Metro

March 16, 2024

Fulani kidnappers spread, abduct, kill cops, residents in Delta 

Fulani kidnappers spread, abduct, kill cops, residents in Delta 

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South & Akpokona Omafuaire

On January 24, rampaging gunmen\kidnappers suspected to be Fulani herders abducted three police officers detailed to respond to a distress call in Delta State.

The authorities drafted the police officers at a nipping point in Ohoror community, Ughelli North Local Government Area to rescue one Moses Progress, who raised the alarm after alleged cattlemen robbed him while performing a sacrifice to the gods of the River under a bridge.

The Police played down the kidnap, but weeks later, deployed police officers from the Force Headquarters, Abuja, and Delta State Police Command to rescue the three officers.

Unfortunately, the killer-herders ambushed and killed nine of the police officers on a rescue mission at Agadama community. They abducted over 15 others. One police officer succeeded in escaping from the herdsmen.

Again, the Police made light of the impudence but tension escalated in Port-Avwon, Ohoror, Agadama in Uwherun Kingdom, Ekiugbo, and other affected communities, all in Ughelli North local government area with the latest recovery of the decomposing corpses of police officers.

A combined team of security agents and the local vigilantes in Ughelli North local government area recovered the remains of six slaughtered police officers drafted from the Intelligence  Response Team, IRT, Abuja, Police Mobile Force, PMF, 51 Oghara, and Anti-Kidnapping Squad, Asaba.

Fulani abduction gangs spread across the Delta  

Saturday Vanguard investigations show that the epidemic of kidnapping by suspected Fulani herdsmen in the state is not restricted to the Uwherun Kingdom, but they seem to have a strong foothold in the area.  

Last December and early this year, ransom-demanding Fulani kidnappers took hostages in Abraka, Ethiope –East local government area;  Ukwuani and Ndokwa West local government areas; Abavo clan – Ika North East local government area;  and other local government areas. 

In the Abavo clan only, they abducted six persons, including the Divisional Police Officer, DPO, in the area, asking for and taking ransom before they freed them.

The kidnappers have their kingpins who control the respective gangs with complex linkage around the bushes of the state.

The barons provide the weapons, fund the operations, and intervene through their highly-placed security contacts to secure the release of their boys whenever they pick them. 

They know and understand the topography and forests of many communities in the state where they have hideouts,  and operational bases more than the natives.

Fulani ‘territory’

From Ozoro, Onicha-Ukwuani, Igbanke, Abraka, Ohoror, Obiaruku,  and Ibusa in Delta State to  Urhonigbe in Edo State, the Fulani kidnap kingpins have their noses on the ground. 

A syndicate operates in Abraka through the railway to Obiaruku, Abavo, Idumu-Esah, and Owa-Alero up to Agbor Expressway with the members quartered at a forest camp a few kilometers from Agbor.

The financiers of the syndicates live in cities outside the state. Their foot soldiers are the ones that reside temporarily in the forests in the state. 

There is a syndicate in charge of the Ozoro\Ndokwa axis and another that operates in the  Uwherun axis, comprising Ohoror, and Agadama groups.  

 Security agencies, including the army and police,  appear from our findings, to be working at cross-purpose, as some officers leak security information on the movement of operational teams to the kidnappers at huge amounts.

Two police officers who lead strategic units in the Delta State Police Command colluded in the past with an influential Fulani leader in Asaba, the state capital, to release two kidnap linchpins from police custody.  

Citizens’ revolt in Ughelli

Last month, the residents of Ekiugbo Community in Ughelli North marched the streets to the palace of the Ovie (traditional ruler) of the Ughelli Kingdom, HRM (Dr.) Wilson Ojakovo Oharisi III, to protest the activities of kidnappers, and some police officers allegedly conniving with hunters in the area.

The president-general of the Ekiugbo community, Comrade Bernard Baker, named a police officer and hunter as masterminds of the criminal activities in the community.  

Delta State Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, DSP Bright Edafe, dismissed the allegation of conspiracy against the police by the villagers, saying the police were diligently carrying out their duties in the area. 

However, the criminal undertakings in Ughelli North are not as simplistic as the police have made it to look like.

From 2013 …

In February 2013, supposed herders killed two persons in the Ohoror community for having the audacity to question why they allowed their cattle to destroy farms owned by the villagers.

In March 2018, four suspected Fulani herders shot dead four farmers on a fishing expedition. Villagers found their bodies later in a bush in the Uwherun community.

In February 2019, the herders renewed their attack and killed two persons, injuring many in the Agadama community of Uwherun Kingdom.

Yet again, the so-called Fulani cattlemen on February 13, 2020, invaded and killed eight persons in Uwherun Kingdom, a gruesome attack that made the indigenes and residents flee their homes in fear.

