BY FRANCIS IGATA, ENUGU
Hell was let loose last Monday in Ukpabi-Nimbo, in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, when dare-devil herdsmen, numbering over 500, unleashed terror on hapless natives, killing 46 and burning the Christ Holy Catholic Church, Odozi-Obodo. 11 houses were razed while 14 victims are lying critically ill at Royal Cross Hospital,Nsukka,Nsukka District General Hospital and Bishop Shanahan Hospital, Nsukka.
APRIL 23: HOW IT STARTED
The herdsmen were believed to have hatched the plot to attack Ukpabi-Nimbo, last weekend,and notified the natives. The development triggered tension in the community. The herdsmen, it was learnt, were bent on taking over portions of the vast fertile land in the community for cattle grazing, a stance the community opposed. The herdsmen allegedly told the natives that their kinsman, Muhammadu Buhari, is the President and so, they takeover land wherever they wanted to graze their cattle at the expense of the host community.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that the community, subsequently, alerted security agencies of the threat which resulted in a stakeholders meeting.
The herdsmen, it was learnt, assembled about 500 other herdsmen to launch the attack. It was gathered that the herdsmen in a neighbouring town had imported the 500 others from Nasarawa State to help them invade Ukpabi-Nimbo on the grounds that some of their cattle were missing.
The herdsmen were alleged to have consistently raped,maimed and killed victims from the communities situated on the Nsukka-Adani-Umulokpa expressroad in the council area.
Those kidnapped allegedly paid ransoms ranging from N500,000 to about N5 million before they regained their freedom.
APRIL 25: BLACK MONDAY
At about 5.15 am, the assailants struck,casualty figure immediately stood at 40,while six more bodies were recovered the following day. The affected villages of Nimbo Ngwoko, Ugwuijoro, Ekwuru, Ebor, Enugu Nimbo, Umuome and Ugwuachara became deserted as blood littered everywhere.
Christ Holy Catholic Church, Odozi-Obodo, at Onu-Eke, Nimbo and 11 houses were razed even as 14 victims are lying in critical conditions at Royal Cross Hospital, Nsukka, Nsukka District General Hospital and Bishop Shanahan Hospital, Nsukka.
A combined team of the army and police moved in to avert further deterioration of the situation even though it was alleged that the authorities had prior intelligence of the tension brewing between the host community and the herdsmen.
Condemnation followed the dawn attack as a member, Board of Governors, Civil Liberty Organization, CLO, told Sunday Vanguard that the killings are targeted at the South-East, the South-West, and the South-South geopolitical zones to reduce the Christian population. It is a grand plan to Islamize Nigeria. The pertinent question is that since when have herdsmen begun to rear cattle with guns? Who bought the guns for them and taught them how to use the guns. Why has Buhari not condemned or commiserated with Benue and Enugu State people over the killings?”.
Apex Igbo-socio cultural group,Ohanaeze Ndigbo, through the Secretary General,Joe Nworgu,said the body was monitoring the situation and called on the police to reveal the owners of the cattle.
The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra,MASSOB,led by Uchenna Madu, lamented that herdsmen had pushed the people to the wall. “They have reminded us of the civil war. We may introduce violence which we are not known for”, Madu stated.
APRIL 26: UGWUANYI WEEPS
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State raced down to Ukpabi-Nimbo to ascertain the level destruction and casualty figure. He was greeted by the natives with the decomposing corpse of a teacher,identified as Mr. Ugwuogbu, from Enugu-Ezike in Igbo-North Local Government Area of Enugu State found in the bush by youths who went on search and rescue mission.
Ugwuanyi doled out N5 million relief and declared two days of fasting and prayers on the impasse.
The governor,who wept on arriving the scene, appealed to the Federal Government to intervene and called on the community to embrace peace in the wake of the attack.
He also visited victims of the attack in hospital, declaring that government will pay their bills while Enugu Emergency Management Agency was ordered to move in and rehabilitate those displaced.
