•As he recants statement
on police participation in exhumation of slain farmers
•DTSG officials allege conspiracy between security personnel, herders
By Perez Brisibe
Residents of some communities in Delta state have descended on the state Commissioner of Police, Hafiz Inuwa, accusing him of compromise in the manner he handled last week’s reported attacks on communities in Uwheru kingdom in Ughelli North Local Government Area of the state by armed Fulani herdsmen which claimed eight lives
Indigenes of Agadama, Ohoror and other agrarian communities in the kingdom had over the years, lamented the incessant attacks on them by armed Fulani herdsmen who brought their herds to the area for grazing.
Following fresh attacks last week, natives of the affected communities blocked the Bomadi/Ohoror road protesting alleged connivance of persons dressed in military uniforms with the herdsmen that led to the killing of over ten farmers and fishermen who had gone to their respective farms.
They also claimed that in a bid to probably conceal their deeds, the herdsmen took their atrocities a notch higher by withholding and burying the corpses of those killed with two of the corpses burnt by the assailants.
The Delta state governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa on his part, had in a statement through his Chief Press Secretary, Olisa Ifeajika, alleged that the herdsmen accompanied by unidentified army personnel, had stormed the communities in an unprovoked attack that has become a routine and killed no fewer than eight persons and injured many others.
A day after the incident, the Commissioner of Police faulted media reports that eight persons were killed in the renewed attacks, describing it as moves by some individuals to cause apprehension in the state.
The Police boss while warning the general public to stop escalating issues wondered why members of the community would be hiding the corpses of such persons claimed to have been killed by the herdsmen if such incident actually occurred.
According to him, “Only one person was shot by the hoodlums. The victim was rescued by a search party and taken to the hospital for treatment.”
He said: “When the incident of herdsmen invasion was first reported, we quickly mobilized our men to the area in partnership with the military. The protesters from the community blocked the road but with co-operation of the political stakeholders in the area, the police was able to open the blockade.
“A rescue team was raised with representatives of the police, community and other services with a view to recover the said corpses, but on getting to the bush, only one person was seen with bullet wounds and was taken to the hospital for treatment and up till now (Sunday) as we speak, the police have not seen one single corpse.
“People should stop escalating issues as no corpse has been recovered or seen by the security operatives as at Sunday morning (February 16) and if there are, why are they hiding such corpses from the police? But a search will continue today, if there are any corpses as claimed, but for now, there is nothing like that.”
In a move to prove the security operatives wrong, the community in company of the rescue team made up of personnel from the army and police, was able to enter into the bush the next day and identified three shallow graves where six of the farmers had been buried and exhumed them in addition to two others which were also dug up the previous day.
The victims were identified as: Denis Itoje; Philip Emesharueke, 27; Andrew Useh, 22; Ochuko Ovwanre, 25; Samson Coach Ogheneoruese, 35; Kotor Boy, 25 and Freeborn Israel, 35.
Giving details on the recovery of the corpses, a police officer from Ughelli ‘A’ Division who was part of the operation said the team embarked on a long trek for over an hour into the enclave of the herdsmen who had relocated into the interior part of the bush before they were able to identify the spot where the victims were buried.
How rescue team retrieved corpses from herdsmen enclave
The security source who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “There is vast stretch of land with white sand like a beach alongside a river bank where the herders built their temporary shelter while they also use the river as source of water for their herds. They had proceeded into the deeper part of the bush before we arrived but we were able to identify three shallow graves where they buried the farmers in twos and covered them with white sand. Investigations carried out revealed that the hoodlums had earlier killed two of their victims and burnt their corpses probably in a bid to dispose them. The remains of the eight corpses exhumed so far are currently in the Ughelli Central Hospital for autopsy.”
CP recants earlier statement
However, a day after the discovery of the corpses, the CP who had earlier admitted that the police was part of the rescue team that went in search of persons reportedly killed by the herdsmen, recanted his earlier statement and claimed that the police did not participate in the rescue operation.
Speaking to Vanguard on the position of the police on the exhumation, he said: “Yes, six bodies were actually brought to us (at the Ughelli Police station) by some people which they exhumed, and alleged were part of those people killed during the herders/farmers clash in Uwheru communities.”
The CP however questioned the authenticity of the corpses. He said: “It is the investigation that will tell us who killed them, who buried them, when they were buried and who exhumed them.
“This has to do with national security. Pathologist will come in, doctors will come in, experts will have to come and give us their own advice and opinions before we give our own final conclusion. More so, when you discovered those things, why did you not call the law enforcement agencies to be part of the recovery exercise and who even buried them?
“I still stand by what I said then that we did not recover any corpse, but I am admitting these six corpses because they were brought to us by some people who said they exhumed them in a shallow grave in the communities where the clash between them and herdsmen took place.”
CP is being economical with the truth – Uwheru PG
Accusing the police boss of being economical with the truth, President General of Uwheru kingdom, Cassidy Akpadafe, said the community was maintaining its earlier position that so far, a total of nine persons were killed and buried in shallow graves of twos by the herdsmen
He said: “The issue is that the CP was not there himself, so maybe that was why he said the Police did not participate in the recovery operation, but his men from the Ughelli ‘A’ division police station were among the rescue team alongside soldiers that went for the recovery of the corpses, it would have been practically impossible for us to recover the corpses if the security operatives did not accompany us.
“So if he is claiming that the police did not participate in the operation, I wonder what he is talking about because he is well aware of it. However, for a lasting solution to these attacks which have become an annual occurrence, the state and federal governments should give an order that herdsmen should no longer bring their herds to our area again.”
Security operatives threatened to destroy our communities
Meanwhile, a traditional chief from the community, Prof. Patrick Muoboghare who is also the State Commissioner for Higher Education said they had to accompany the rescue team to exhume the corpses because the security operatives had threatened to destroy the communities.
Exonerating the policemen drafted to the area over their inability to arrest the armed herdsmen, he said: “I do not blame the police because when they tried it few years ago the Fulani herdsmen killed them and the then Delta State Police Commissioner said he didn’t send anybody to go and fight herdsmen.
“Not too long after that, the then Ughelli Police Area Commander (ACP Usman Ndababo) visited Uwheru to help disperse the Fulani herdsmen, only for him to be assassinated in Ughelli. Who killed him?