By Peter Okutu
ABAKALIKI—COMMERCIAL activities were yesterday paralyzed in Abakaliki following a protest staged by aged women over the alleged rape of a 70-year- old woman to coma on gun point by a herdsman in the State.
The protesters who hail from Mgbom in Isu community, Onicha Local Government area of the state, baricaded some major business areas including Fatilami Park and Ezza road among other places.
Addressing journalists, the leader of the group, Florence Okoro alleged that herdsmen have been raping them and their daughters at gunpoint, adding that the herdsmen also carted away their food items that include yams, garri and other belongings.
“The herdsmen have been raping us and our daughters and that is why we came to protest to the government to come to our rescue because we have had enough of these inhuman treatment from them. The government should help us because we are dying of hunger caused by these herdsmen who have destroyed our crops and other properties.
“If we cook our food, they will come inside our house and take it and eat. We are farmers and we cannot do anything. The worst of it is that the horsemen rape us in front our husbands. Our culture forbids a woman from having sex with another man. If it happens, you cannot come out or talk in public again because you are a forbidden person.
“These horsemen have defiled us and we are worth nothing in our culture. We are calling on our governor to tell the horsemen to leave us alone and they should pack out from our land,” she lamented.
Another protester, one Mrs Veronica Chukwu added that “We don`t go to the farms again to avoid being raped and our farms have been destroyed. They are boasting that they are empowered by the government to move their cows around.
“The main purpose we came out to protest today is because of the rape of one Mrs Alice Ogbonna, a 70-year-old woman to the point that she cannot walk again with her two legs. Apart from the rape, they beat her with stick on her two arms and she cannot move her body again”. she added.
The governor who addressed the protesters through the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Augustine Nwankwegu said government must get to the root of the matter and urged them to maintain peace and order in the area.
“It is not a good thing for a herdsman to rape a woman. We have been having meetings with herdsmen and we always tell them to take it easy. Government will now look into the activities of these people. We now have a law that will be used to judge anyone that indulges in this kind of crime,” he said.
But reacting to the development, the chief (Eze) of herdsmen in the State, Ardo Bello stated that the suspect, (names withheld)upon interrogation, denied engaging in such a heinous crime.
According to Bello, when the suspect was seen around the community, he was warned to stay away from the environment which he did.
“The community members even killed one of his cows. He is a stranger in the state. The suspect is already in the police net and has denied ever raping the victim contrary to speculations or claims from the community members.”
Also, the secretary of the herdsmen in the State, Alhaji Haladu said he just got to know about the incident and denied the involvement of any herdsman in such crime.
“I just heard about the incident. Not at all will a herdsman commit such crime because of how we comport ourselves in the state. If we get the suspect, we will tell him to use the Quran to swear and if he refuses, it means he did it. Apart from being arrested by the police, we know how we discipline our members.”
Meanwhile, the State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Jude Madu said his office was yet to be furnished on the development.