February 19, 2020

Suspected herdsmen killings: Outrage as Delta CP admits receiving 6 exhumed corpses


…Vows to go tough on criminal herdsmen

…We need to establish our own Amotekun now – PANDEF, IYC, others

…Fish out killers, Gov Okowa tasks security agencies

…Families of slain victims lament killing

…Want herdsmen chased out of their communities

By Sam Oyadongha, Jimitota Onoyume, Festus Ahon, Perez Brisibe & Francis Sadhere

Delta State Police Commissioner, Hafiz Inuwa, yesterday, admitted that the police received six exhumed corpses of eight of farmers allegedly killed by herdsmen at Uwheru in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State.

The community had, in conjunction with some security men, exhumed the six corpses on Monday, hours after two of the burnt corpses of the victims were exhumed on Sunday by representatives of the community.

This is even as stakeholders in the Niger Delta, including the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, clerics and civil society organisations, among others, yesterday, called for establishment of a regional security network, similar to Amotekun being formed by South-West governors, to checkmate the activities of herdsmen and other criminals.

READ ALSO: Why insecurity persists — Atiku, Adeniran

These came on a day the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, charged security agents to fish out killers of the eight victims, as families of the victims lamented the inability of the police and other security agencies to protect their loved ones from killer herdsmen.

Recall that the police commissioner and the community had been locked in a war of words, prior to the recovery of the corpses.

While the Police Commissioner said the incident didn’t happen, the community produced evidence with the corpses of those killed in their farms by the herdsmen.

But speaking with Vanguard, yesterday, the Commissioner of Police, who confirmed the report in a telephone chat with our correspondent in Warri, said the corpses were brought to Ughelli Police Station by some persons who claimed the corpses were victims of the attack between the community and suspected herdsmen.

It was reported that a team of security personnel and members of the community discovered the shallow grave on Monday while searching for the bodies of the victims allegedly killed by the arms-wielding herdsmen operating in the area.

The CP said: “Yes, six bodies that were exhumed by some people were brought to our Police station in Ughelli. We were not there when they exhumed the corpses. We are investigating the matter because they alleged that the bodies were those of the people that were killed during the herders/farmers clash at Uwheru communities.

“It is the investigation that will tell us who killed them, who buried them, when they were buried, who exhumed them and what have you.

“This is an issue of national security. If we discovered that there are some criminals who come here in the guise of herders or farmers to foment trouble, we will deal with them ruthlessly.”

CP Inuwa noted that the police had been interfacing with the committee set up by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa on herders/farmers interface that had been handling issues between herders and farmers so that there will be peace in the state.

He said:  “I still stand by what I said then that we did not recover any corpse. It is what we see that we will report.

“There was no recovery of any corpse the first day of the clash. But I am admitting this six corpses because they were brought to us by some people who said they exhumed them from the communities where the clash between them and herdsmen took place.”

Call for security outfit

The killings, yesterday, propelled agitation for the establishment of a regional security network in the South-South by stakeholders.

The stakeholders stressed the need for governors in the region to come together to set up a regional security outfit to protect and secure the lives of citizens in the wake of the rising cases of herdsmen pillaging of agrarian communities in the zone and killing of defenceless farmers.

Chairman of Bayelsa State chapter of PANDEF, Chief Thompson Okorotie, said: “As far as I am concerned, we need to establish our own Amotekun because the South-South has been suffering quite a lot.

‘’I know that individual state governments have been doing one or two things to douse tension by setting up committees to manage their (herdsmen) coming. Remember the one that was done in this state, where a multi-ethnic committee was set up and it involved all the security forces, including the civil defence.

“I remember that in that effort, they saw it as a business. When you bring your cattle, you pay for the cattle. You do your business at a designated area and you go back, that was the arrangement.

‘’Other states too have their methods. But I think the South-South states should get together and look at a regional arrangement and the states will complement one another with intelligence information and strategy.

‘’The zone should get together to bring about an establishment that will ensure our security and protection, it’s a matter of urgent necessity.”

Also speaking, Mr Iniruo Wills, President, Ijaw Professionals Association (Homeland Chapter), comprising Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers, said: “It is time for the governors and legislative representatives of the region to convene a Niger Delta action summit on security.

“On the national level, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the National Assembly and the Federal Executive Council should declare from now till the end of March or April as a period of emergency attention and action for national security, and make it the top item for deliberation, decision making and implementation.

