…Houses burnt as suspected assailants attack Ebonyi community

…Only 4 persons were killed – State govt

…We’re yet to confirm whether they are herdsmen or Agila people – Monarch

…They were not herdsmen – Ebonyi govt

…I haven’t seen my husband; my husband’s brother was killed — Victim

…People sleeping had their heads chopped off — Survivor

…S’East Govs get knocks, commendations over Ebube Agu

By Anayo Okoli, Peter Okutu, Chinedu Adonu & Steve Oko

BARELY 24 hours after the South-East Governors Forum announced formation of its regional security outfit, EbubeAgu, some Ebonyi villages were again in focus yesterday as many people were feared killed, following an attack allegedly carried out by some assailants on the villages at Ngbo in Ohaukwu Local Government Area.

But the state government controverted survivors of the attack who claimed many people died, saying only four persons lost their lives.

This attack came just two weeks after 25 persons were killed in four communities in the state by suspected herdsmen.

While the state government attributed yesterday’s attack to indigenes of Agila community in Benue State, villagers in Ngbo community who spoke to newsmen, described them as herdsmen.

When newsmen visited the affected community, people were seen running away from the affected villages as sporadic gunshots were  still being heard within the area, even as houses were burnt down.

Some victims of the attack were said to be taking refuge in Ukwu-Agba market square in Ngbo community.

Traditional ruler reacts

The traditional ruler of Umuogodo-Akpu Community in Ngbo, Eze Godwin Ugadu-Ogba, explained that he heard  that herdsmen were killing his people.

“I am the king of this community and my name is His Royal Highness, Chief Godwin Ugadu-Ogba. Early morning today (yesterday), I heard rumours that herdsmen were chasing my people, killing them, burning their houses.

“So, I called the Chief Security Officer, Leonard Igwe, to invite security men and find out if it was true. Within a few minutes, I also heard the army and other security men were going to the scene of the attack.

“I am expecting that they will visit me before going but I have not seen them. Then, I’m also waiting for information from subjects living nearby that place because I am too big to tell lies. I need correct information.

“So, I am still waiting for their report but what I know is that whether it’s herdsmen or Agila people of Ado Local Government Area of Benue State, my people  are being killed, their houses are burnt and their properties destroyed. That is all I know.

“Otuebu Elebe, Iguduobu and Obodocha villages were affected. I think when they heard that the military were coming, they ran back, according to information given to me.  Many people said they saw dead bodies.

“Many people sustained injuries — on their heads, on their bodies and these are according to information given to me and I can say it is true because my house boy who went there came back and reported to me but I’m still waiting for information from the very place that was affected.”

’Attackers came through border town’

It was gathered that the attackers invaded  Ebele village through Agila community, a border town between Ebonyi and Benue states.

Vanguard learned that the attackers started shooting sporadically in the air with the intention to sack the residents of the area. Residents of the affected villages have fled their homes.

When contacted, the Commissioner for Internal Security, Border Peace, Mr. Stanley Emegha Okoro, confirmed the attack.

Emegha said there was still confusion as to whether the attackers were herdsmen based in Ebonyi or Agila people in Benue State who have an age-long communal dispute with Ngbo community.

Emegha: “Some people said it is Agila people, while others said it is herdsmen. But we don’t know the actual people that carried out the attack. We can’t say exactly what happened. This happened in the night and we heard about it this morning.”

Police confirm

Commissioner of Police Ebonyi State command, CP Garba Aliyu, also confirmed the attack, adding that officers of the command had been deployed to the conflict zone to repel the attackers from the area.

“We are yet to get any report from there. I have not been around and so I’m waiting for details from my officers,” he said.

It was gathered that many have allegedly lost their lives, following the development as houses of innocent indigenes of the area had been burnt down.

Ebonyi State government had last Wednesday, put modalities in place to set up 1,000 vigilante groups across the state.

Attackers not herdsmen — State Govt

However, the state government said in a statement signed yesterday by the Chief Press Secretary to the Deputy Governor, Dr. Kelechi Igwe, insisted that the attackers were not herdsmen.

The statement read:  “Ebonyi State Government has received with dismay violent attacks on the people of Umuogudu Akpu-Ngbo Community in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of the state in the early hours of Monday, April 12, 2021.

“The general public is hereby informed that preliminary investigations have indicated as follows: That the attack was not carried out by herdsmen as being speculated in different quarters.

“That the Government of Ebonyi State is in touch with the leadership of the herdsmen (Miyetti Allah) who denied involvement in the attack.

“That the leadership of the herdsmen has assured government and people of Ebonyi State that they will not on any account perpetrate attack on any part of Ebonyi State.

“That the recent attack on Ngbo is linked to the age-long crisis between the community and   their Agila neighbours of Benue State.

“However, the Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State, Kelechi Igwe,  has swiftly responded by directing the military and Police to move into the community to repel the attack and   restore peace.

“The general public and in particular, the people of Ngbo are requested to remain law abiding and avoid reprisal  as government is working hard to restore normalcy to the affected community.

“Please be assured of the readiness of the governor, David Nweze Umahi led administration to secure the lives and property of citizens at all times.”

I have not seen my husband; my husband’s brother was killed —Victim

Some victims of the attack are still taking refuge in various locations in the area as the affected villages are said to be in mourning.

A survivor, Ogba Ngozi, said she was yet to see her husband, even as her husband’s brother was killed during the unfortunate incident.

