a peaceful people and will coexist with others. But this level of provocation certainly has gone beyond arm’s length. And for us, it is no longer a tea party.”

It was gathered that a security alert was received prior to the attack, even as Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi called a security meeting. According to the Council Chairman of Uzouwani, Mr. Onwubuya: “When we got information that these people were coming to attack Enugu State, I got in touch with relevant security agencies. I called the Governor and the Commissioner of Police, as well as the Area Commander in Nsukka. I informed them about the impending action by the Fulani herdsmen. They assured me that nothing was going to happen. The governor, in fact, summoned an emergency security meeting on the eve of the attack. I also met with the leader of the Fulani community in Enugu, who gave his assurances. Policemen were brought and stationed at strategic places. Unfortunately, that Monday morning, they struck less than an hour after the police left.

“Our worry is why the police left after the warning that this threat is real. Now, see what has happened. See what our people are going through. See the level of devastation this has caused. It will certainly take time for us to recover from this. And for this community, I still don’t know how they will continue to manage.”

Ukpabi Nimbo, meanwhile, has remained a ghost town. The village market (Eke Nimbo), deserted since the incident, has not reopened. Many homes have remained under lock and key. Students of primary and secondary schools have not returned to their classes since Monday. It was learnt that the late Mr. Ugwu Ugbu was a teacher in the primary school.

It was also gathered that students of the community who missed their WAEC examinations on Monday and Tuesday returned to school Wednesday to sit for them. Those still left in the town are mainly youths, who go about in groups of two or three, clutching machetes and axes. Although security operatives are present, the atmosphere of fear persists.

A native of the community, Dr. George Ajogwu, however, told The Guardian on Thursday: “There is adequate security now, since the visit of the governor and the Inspector General of Police. The town is secure and we are telling our people who ran away to return. The schools have not reopened for now. Those writing their WAEC examination went to school yesterday (Wednesday). Those in the primary school and the other secondary school classes have not resumed. I believe this is out of fear and the fact that the body recovered on Tuesday was that of a teacher in the primary school. We have not returned to the farms because things are yet to settle. But I know things will gradually return to normal.”

He stated that apart from Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, others who have visited the area include the General Officer Commanding the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Enugu; the Inspector General of Police; and other security chiefs, stressing that the community is still in mourning.

The development appears to have heightened the call for more protection for the area. The IGP, Solomon Arase, has also responded with the approval of a permanent police station along Nkpologwu, a neighbouring community with Nimbo. The station is expected to boost security in the area, especially on the long and lonely Adani road.



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