Catholic church,11 houses burnt
It’s a national issue, not ethnic —OKOROCHA
Cattle owners, not herdsmen, should be questioned—OHANAEZE
By Emeka Mamah, Clifford Ndujihe, Chidi Nkwopara & Chinenyeh Ozor
NSUKKA—About 40 persons have so far been reportedly killed by some Fulani herdsmen at Nimbo in Uzo- Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, sources told Vanguard at Nsukka Police Area Command, near the area yesterday.
The incident took place barely 24 hours after stories filtered out that no fewer than 500 heavily-armed Fulani herdsmen sneaked into the community preparatory to launch an attack.
About seven villages in Nimbo (Nimbo Ngwoko, Ugwuijoro, Ekwuru, Ebor, Enugu Nimbo, Umuome and Ugwuachara) were among the areas attacked.
Ten residential houses and a church, Christ Holy Church International, aka Odozi Obodo, were also said to have been burnt by the herdsmen just as vehicles and motorcycles were destroed and domestic animals killed.
A young man, whose name was yet to be ascertained, was burnt inside a commuter bus belonging to one Ejima, son of a prominent man popularly called ‘Are you there’ near the Christ Holy Church, Nimbo.
A victim’s story
Kingsley Ezugwu, former Councillor, Nimbo Ward 2, was one of the victims of the attack.
Speaking from his hospital bed in Nsukka, Ezugwu said: “I was coming out from the house when I heard the community bell ringing. I was going with a friend to know what the bell was all about, only to see about 40 Fulani herdsmen armed with sophisticated guns and machetes.
“They pursued us, killed my friend and shot at me several times but missed. They caught up with me and used machetes on me until I lost consciousness.”
He said one of them later discovered that he was alive and called on the others to finish him off. They ignored him.
He said he crawled until a good samaritan helped him to the hospital.
Dead bodies litter hospitals
So far, six dead bodies have been recovered and deposited at Bishop Shanahan Hospital, Nsukka, while others, who sustained injuries were rushed to Royal Cross Hospital and Enugu State District Hospital, Nsukka.
Meanwhile, villagers and other residents of the area were fleeing the town.
It’s a national issue—OKOROCHA
In its reaction to the development, the South-East Governors Forum, said what happened at Ukpabi-Nimbo is like any other national issue that deserves the understanding and cooperation of all Nigerians of goodwill to tackle.
Governor Rochas Okorocha, Chairman of the Forum, speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo, said: “It is a national issue that also requires national approach to resolve.
“Our problem in this country is that whatever happens is given an ethnic colouration and that makes the solution to such problem somewhat difficult.”
It’s failure of governance—Ohanaeze
To the Secretary General of Ohanaeze, Dr. Joe Nwaorgu, the continuous killing of people across the country by herdsmen without any response from the Federal Government is a failure of governance.
He said: “We are very sad and very disappointed that all over the country, not just the South-East, these killings by Fulani herdsmen have continued unabated and nothing concrete is being done by the Federal Government.
“The first act of governance is protection of lives and property. It is complete failure of governance. There has been no response from the Federal Government and this is allowing the Fulani herdsmen to continue the killing spree.
“Everybody is worried about the poor attitude of the Federal Government to this massacre across the country. Boko Haram is operating in the North-East and Fulani herdsmen are killing people all over the country. It is not the herdsmen that should be held responsible, but owners of the cattle.
“The herdsmen are under the instruction of highly-placed Fulani people who own the cattle. They are heavily armed. How many cows can the herdsmen buy? Federal Government should stop this nonsense before it causes a catastrophe.”
Meanwhile, police sources said it would be difficult to say the actual number of those killed, even as the killing is spreading to other parts of the local government.
Similarly, member representing Uzo-Uwani constituency at the Enugu State House of Assembly, John Ukuta, said: “I am shocked that this has happened to my people. It is disturbing to learn that security men that were earlier assigned to ward off the rampaging herdsmen disappeared few minutes before they struck only to re-appear after they completed their horrifying assignment.
“This situation has become a national epidemic. People are leaving their communities in droves. Security agencies should move in now.”
The bodies of those recovered included that of an old man of about 85, and another young man whose throat was slit.
