By Emma Amaize, Ochuko Akuopha & Paul Olayemi
OBIARUKU— HERDSMEN, armed with AK 47 rifles, caused panic at Ebedei community in Ukwuani Local Government Area, Delta State, when they shot at random, Tuesday night, forcing villagers, largely women and children, to flee the rural community.
The shooting came on the heels of the tension generated at Mosogar and Jesse communities in Ethiope East Local Government Area of the state, weekend, over the death of an indigene, allegedly lynched by herdsmen, following a heated argument.
Unlike the Ebedei shooting in which villagers took to their heels, it was the herdsmen that ran away from Mosogar and Jesse, as youths launched a manhunt for them.
State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Andrew Aniamaka, who confirmed the shooting in Ebedei, said: “There is perfect calm in Ebeide as I speak to you, even though there was shooting on Tuesday night allegedly by herdsmen.”
Sources in the community told Vanguard that indigenes of the area had, in the last few years, been at loggerheads with the herdsmen over destruction of their farmlands and harassment of villagers.
Chairman of the community’s vigilante team, Mr Olise Igbede, who spoke on the incident, said that some indigenes were at the bank of a river at Adonishaka Quarter of the community when 10 herdsmen accosted them about 6.30 p.m.
Disclosing that eight of the herdsmen were armed with AK-47 guns and the other two with cutlasses, he said: “They were asking our boys if this is Ebedei community and demanded to know why we are against cattle grazing.
“Our boys told them that they did not know what they were talking about and immediately, the herdsmen started beating them with their cutlasses and the boys raised alarm, which attracted other villagers.
“Later, about 7.30 p.m., they started shooting and some of the people, mostly women, started running out of the community to neighbouring towns. Later, the vigilante mobilized and proceeded towards the river. When the herdsmen saw us coming, they ran away. Five minutes later, they started shooting again and we went to the river and removed the wooden bridge to prevent them from crossing over into the village. Presently, we are still watching the river to avoid any surprises,” he said.
Area calm, no cause for alarm— Police
Aniamaka, however, told Vanguard: “Ebedei is calm. The Police, along with the vigilante backed by youths, are on ground. I agree with you that there was a distress call. Herdsmen, it was alleged, fired sporadically.
“There is a place they bring their cattle in the community to drink water. We are not sure what actually happened, whether some youths came close to them or out of fear, they were said to have fired gunshots. But I want to tell you that nobody was attacked, nobody was injured and nobody is dead on both sides. The Police have visited the place. The area is calm.
Information from Mosogar and Jesse has it that residents were fleeing the two communities in droves over fear of reprisal attack by youths, following the lynching of a citizen.
Incensed by the action of the herdsmen, the youths reportedly mobilized, but security agencies stopped them.