Ugwuanyi used the opportunity to commiserate with the traditional ruler of Ukpabi-Nimbo, Igwe John Akor, who said: “The killing,raping,kidnapping of my subjects have come to a head. There is no week that passes that we do not experience kidnapping and killing by herdsmen. It has got out of hand. It was a black Monday. We have been doing our best to have peace with the herdsmen but to no avail. We have called several meetings with those of them from Kogi State,Adani and Enugu. We are appealing to the federal, state and local with governments to come to our aid by giving us adequate security presence. Again,our vast fertile land is what they take advantage of. They harass our people and kill insisting that they own the land and their cattle must graze there. They hold our men at gun point in their farmland and rape their wives,destroy the farms and livestock. Our people have not be going to farm for the past eight months because they are scared not to fall victim to the herdsmen’s siege.
“They wield AK47 rifles and other sophisticated weapons. When they meet our people in their farms,they point the gun at them and drive away our people to enable their cattle eat the crops. We have been going through this hell for the past one year. We are requesting federal presence in form of Mobile Police deployment here. The local vigilante should be given incentives to do their job”.
Sunday Vanguard’s visit to Ukpabi-Nimbo showed that economic activities in the area had been shut down even as the officials of the West Africa Examination Council, WAEC, involved in the conduct of exams in Ukpabi Secondary School had abandoned their duty post.
Natives, especially old women and children, were seen evacuating their valuables to safety for fear of escalation of the Monday attack.
APRIL 27: NATIVES ALLEGE POLICE CORPORAL LED ATTACK
While revealing to the Inspector General of Police,Solomon Arase, who visited the community,how the invasion was conducted, a youth leader,George Akogwu, said,”The herdsmen came in two buses bearing AK47 rifles. They invaded the houses and hacked people to death. The attackers were led by a police corporal serving in the local government.
“What happened was that the policemen posted to the community left, despite the fact that we pleaded with them to stay till those who would relieve them arrived. But they did not listen to us.
“Immediately they moved out that morning, the herdsmen struck. If the policemen had listened to us, the incident may have been nipped in the bud. It was only the Area Commander’s men from Nsukka that responded”.
APRIL 28: UGWUANYI SUMMONS EMERGECY TRADITIONAL RULERS,TOWN UNION LEADERS MEETING
Following his visit to Ukpabi-Nimbo, Ugwuanyi summoned an emergency meeting with the traditional rulers, President-General of town unions and leaders of the Neighborhood Watch in all the communities in Enugu.
A source disclosed that the meeting, which is part of the action plan of the state government to find a lasting solution to the menace of herdsmen in the state, is scheduled to hold tomorrow, Monday, May 2, at old Governor’s lodge, Enugu.
The source also revealed that the governor was determined to put an end to the herdsmen’s attacks which have consumed lives and property of innocent citizens as well as threatened the peace and security of the state and the nation at large.
The governor had, when he got security report, last Sunday, that the attack will take place in Ukpabi-Nimbo, he immediately summoned the State Security Council, which met on Sunday night till the early hours of Monday, shortly before the herdsmen struck, regretting that the sad incident still occurred after all the assurances given to him by security operatives that the attack will not happen.
Tomorrow’s meeting, according to the source, is expected to map out strategies to promote peace and end attacks from herdsmen in the state.
CAN DECLARES FASTING, PRAYERS, CALLS FOR SELF-DEFENSE
The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, expressed outrage over the Ukpabi-Nimbo attack.
Secretary of the body in Enugu State, Apostle Joseph Ajujungwa, said the wanton destruction of lives and property by the herdsmen in the state could no longer be taken for granted.
While expressing shock that security operatives could not nip the attack in the bud despite having prior information, Ajujungwa called on South-East communities to rise up and defend themselves.
“We are shocked and saddened by the level or carnage perpetrated by these herdsmen in Ukpabi-Nimbo community,”he stated.
