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Riddle car with bullets, engage security agents in shootout along Enugu-P’Hacourt highway

By Steve Oko, ABIA

FOUR days after armed bandits suspected to be Fulani herdsmen blocked the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway at Leru/Ihube Okigwe axis, between Abia and Imo border, hoodlums yesterday opened fire on motorists at Lomara in Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State.

Vanguard had reported that all occupants of three buses were allegedly abducted by the bandits on Saturday.

During yesterday’s attack, a woman was seen in a viral video jubilating around a Jeep car riddled with bullets while a man suspected to be the driver or her husband stood appalled, apparently in shock of their experience and miraculous escape.

Villagers were gathered around the vicinity raining curses on the dare-devil bandits on the prowl in the vicinity.

It is not yet clear if there were any casualties in the attack but part of the windscreen of the black Jeep was shattered and glasses seen on the floor of the vehicle.

When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, in Abia Geoffrey Ogbonna, said he was not yet aware of the latest attack.

He promised to make inquiries.

Heavy exchange of gunfire between the bandits and security agencies, was also reported on the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway around Ihube cashew plantation where the Saturday incident occurred.

In an alarm circulating on the social media, a concerned citizen who said his neighbour escaped the mayhem by the whiskers warned travellers to stay off from the route to avoid being caught up in the cross fire.

The text of the message obtained by Vanguard reads: Please, motorists and travellers plying Okigwe-Enugu road should beware, there’s a dangerous sporadic shooting allegedly between soldiers and Fulani herders now around Setraco Yard at Ihube. My neighbor who was traveling to Okigwe from Enugu just rushed back home now with bruises sustained from the stampede. Let this go viral for precautions and safety please”

But when contacted the Zonal PPRO in charge of Zone 9 Police Headquarters, Yisrael Jack Rabin, said the Command was yet to get signals on the said gun duel.

The Abia State Commissioner for Information Eze Chikamnayo who also doubles as the Secretary of the Security Committee on Umunneochi, could not be reached for comments as he did not pick calls put across to him.

The Army Spokesman, 14 Brigade Ohafia, Lt. Innocent Omale, promised to get back to our Correspondent after verifying the incident.

Umunneochi has become a flashpoint for the activities of criminal herders since after the abduction of the Prelate of Methodist Church, His Eminence Dr Samuel Uche and two other clerics on his entourage who regained their freedom after a ransom of N100 million was paid.

The Prelate had at a press conference after his release, said that his abductors were Fulani herdsmen.

Umunneochi youths have since then renewed their demand for the relocation of the Regional Cattle Market at the area where they allege, habours the criminal herders.

Chikamnayo had while reacting to the Saturday attack told our Correspondent that the the local vigilante group had been working assiduously, putting great pressure on the bandits.

He said that they had been chased towards Imo boundary, adding that Abia State Government is not leaving anything to chances.

His words:”  It happened at the expressway between Ihube and Umunneochi. In Umunneochi proper, there has been a mass reduction in the number of such incidents but they have obviously migrated to the border between Umunneochi and Imo State.

“But Umunneochi Security Committee worked very hard. We are putting checkpoints and we have strengthened our vigilante, and have potentially repelled them.

“ I think it’s a sign of victory for us that they have left Umunneochi LGA and migrated further towards the express. They are at the boundary between Abia and Imo, precisely at Ihube.

“ It happened at Ihube and not in Umunneochi side of the divide”.

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