“All our houses were burnt, they chased us out and killed some of us. Herdsmen and Agila people carried it out. It started today (yesterday); they chased us out. Look at how we are dressed since early hours of today (yesterday).

“Government should please come to our aid and stop these killings because we are almost finished. I have not seen my husband and my husband’s brother was killed. Their names are Chidiebere and Emmanuel Nwalinwajoku.

“We were inside our houses and  before we woke up early this morning, we were hearing gunshots everywhere and they were coming near us and we started running. While we were still running, we heard that they had started killing, even my neighbour was killed.

“That you saw us here is because the situation has calmed down and we went to take some food to eat. When we got home, we discovered that our houses had been burnt. They killed one man called Abannani. They destroyed our properties, like sewing machines, motor bikes etc.

“Government should come to our rescue because there is no life in us again. We are going to take refuge somewhere and all my children have been on the run since morning (yesterday). No food or water. I’m still looking for them. My name is Ngozi Ebenyi Onwe.”

Another survivor, Christopher Elechi Agu-Elebe, explained that the attack took place in the morning, perpetrated by Agila people.

“Early this morning (yesterday) at about 6:15am, the people of Agila attacked us. They started shooting and before we could check to find out what was happening, they had killed so many persons.

“Many houses were burnt. We are just coming back from where we went to pick our village man who was killed. His name is Emmanuel Ali.

“We could not ascertain those who carried out the attack because the gunmen were armed but we have a common boundary with the people of Agila and we have this age-long land dispute with them. They came from there and went back there.”

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Another survivor, Alike Victory, lamented that their children had been killed and that they do no know where to run to.

“What happened this morning (yesterday) is giving us concern. They killed all our children, we don’t know where to run to. If government can come to our aid, please they should do. Things are getting tougher.

“We don’t know what to do. People’s houses were burnt. People’s children who were sleeping had their heads chopped off. We don’t know what to do. Government should come to our aid.”

Yet another survivor, Onwe Sunday, said:   “We were sleeping in our houses this morning (yesterday) when unknown gunmen attacked us, killing us. We know that they are from Agila because we have age-long boundary dispute with them. And they came from the same place and went back after destroying properties.

“Government should come to our aid because we don’t know what led to this kind of killing. Hunger everywhere, problems everywhere.”

 S’East govs get knocks, kudos

Sequel to these wave of attacks which have spread across states in the South East, the governors of the zone had on Sunday, formed a regional security outfit, code-named Ebubeagu, to secure the zone.

However, reactions have continued to trail the governors’ action as former speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, said the move would curb the growing insecurity in the zone.

Ohuabunwa said: “The courage and unity of the governors in establishing the outfit were strong indications that the security of the zone is paramount to the governors.”

He expressed confidence that the outfit would in collaboration with other security agencies, help unmask and checkmate the elements behind the rising insecurity in the zone.

He therefore, tasked the various State Houses of Assembly in the zone to quickly provide the necessary legal backing for the outfit.

Similarly, a leading right group, Intersociety, said the formation of the outfit was suspicious due to the panicky and hurried manner it was announced.

“Coming when all hopes have been lost from state actor angles, forcing most citizens of the region to place their hopes, expectations and solutions on the table of non-state actors, we are very surprised to hear the sudden announcement.

“Intersociety also doubts the sincerity and genuineness of the promoters of the new security outfit. It is doubtful, too, whether critical indigenous stakeholders and other interest groups were duly consulted and carried along.

‘’The new outfit is most likely a baptism name given to the 2019 illegitimate and unpopular Community Policing arrangement by the same South East governors.

“We, therefore, have strong reason to suspect and conclude that the South East governors’ newly created security outfit, tagged “Ebubeagu Security Outfit” is a caliphate inspired counter measure to truncate or weaken non-state actor arrangements, including vigilante and vigilantism resort to legitimate self-defense safeguards provided in Section 258 of the Criminal Code and Section 59-60 of the Penal Code (operational in the Igbo parts of Benue and Kogi States).

“The latest moves by the South East governors are also likely geared towards using the so-called Ebubeagu Security Outfit” to protect and consolidate the Jihadist herdsmen incursions and settlements in bushes, forests and farmlands in the South East region and its outposts in Benue, Kogi, Rivers, Cross River, Delta and Edo States.

‘’The name Ebubeagu, as a matter of fact, is meaninglessly a camouflage, especially when the Nigerian Army has used similar camouflages like Egwu-Eke and Atilogwu Udo to massacre over 700 unarmed and defenseless citizens of the region and maim over 800 others and engage in other atrocious conducts, including roadblock, to foster corrupt practices.’’

Also reacting, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, also demanded a law by each state to back the ban on open grazing.

It’s spokesman, Chief Abi Onyike said: “Well, they have made pronouncement on the regional security outfit. There should be a law banning open grazing of cattle in the South East. The law should be passed in the five state Houses of Assembly.

‘’To orally make an announcement banning open grazing shows lack of commitment on the part of the governors. They are being smart.

“Again, we will like to know their logistics preparations. Where are their vehicles and other operational facilities and equipment like in the case of Amotekun in Yoruba land?

“Let the South East governors go and use the draft bill prepared by ADF in 2017 to make binding laws against open grazing. If they fail to do that, then it exposes them further as unserious people”.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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