“For example, the leadership of the National Assembly should stop making soapbox speeches on security and swing into very intensive engagements with security chiefs and if the results remain as utterly unsatisfactory as they are now to the entire Nigerian populace, the National Assembly should impress on the President to shake up the system immediately for better results.

‘’Also, the National Assembly leadership should go on a region-by-region critical stakeholder consultation series on security across the country during the same period. Security still appears to be a mere talking point to the Executive and the National Assembly, rather than a matter for urgent deep thinking and action. When they get serious about it, we will all know.”

Regional security outfit inevitable — IYC

Similarly, Eric Omare, President, Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, worldwide, said the recent attack on Uwheru community by herdsmen has again brought to the front burner the need to have a community- based regional security apparatus, considering the failure of the conventional security outfits to protect the people.

He said: “I personally ran into the conflict on Saturday, February 15, 2020, while I was going to Bomadi town from Warri. The youths of the community alleged that the herdsmen were aided in the attack by uniform men.

‘’Whether the uniformed men were impostors or of the Nigerian Army, I cannot confirm the exact position but the fact which is obvious is that our people are defenceless and deserve protection by the government.

“A situation where some persons with murderous instinct just wake up and kill innocent Nigerians is unacceptable. We have had enough of an attack on our people and the time to act is now.

“In the absence of South-South governments taking actions to come up with the community and regional-based security outfits, I call on Ethnic Nationality leaders in the South-South to mobilize their people to defend their communities.

Also reacting yesterday, the Chairman, Cross Rivers State chapter of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, Dr Lawrence Ekwok, said: ‘’We, in PFN in Cross River State, have been consistent in calling for the arrest and disarming of any herdsman found with arms.

‘’Claims that the herdsmen carry arms to protect themselves and their cattle are misleading and wicked. We rarely hear of herdsmen being killed yet on a regular basis, we are inundated with sad tales of men, women, children being killed and property destroyed. This must stop and any herdsman who kills should be arrested and tried.

No one has licence to kill — Anglican Archbishop

In his reaction,  Anglican Archbishop of Calabar, Bishop Tunde Adeleye, said:  ‘’There is nowhere in the world anyone has the license to kill or maim another with impunity but the herdsmen in Nigeria.

‘’If Nigeria must know peace, herdsmen’s killing must be stopped. We know there are people behind them but these people must know that human life is sacred and no one has the right to take that of another person.

‘’We hear hot words coming from Miyetti Allah on the rights of herdsmen to graze their cattle anywhere but they should know that communities own those lands and killing owners of the land just because you have powerful backers is against God and humanity.’’

National Chairman, Urhobo Nationalist Movement, Alhaji Mumakai Unaghan, in his statement, also called on Delta State government to set up community policing mechanism to help secure communities in the state, alleging that suspected security men aided the activities of the killer herdsmen.

His words: “With pain and grief, the Urhobo Nationalist Movement heard of the brutal murder of farmers in UHWERU by Herdsman aided by men in Nigeria Military uniform in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta.

‘’I want to, on behalf of the Urhobo Nationalist Movement, condemn the gruesome murder of the innocent farmers who went to their farms to fend for themselves and their children.

‘’This is a heinous crime which the Federal Government must investigate. Even in the North East ravaged by Boko Haram, the situation in UHWERU is more pathetic.

‘’The herdsmen alone couldn’t have done the havoc if not aided by men in military uniform. They invaded the peaceful community and harmless civilians in their quiet homes. The Federal Government should investigate the killings and bring the culprits to book.”

Other reactions

Reacting in a similar manner, the President, Centre for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade, CHURAC, Alaowei E. Cleric, said: ‘’It has got to an alarming dimension the rate at which Fulani herdsmen are perpetrating violence against their host communities.

‘’The recent attack on Delta communities in Ughelli North LGA is condemnable. This is one attack too many.  There is no doubt that the present government at the centre has failed in its primary responsibility of securing lives and property.

‘’That is the reason Nigerians are agitating that the various regions should devise alternative security measures to protect lives and property. Since the centre cannot hold any longer, the business of internal security should be given to the state governments.”

Fish out perpetrators, Okowa charges security agents

Meanwhile, Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, has charged security agencies to fish out killers of the eight farmers.

He also commended the Nigerian Army and the Police for their prompt intervention in the clash between the herdsmen and Uwheru communities.

The governor in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Olisa Ifeajika, expressed gratitude for the peace that had been restored to the communities through the instrumentality of the security agencies.