They first killed two persons on a Thursday, and four later on Friday night during Valentine’s Day.  The marauding Fulani herders shot sporadically in the town on Saturday morning before they killed two other people that year.

In January 2022, cattlemen invaded Uwherun Kingdom after the banning of sales and consumption of cow meat, with residents apprehending one suspect, who they handed over to police.

In July 2022, herdsmen invaded the peaceful Port-Avwon, a community in Uwheru Kingdom leading to residents fleeing their homes. Police denied the report of the attack.

 Uwherun Kingdom at an enlarged meeting of the communities attended by prominent indigenes of the area, including a former Commissioner for Higher Education in the state, Patrick Muoboghare, banned the sale and eating of cow meat in the monarchy.

Shot dead

On Monday, February 5, 2024, herdsmen shot dead one Mr. Ofe Ekevwerho from the Uwherun community.  He died due to multiple gunshot wounds sustained by another victim, Roland, who also sustained serious gunshot injuries during the attack.

What triggered the protest, last month, by the defenseless citizens of the communities was the killing of Mr. Ikukpeni.

While the dust of the killing of Ikukpeni was yet to settle, the gunmen took hostage three police officers who responded to a distress call, which was the cause of the current outrage in Uwherun Kingdom.

Two weeks after, they laid ambush for over 20 police officers, killed nine, and the whereabouts of many unknown to date.

Dependable sources told Saturday Vanguard that the pooled team stormed the forest, Sunday and Monday, a fortnight ago, before they could recover some of the corpses.

Seeming conspiracy

 A retired Superintendent of Police, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard on condition of anonymity, said that there is a possible conspiracy of villagers, and security personnel aiding the herdsmen operation.

 ”That guy (names withheld) who called the police could be an agent of the herders. Again, his arrest and subsequent escape from police point to a conspiracy and collaboration between civilians, some security people, and the herdsmen.”

 ”Why has it proven so difficult to eliminate the herdsmen who have taken over the Uwherun Kingdom?  I suspect some persons within the community and security are providing information about the rescue mission to the herdsmen, which is why they laid an ambush,” the retired officer stated.

Confusing inaudibility of the police

With the obscuring quietness of the Police over the daring abduction and killing of an unknown number of police officers by suspected herdsmen, the citizens now have their hearts in their mouths.

  The identities of the decomposing police corpses remain undisclosed to date. We learned that the police do not want to complicate the loss of the families by publicly disclosing their names.

 A senior police officer told one of our reporters: “A team of police officers from the Intelligence and Respond Squad, Abuja,  in collaboration with PMF 51, Oghara,  and Anti-Kidnapping Squad from the State Police Command Asaba, had gone to Agadama in Uwherun community in search of the three  officers that were declared missing.” 

 ”The combined team came under heavy gunfire with suspected Fulani herdsmen, and three of our men and three other personnel from PMF 51 whose details we cannot provide went missing during the encounter.

 ”About 15 of our police officers are currently missing in the encounter, while the prime suspect, Moses Progress, who was brought from Asaba, had also escaped during exchange of gun battle between the police officers, and the suspected Fulani herdsmen.

 ”During the process, one of our personnel, an Inspector, held captive by the hoodlums was able to escape.”

Oborevwori, police commissioner  strategise

A reliable source, however, hinted that the state governor, Elder Sheriff Oborevwori, who is knowledgeable in security, is strategizing with the Commissioner of Police, Olufemi Abaniwonda,  and other top security officials in the state on how to combat the masquerading kidnappers.

 The source said: “Recently, there was inroad by the security as they made some arrests.”

Saturday Vanguard has no information on the said inroad, but residents are appalled at the manner the authorities masked  the actual figure of police officers either killed or kidnapped.”

 No fewer than 20 police detectives went on the ill-fated rescue mission after detecting the location of the kidnappers’ den through what a source described as “innovative technology.”

We gathered that the mobile phone network of the police officers went dead during the operation. Our reporters could not instantly determine if the communication glitch was due to the general distortion of communication networks witnessed in some parts of the country within the period.

“Two of the slain police officers reportedly sent messages via SMS and WhatsApp to their boss, informing him of the network challenge.

“Perhaps, if there was network, they would have called for back-up, as it made it difficult for them to call for reinforcement,” a source revealed.

What is happening in Uwherun, and other parts of the state is that police officers paid by taxpayers to protect them are under attack by the gunmen who masquerade as herdsmen 

Indeed, no one knows the next victim in the state, knowing that the weapons of the slain police officers have increased the armory of the killer herders, who grow more impudent by the day.

Vanguard News