One of the victims, who was simply identified as Mr. Ajogwu, father of the former Councillor for Nimbo Ward 1, Sunday Ajogwu, had his left hand severed.
Another one had his stomach ripped open, spilling his intestines.
Traditional rulers lament
The traditional ruler of Nimbo, Igwe John Akor, told Vanguard on telephone that the attackers struck at about 7a.m. when they had left for their farms.
He said: “Most of those who were killed died in the early hours of the morning. We are still counting our losses. We have not started going into the farms and bushes to look for our dead brothers and sisters.
“When the situation becomes very calm, we will start looking for the rest of the victims. For now, our prayer is that the Federal Government sends security men to restore peace.”
Also reacting, the traditional ruler of Abbi community, Eze Fidelis Igwe, complained that his community had over the years suffered untold hardship in the hands of Fulani herdsmen, who he accused of maiming and gang-raping “our women at farmlands” in addition to robbing and kidnapping his people or stealing and destroying cash crops in the community.
He said: “This is the fourth time Fulani herdsmen have invaded our community in three years. The losses are too much for us to bear.
“The remaining people of the community have now taken refuge in neighbouring communities due to fear of another invasion by the herdsmen who do not give signs before striking.
“We have made several appeal to the Police, Uzo-Uwani Local Government and Enugu State government demanding for the Fulani herdsmen to leave our community, but nothing has happened.”
In his reaction, Igwe Herbert Ukuta of Igga in Uzo Uwani said: “I am appealing to the state government and the Commissioner of Police to send some detachment of police and military personnel to secure the lives of Igga community where I come from.
“The Fulani herdsmen had earlier threatened that Igga community is among the areas they will attack.
“They have now attacked Nimbo, which is among the areas they vowed to attack. Others are Echenwo and Abbi. Already, the people of other communities are fleeing their homes over fear of the herdsmen attack.”
Already, the Enugu State Police Commissioner, Ekechukwu Nwodibo, had visited the troubled community with the Area Commander for Nsukka, Monday Kuryasi, among other top police officers.
‘They evacuated their cattle’
The Fulani herdsmen had vacated the area with their cattle in the early hours of Saturday, before the attackers, who reportedly came from Nasarawa State, struck.
There had been anxiety in Nimbo following reports that about 500 Fulani herdsmen were assembling to attack the area.
It was gathered that fellow Fulani herdsmen at Adani had, at the weekend, imported about 500 others from Nasarawa State to help them invade Nimbo community on the grounds that some of their cattle were missing in the area.
Stakeholders’ wasted efforts
However, as a result of the development, stakeholders from the local government met, weekend, in Enugu to find solution to the incessant attacks, kidnap and rape by herdsmen on communities in the local government.
According to sources, Chairman of Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area, Cornell Onwubuya, had alerted Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and the state Commissioner of Police, Ekechukwu Nwodibo, of the threat.
Onwubuya was said to have further alerted other stakeholders who met leaders of the Fulani community in Enugu State on the impending attack.
Speaking at the emergency meeting held on Saturday, Onwubuya said the local leaders of the Fulani community also confirmed that there were attempts to bring in mercenaries to attack some communities in Uzo-Uwani, adding that the Fulani leaders in Enugu had complained that some of their people were killed within the axis of Nimbo and Abbi communities in the recent past.
Fulani leader’s failed assurance
At the meeting, Enugu State leader of the Fulani community, Alhaji Haldo Saidu Baso, said he had lived in Enugu State for over 33 years and would not be alive to witness the type of crisis they were talking about.
The Fulani leader said he would talk to his people not to take laws into their hands but to report disturbing issues to the traditional rulers of the communities.
Vanguard learned from a native, who witnessed the gory scene that the herdsmen were armed with AK-47 rifles, and came with two buses fully loaded with arms and ammunition at about 7.13a.m.
Police, Army move in
Contacted, Police Public Relations Officer, Ebere Amaraizu, said: “The Commissioner, Ekechukwu Nwodibo, is in the area with a combined team of Army and Police. I can confirm there were casualties but the exact number is still what I do not know.”
At press time, efforts to speak with the Local Government Chairman failed as he claimed to be at the scene of the crisis with Nwodibo and other police officers.