By Chinenyeh Ozor
…Residents allege other criminal acts
Fulani herdsmen recently unleashed mayhem at Nimbo, a peace-loving community known for its abundant agricultural produce in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State after the barbaric killing of two teenage-students, who were helping their parents in a farm work.
Residents of the area alleged that the herdsmen who settled in the forest of the community for long, had been robbing, harassing and raping women at farmlands and on Nsukka–Adani Expressway after which they retire to the forest posing as cattle-rearers.
Before the killing of the teenagers who were identified as Thadeus Utazi, 17, JS111 and Okeh Michael, 19, SSII, the Fulani herdsmen had on different occasions, allegedly carried out broad day light robbery with sophisticated weapons on the road without fear of being intercepted by security agents stationed at Adani and Nsukka Police Area Commands. They were also reportedly armed with sharpened machetes and arrows during their operation.
Crime Guard gathered that the herdsmen had settled in the farmland of Nimbo in contravention of a court order barring them from occupying the forest. They had allegedly engaged in burning residential houses indiscriminately, harassing indigenes, robbing unsuspecting victims, raping women at farmlands almost on daily basis and vandalising yam barns estimated at several hundreds of thousands of naira.
When Crime Guard visited Nimbo community over the incident, the residents stated that the fleeing Fulani herdsmen carried out an unprovoked attack on them for asking them to stop their cattle from destroying their farmlands. They also alleged that the Fulani men shot and killed the two students while working in their parents’ farmlands.
It was further learnt that Chief Ugwu Utazi, father of slain Thadeus, fainted on hearing of his son’s death. He died four days later. The distraught father of the dead student, who was quoted to have said that he would never be alive to bury his first son, Thadeus, died before police could release the corpse for burial.
A visit to the compound of the Utazis showed the two graves of father and son lying side by side. The situation at Nimbo community is hopeless as fear, anger and anxiety enveloped the residents. Their native week market (Eke) was virtually deserted following their inability to go to their farms and harvest crops and yams for sale.
Also several sympathisers thronged the home of Okeh Michael,19, At the family compound the sympathisers lamented the fate that had befallen the community. Mr. Wilfred Okeja, a civil servant with Uzo-Uwani Local Government and step-father to the deceased, and his wife, Celina Okeja, were speechless and in tears.
Wilfred Okeja, who managed to speak to Crime Guard, said his son, Michael, was killed by Fulani herdsmen at their farmland “Ugbo Owerre”. Michael was said to be the only surviving child of his late parents. According to him, “my son was killed by the Fulani people who have been a problem to Isiamani village and the entire Nimbo community for some time now.
Michael was not armed and had been a quiet hardworking child. His offence was that he challenged the Fulani people for bringing their cattle into our farmland. That was the third time the Fulani people invaded our farmland and that third day, they shot my son to death. The Fulani people used sophisticated weapon like AK47 rifle. They raped our woman with reckless abandon.”
Investigations showed that some time before the killing of the two students, a driver with Uzo-Uwani Local Government, Mr. Onyia, was attacked, shot and macheted but survived. His mobile phone, wrist watch, shoe and cash in several thousands of naira were taken away by the Fulani men while he laid unconscious in a pool of blood. The victim told Crime Guard that the Fulani people were not masked to question their identity.
“It is a broad daylight robbery. As I speak with you, I am carrying pellets of bullet inside me. Nobody could doubt what the Fulani people do on Adani Expressway. They commit all manner of crime and run into their make-shift tents in the bush,” he stated.
It was gathered that cases of robbery attacks and other atrocious acts by the Fulani herdsmen had been reported by not only residents of the area but people and motorists who ply Nsukka-Adani Expressway. The police in the area seemed helpless as no clear attempt had been made to check the excesses of the herdsmen.
It was also learnt that following the killing of the two students, the herdsmen fled with their cattle. Some of them were said to have relocated to Adani, a suburb town in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area.
Sources said before fleeing Nimbo community a night after killing the two students, the Fulani men had shot indiscriminately into the air to chase away members of the community. In fact, the shooting, according to Charles Ezea, was so massive that people thought it was an attack by the dreaded members of Boko Haram.
“Each year, our people record huge loses in farm produce due to the devastation caused by their cattle. We went to court to stop them and got an order in our favour. We demarcated our boundaries with them and mounted signposts, but the Fulani people removed them at night. What else can we do in our own land?’’He questioned.
Crime Guard also learnt that after the incident, the community through the town union, petitioned Enugu State Governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime; Chairman Uzo-Uwani Local Government, Mr. Onwubuya Cornel and copied the State Security Services,SSS, over the attack and killings but nothing concrete has come out of it.
Contacted for comment over the phone, Onwubuya condemned the attacks and killing of the students.