By Festus Ahon, Asaba
For residents of Issele-Azagba in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State, life has become unbearable as suspected herdsmen have laid siege to their forest from where they launch an attack on them once they are hungry.
The suspected armed herdsmen have apparently occupied the forest from where they launch an attack on unsuspecting residents of the hitherto peaceful community.
The community farmers no longer go to farm as they used to for fear of being attacked by the hoodlums.
Since October 13 last year when the marauders launched their first attack on the community by invading the Issele-Azagba Secondary School and kidnapping the Principal and some teachers after beating security at the gate, the community has not known peace.
It has been more or less one week, one trouble for residents of the community. The suspected herdsmen have launched over six different attacks on the community and several persons killed, several others kidnapped and many others sustaining bullet wounds.
On February 23, the suspected herdsmen stormed the community, attacked the residence of one Daniel Benwari, shot sporadically, killed the man, who was said to be of Ijaw and Urhobo ethnic extraction, injured his daughter and kidnapped the wife, Helen.
A few days later, the wife was released with body injuries after an undisclosed amount of ransom was paid.
She was immediately taken to the Federal Medical Centre, Asaba where the daughter had earlier been taken for treatment.
Again, the suspected herdsmen, on March 4, besieged the community, killed the manager of a hotel and kidnapped eight persons.
Lamenting the situation, President General of the Issele-Azagba Development Union, Mr. Ben, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to come to their rescue.
Illoh confirmed that the suspected herdsmen had killed four and kidnapped several persons who were freed after the payment of a ransom in separate attacks.
He said residents of the town no longer sleep with their two eyes closed, appealing to Buhari to prevail on the security agencies to liberate them.
According to him, the situation had overwhelmed the local vigilante group. Illoh said: “These attacks have become a very big problem to us. The vigilante and government presence is here. The police have arrived and there is a serious patrol going on but we want more support.
“For example, teachers are afraid to go and teach, it took serious efforts to get some of them back to school and the presence of vigilante operatives has given them the courage”.
The community youth leader, Mr. Ogebu Edozie, who also spoke, said “Issele-Azagba is very receptive to strangers irrespective of tribe or religion”, adding, however, that “bandits have taken advantage of such hospitality to unleash terror on us”.
Edozie insisted that armed herdsmen were responsible for the series of attacks on the community, noting that those who have encountered the hoodlums, including freed kidnapped victims, confirmed that the attackers are Fulani going by the language they speak and their physical appearance.
His words: “Victims confirmed that these people are Fulani herdsmen from the language they speak and their physical appearance.
“We were told by those abducted that they were speaking Hausa. We are not trying to stereotype anybody; if a Fulani man is involved, nobody should shield him, likewise an Igbo man or a Yoruba man, it is not about tribe.
“What we are saying is that we are under siege and vicious attacks. The people doing this are our enemies. They come with very sophisticated weapons which you cannot see around here. It is not war between us and Fulani, but war between us and bandits, criminals and killer herders”.
Saying the attacks had taken a huge toll on the socio-economic life of the people, he said, “Social activities are now at the lowest level while farmers are too scared to go to their farms to avoid deadly confrontation with bandits”.
Meanwhile, Delta State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Hafiz Inuwa, has vowed to rid the state of criminal elements, including armed herdsmen terrorizing communities.
Inuwa said he was determined to change the narrative of crime and criminal activities in the state, maintaining that vigilante groups were playing a pivotal role in assisting the police to fight crime, especially at the grassroots.