Okowa, however, said he was saddened by reports of persons, including security agents, who lost their lives in the attack, restating the confidence of the state government in the security agencies to rise to security challenges in the state.

He thanked the army authorities for the sustained support to the state in providing security and protecting public facilities across the state.

While calling on the affected villages in Uwheru to maintain the peace that had been restored, the governor assured that the security agents would investigate the cause of the clash and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Families of slain victims lament killings

Meanwhile, family members of those killed in the recent attacks by the herdsmen said, yesterday, they were holding their peace in anticipation of the decision of the state government.

The remains of the victims were exhumed from the enclaves of the herdsmen inside the bush after they were killed and buried by the herdsmen who had hitherto, kept the corpses in their custody.

Seven of 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.

Their relatives had, yesterday, stormed the mortuary of the Ughelli Central hospital where the remains of their loved ones were being kept for autopsy and further investigation by the police.

Still grieving, some of the family members were able to summon the courage to express their emotions to Vanguard as they expressed concern over the inability of the police and other security agencies to check the excesses of the armed herdsmen who they alleged had taken over their farmlands.

Elder brother to  Philip Emesharueke, Jonathan, said his late brother who was a father of seven, was killed by the herdsmen, stressing that his immediate family was currently waiting for the actions of the government on the matter to know their next line of action.

He said: “I was home when I and other members of my immediate family got the news surrounding the death of my brother. Initially, we were confused thinking it was a joke because honestly speaking, it was strange to us, only to later confirm that the news was true and that our brother has actually been killed by herdsmen.

“For now, it is only God that is consoling us because honestly, I can’t express how I am feeling. My parents have no option for now than to manage themselves, based on the situation on the ground.”

On his part, Ajomo Joseph identified Andrew Useh as his younger brother, saying “he is married with two children. I only returned from my place of residence in Taraba State over this matter.

‘’It is one thing for your loved ones to be killed and for you to get the corpse for burial but it is another thing when his assailants after killing him, held on to the corpse deep inside the bush.

“It is not something that I will want to wish even my enemy.

‘’He is an orphan and now, imagine this kind of ordeal that has befallen him. Now, he too has been killed, leaving his children who are less than 5 years old fatherless and his young wife a widow.”

For Atlanta Ovwanre, “I have been hearing of how herdsmen kill people inside the bush, I never knew that one day, this ordeal will befall my family. But here we are today. If you ask me, I will say we leave everything for God because right now, there is nothing we can do.”

President General of Uwheru community, Cassidy Akpadafe, while lamenting the killings, said: “All we need is that the Delta State and Federal Government should order herdsmen to leave our land completely.

‘’If you add the present number, over 86 persons have been killed in almost 12 years that  herdsmen took over our farmlands.”

Also speaking, Ughelli North council chairman, Godwin Adode, said: “All I want to say is that the people of Agadama and other surrounding communities should be careful about the manner they go to their farms, especially in this trying period because the herdsmen are still very much in the bush.

“Though it is going to have an adverse effect on them, as they are farmers and fishermen, with their bush taken over by these herdsmen, what we need from the Federal Government is that that they should help us chase these herdsmen away and site an army base or a police formation in that area.”

READ ALSO: Police shoot man protesting against property take over in Lagos

Delta Police vow to go tough on ‘criminal Fulani herdsmen’

THE Delta State Police Command has vowed to go hard on any person or group of persons fomenting trouble in the state particularly armed  herdsmen which the command described as “criminal Fulani herdsmen.”

The state Commissioner of Police, Hafiz Inuwa, while speaking with Vanguard, yesterday on the heels of the exhumation of eight persons reportedly killed by armed herdsmen in the Uwheru community axis of Ughelli North Local Government Area of the state, said the command was currently investigating the matter to ascertain if the victims were actually killed during the farmers and herders conflict.

He said: “We need to always see beyond our nose to manage situations. “We are investigating the matter to know what happened, how it happened, whose corpses were recovered, whether they were killed during the Fulani herder’s conflict or whether they were exhumed elsewhere. All these are what we want to know.

“For now, there is no official statement other than the investigations we are doing and trying to deescalate the situation.  We need to always see beyond our noses to manage the situation so that it will not touch on the security of the state and the entire nation.

“We are still looking for the criminal Fulanis, if we apprehend them, we are not going to spare them and that is the honest truth. We have zero-tolerance for criminality and whoever is involved; we are not going to spare such a person or group of persons.

“We will never allow anybody to come to Delta and foment trouble including Deltans themselves at the same time.”