Obinna Odogwu, Awka
Save for the timely intervention of the residents of Ebenebe community in Awka North Local Government Area of Anambra State, a middle-aged woman, Agnes Okekpe might have been a dead woman by now.
The woman, who hails from Abakaliki in Ebonyi State, was hired by a farmer in the community to harvest some crops in their farmland before two herdsmen who came with herds of cattle swooped on her and raped her till she lost consciousness.
The herdsmen were said to have operated from Enugu State, crossing the boundary into that part of Anambra State to graze. Upon sighting the women, according to the villagers, they subtly went close to them and pounced on the unfortunate woman.
The victim told villagers, upon waking up on her hospital bed, that she was first hit with a log of wood, thereby rendering her weak and unable to raise the alarm, before the duo had carnal knowledge of her in turns until she lost consciousness.
The villagers further narrated that some of her co-workers in the farm were lucky to have escaped as they might have possibly suffered the same fate as the suspects were very mean.
Speaking on the incident, the councillor representing Ebenebe Ward II in Awka North council legislative chamber, Hon. Ikechukwu Oraemeka, told Sunday Sun that the incident took place at a farmland called Aguobiuno at about 10:00a.m that fateful morning.
He said that save for the timely intervention of the villagers who rushed to the scene upon getting the report, the worse might have happened.
Narrating what happened Oraemeka said: “What happened was that, there is a woman who hails from Abakaliki in Ebonyi State. She is working here in the community as a labourer. So, that fateful day she went to work for someone in the farm.
“Unfortunately, Fulani herdsmen led their herds of cattle into the farmland to graze. So, when they now saw her there, they pounced on her and raped her.
“The woman was not the only one in that farm. Her colleagues were also there, but they all ran away. They ran back to the town to raise the alarm. But when the villagers went down to the farmland, the victim was already down. She has advanced in age.
“Our people now rushed her to the clinic to revive her. She was given drip by the doctor and other medications before she could be revived.
“The following day, the youths of the community, in anger, went down to the farmland in search of the Fulani herdsmen that carried out the dastardly act. They eventually apprehended the suspects and handed them over to the police alongside the victim”.
He said that the two suspects were handed over to the police divisional station in Achalla community, the council headquarters of Awka North LGA.
Destruction of farmland
Aside raping the aged woman, he lamented that their food crops were destroyed by the herds of cattle led by the herdsmen on the same day.
He said that in the past five months or so, the community has recorded massive destruction of their food crops by the herdsmen.
Oraemeka said: “Apart from raping the woman, there was a massive destruction of our crops by their herds of cattle. They grazed on our cassava crops, rice, leguminous crops, and others.
“That was not the first time they were leading their cattle into our farmland. Government had told us to be taking pictures of whatever they destroyed and send to them, but we have been sending pictures and nothing has changed.
“Our people are already tired of sending pictures. Are we going to cook and eat pictures?
“My own farmland was totally destroyed by the cattle. If you go there, you won’t see any cassava there. What do I do? I am tired of the whole thing. They cleared everything such that I may not even be able to spot my own farm again. You know how a place herds of cattle grazed on, looks like.
“I am not the only victim. It was general. What they destroyed in Ebenebe is excess. There was no village that was spared. Almost every family in the community was affected in some ways.
“There were those who lost their rice farm to the invading herdsmen. Some lost about 30 chains of rice field completely this year, 2019. So, what they destroyed is just innumerable.
“There was one boy that cultivated about 50 chains of rice field, but herdsmen destroyed the whole thing with their cattle. He nearly died. He suffered High Blood Pressure (HBP).
“If you go to the Igwe’s Palace (palace of the traditional ruler), you will see too many pictures of farmlands destroyed by herdsmen and their cattle.”
The President-General of the community, Hon. Paul Nnatuanya, corroborated what Oraemeka said, but added that the victim, Agnes, lost the sum of N16,000 she had tied to her wrapper to the herdsmen.
Nnatuanya said: “They raped her one after the other. After that, they took her money totalling N16,000 which she tied with her wrapper.
“When villagers stormed the scene, she was already lying unconsciously on the ground. It was others who were also on the farmland that ran back to the town to alert the people.
“We reported the matter to the police. We have also reported to the Department of State Services. We then rallied round and took her to the hospital for treatment.
“So, that morning, the youths in the community through the help of the vigilante raided the farmlands and searched for the suspects. They caught two persons and handed them over to the police”.
The President-General lamented that the herdsmen also destroyed farm crops worth several millions; saying that many residents were affected.
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Haruna Mohammed, a Superintendent of Police, said that the police command got reports about the destruction of crops by cattle led by herdsmen, but said that it does not have any report alleging that herdsmen raped any farmer.
“There was no such complaint. The issue on ground in Ebenebe was the alleged destruction of crops by some herdsmen and the alleged losses incurred by herdsmen. That was why the committee on cattle menace visited the scene to do an on-the-spot assessment”, he said.