“More painful is the fact that security agencies had ample time and opportunity but they looked the other way; in view of this, I am calling on the people of Enugu State and other South-East states to rise up and defend themselves because security operatives have failed”.
The CAN leader maintained that it would be wrong “for our people to fold their hands and watch helplessly while our women are being raped, our men are being killed and our ancestral land is being taken away.”
While calling for investigation of security agencies in the state, he announced one-day of mourning to commiserate with all those who lost their lives in the attack.
“In honour of those whose lives were snuffed away by these herdsmen, CAN declares one-day of mourning. Within this period, we ask our people to pray fervently and ask God to take control”, he added.
APRIL 29: UGWUANYI BLAMES SECURITY OPERATIVES FOR ATTACK
Ugwuanyi accused security agencies in the state of complicity despite assurances they gave him that the planned attack will be forestalled.
The made the accusation while speaking during a news briefing at Government House attended by the Deputy Senate President,Ike Ekweremadu,Deputy Governor,Cecila Ezeilo,all serving senators and House of Representatives members in the state.
The governor’s speech read in part:”On Sunday, April 24, by 7 pm, the night before this carnage took place, I got security information from Uzo-Uwani Local Government Transition Chairman, Hon. Cornell Onwubuya that such an incident was likely to take place in the state.
I immediately summoned a meeting of the State Security Council which commenced by 10 pm.
“The meeting was attended by the following: Garrison Commander Brigadier General Olufemi Akinjobi who normally represents the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 82 Division Nigerian Army,the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Nwodibo Ekechukwu,the State Director of Department State Security Services (DSS), Mr. M. Abdul Malik,the State Commandant of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Mr. Lar Stephen,Representatives of the Nigerian Air force, Federal Road Safety Corps and Nigerian Prison Services, who attended as observers.
“From the side of government were, myself, the Governor, the Deputy Governor, the Secretary to the State Government, the Chief of Staff, the Chairman, State Traditional Rulers Council and the Honourable Attorney General of the State.
“In the meeting, we received assurances from the Commissioner of Police that the Area Commander of SARS was on ground in Nimbo. That the Anti-Terrorism Unit was at Nimbo. That he was in contact with the Kogi State Commissioner of Police and reported suspected herdsmen grouping at Odolu in Kogi State preparatory for an attack on Nimbo and Abbi communities. That Police mobile force and conventional police were already drafted to Nimbo and Abbi communities. That he was in touch with the Area Commander, Idah, ACP Ikegwuonwu and had linked him with the Area Commander, Nsukka, ACP Monday Kuryas.
Both men according to the CP reported that there were no traces of suspected herdsmen in Nsukka or Idah.
“That he ordered the Area Commander, Nsukka to redeploy to Nimbo. That the Garrison Commander on his part assured the meeting that Military was already deployed to Nimbo. Let me state that the State Government provided logistics for these deployments. After receiving these assurances of deployments to Nimbo, I felt quite confident that we had done everything possible to forestall an attack on Nimbo. I have deliberately narrated what transpired at the Security Council meeting fully conscious of the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution pertaining to my oath of office. I am doing this in due discharge of my duties as Governor.
“Sadly, in the early hours of Monday reports of this carnage reached me. More disturbing was the report that the attack of innocent and defenceless citizens were carried out at about 6 30 am. Further reports available to me indicate that apart from the killing and maiming of innocent and defenceless citizens of Nimbo a Church was also burnt. Following this development, I engaged the security agencies in order to ensure that the Nimbo area was secured from further attacks that might escalate the situation.
“I am at once, constituting a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the immediate and remote causes of all the violent occurrences in the State associated with suspected Fulani Herdsmen and recommend appropriate measures that will be put in place to prevent future occurrence. “What happened between 6.30am and 7.30 am on Monday 25th April, 2016 despite assurances from the Security Agencies? Only the Security Agencies can answer this question”.