Says killers are well known, security agencies must fish them out
Such attacks continue because perpetrators are never arrested
We were about to sleep when we heard gunshots everywhere —Survivor
Some slept in the bush as we ran from Ebonyi to Enugu‘
Residents have fled, our community no longer safe —77-year-old woman
For 6 years now we plant but can’t harvest because of herdsmen
By Peter Okutu
Abakaliki- Last Monday, March 29, residents of Amaezu, Nkalaha, Obegu and Umuhuali communities in Ishielu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State were preparing to have their dinner. Some had even finished theirs and were about to retire to bed. All of a sudden, sounds of gun shots rented the air and everybody started running helter-skelter.
The attackers were armed with cutlasses and AK-47 rifles. They were herdsmen on a mission to kill the entire members of the four communities. By the time the dust settled the following morning, more than 15 corpses were picked up.
Members of the communities now live in fear as a shocked Governor David Umahi declared that such attack was capable of degenerating into another civil war if nothing urgent was done of stem the tide of criminality by the rampaging herdsmen.
One of the survivours claimed that apart from the 15 corpses that were counted immediately after the incident, more victims of the affected communities were still discovered within and around the area.
The herdsmen who attacked the communities were said to have been evicted by the communities some time ago for alleged destruction and theft of their farm produce in the area.
Survivors narrate their ordeals
A survivor of the attack, 25-year-old Angela Osinachi, from Obeagu community, narrated her experience:
Her words: “My name is Osinachi Angela Osinachi, I am 25 years old, I’m a tailor and I’m from Obeagu-Egedegede community in the Ishielu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. It was on Monday afternoon, when some little children who went hunting in the bush rushed back home and started saying they saw Fulani people moving about in the forest in the area carrying different kinds of guns.
“Some of the elders asked them not to shut up, that those they saw could be some Forest Guards from Enugu. But that same evening, we started hearing sounds of gunshots here and there. That was when people now started running helter skelter for their lives. That night, we ran through the bush to Enugu State from Ebonyi State. Some of us even slept in the bush that night. These herdsmen killed many people and destroyed our property. They really dealt with us. So many people were killed. Government should come to our aid and give us security because these days, no one can stay here and feel secured. It’s a very sad situation”.
Another member of the affected community, 77-year-old Mrs Rosemary Ozara, who also narrated how the attack was carried out, corroborated the allegation that the herdsmen were destroying their farmlands before they were chased away.
She said: “I am a 77-year-old farmer and my name is Mrs Rosemary Ozara. I am from Obeagu-Egedegede community, Ishielu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. It was on Monday, March 29, 2021 in the evening. We, as village people were preparing to cook our dinner and some had even finished cooking and were about to sleep, when all of a sudden, we started hearing gunshots from everywhere. Then, we started running and kept running through the bushe until we got to Ehamufu in Enugu State. We just got back to this village to get some food to eat. Presently, almost all the natives have fled from the community for the sake of their dear lives, because nobody considers this community to be safe again.
“For about six years now, we would plant but could not harvest our farm produce. At each planting season, the herdsmen would uproot everything we planted and give it to their cows to feed. This had continued for awhile before we now approached them and said since you people cannot leave our crops to grow, leave our community for us. Then after awhile they left, but threatened that nobody would be in this community. They said they would deal with us and pursue us out of the community.
“About 20 persons were killed in this community excluding those from Enugu, who were traveling through the community from other cities. I don’t know how to describe the fact that we, as a people, no longer have peace of mind in this village. Now, we feel threatened, nobody is safe here anymore. We pray that Government would come to our aid and ensure that peace is restored here”, she said.
Another member of the community who spoke on Wednesday, on condition of anonymity, said they had been living in peace with the herdsmen until recently when they started having intractable problems. “They were destroying our farmlands, which was our source of livelihood so we asked them to leave. Before they left however, they told the residents that they would deal with them but the people didn’t take the threat seriously.
Vanguard findings revealed that an indigene of Anambra State (name withheld) was among those who were killed in the attack. His corpse was said to have started decomposing before it was evacuated
Governor David Umahi who went round the affected communities was saddened by the attack saying that such act was capable of degenerating into another civil war if nothing urgent was done of stem the tide of criminality by the herdsmen.
Said he: “I got a very shocking news about the attack on four communities of Nkalaha, Obegu, Amaezu and Umuhuali in Ishielu local government area of the state by AK-47 herdsmen that came yesterday and killed 15 members of these communities.
“I remember that about a year ago, we had an incident of the killing of two herdsmen within this same location and immediately the security agencies, the local government chairman and the community leaders all came together to condemn the attack and the killing and we immediately asked the security agencies to fish out the people that did that. They did fish them out and as we talk, they are standing trial in Ebonyi state while the community and security agencies appeased the herdsmen and made peace with them.
“And so, it is very shocking that overnight, all the herdsmen in Ishielu local government vacated the area which means that the local herdsmen in Ishielu were part of the conspiracy in the killing of our people. They vacated despite all efforts my government, the governors of south east and security agencies have been making to give them full protection not only in the state but in the entire south east.
“Good enough, we have the traces of those who came here. I will not disclose it but I am going to reveal the identities of the people to the highest authorities and we will wait to see what they will do. But we condemn this attack, it is not happening only in Ebonyi here but elsewhere in the country and if it is allowed to go on this way, it is capable of causing very serious civil war in Nigeria.
“We feel so sad that this kind of thing should happen in Ebonyi state, we feel so worried for our country Nigeria and we are short of words. I want to demand from the security chiefs to fish out these people because they are well known, they should fish them out and let them face the wrath of the law.
“It has happened in so many places and they were not fished out and that was why this kind of thing is happening. I want to appeal to these communities to be assured that we will get the perpetrators. We have their identities, we have their connections, we have the contact. Please stay calm, don’t take laws into your hands, two wrongs can never make a right so that you give us the opportunity to fish them out.”