From Chijioke Agwu, Abakaliki
The bloody attack at Egedegede Junction in Egedegede community in Ishielu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State last Monday night by suspected Fulani herdsmen has spread pain, sorrow and anguish in the surrounding communities of Obeagu, Amazu,Umuhuali and Nkalaha, as well as Ehamufu in Enugu State.
Murderous AK47-wielding men had on that fateful evening barricaded the Egedegede Junction along the Ehamufu road, shooting and giving machete cuts to motorists and other road users indiscriminately. At the end of the attack that reportedly lasted for about 45 minutes, no fewer than 20 persons were slaughtered.
Although the actual number of people killed was not ascertained as at the time of filing this report, but Sunday Sun gathered that at least six persons were killed in Obeagu; four from Ehamufu, while Nkalaha, Amazu, Umuhuali and Nkalegu communities, lost one person apiece.
Residents of the area told our correspondent that they sighted at least 16 suspected herdsmen armed with rifles as they made their escape through Ehamufu in Enugu State before connecting a bush in the Benue State boundary.
Survivors, victims’ relatives recount ordeal
It was a gloomy atmosphere everywhere in the affected communities as families and relatives of people killed during the unfortunate attack mourned inconsolably. When Sunday Sun visited the compound of Oforbuike Nnaji, one of the persons that lost their lives, at Umuodo, Obeagu community, people were seen in groups consoling the wife and the mother.
Oforbuike, 34, fondly called Ofor, was a popular tipper driver. He supplied sands and stones to people within the Ehamufu, Egedegede and Obeagu areas. The father of four children was hacked to death on his way to his house after close of work on that day.
According to the wife, Ukamaka, Ofor had requested her to prepare noodles for him as his evening meal and he was on his way to the house to eat the meal when the deadly Fulani herdsmen killed him.
Ukamaka lamented that the killing of her husband has imposed untold hardship on her and her children because of the obvious difficulty posed by training them.
Tearfully, she said: “My husband was a tipper driver. I was at our shop at Ehamufu area that Monday morning. He was passing with his tipper and he told me that I should wait that he would bring money for me to go and buy something in the market. I waited and when he was coming back, he threw four thousand naira to me which I used and went to the market. Few hours later, he called me back on phone and said that he would like to eat noodles; that I should prepare it for him. I asked him if I should prepare it immediately, and he said no, that I should wait a while that he just ate something. He said I should prepare it for his evening meal. Around 4:00p.m, I started preparing the noodles. He normally closed work by 6:00p.m, and any time he closed he would drive to our shop to pick me and the children home. That evening after preparing the noodles, I was expecting him to come and eat it, but I didn’t see him till 6:00p.m. I concluded that he was busy at work.
“Surprisingly by 7:30 that evening, he was yet to call at our shop which was very unusual. But I told my children to exercise patience that their father would soon come to carry us. Around 8:00p.m, our landlord came and asked me if I had spoken with my husband that day and I said yes. He asked me what time, I told him it was in the afternoon. He said that I should wait that he was coming back. Around 9:00p.m, I called his number, it was ringing, but nobody picked the calls. I became worried, but before I could know what was happening, people started trooping to my shop. They held me and told me that he was among the people killed by Fulani herdsmen at Egedegede Junction that evening while he was returning from work.
“My children and I are still expecting him to come and eat his noodles.Who will help me to train these children”.
It was the same story of pain and anguishes for 78-year-old Ede Nwebe from Obodo-Aba Obeagu whose son and family breadwinner, Friday Ede Nwebe, was among the victims of the attack.
Friday, a 35-year-old father of five, was a teacher at the Union Comprehensive Secondary School Obeagu. He was killed at the Egedegede Junction while returning from a meeting of teachers in preparation for staff verification exercise at Ezillo, the council headquarters.
Narrating the incident to our correspondent in his compound in the midst of his family members, his father, Ede Nwebe, said that it would have been better for the herdsmen to have killed him instead of his son.
He said repeatedly that his son did not commit any offence to warrant the fate that befell him.
“My son did not commit any offence. He did not look for anybody’s trouble. He was returning from the teachers’ meeting at Ezillo when he was killed. I was in my house that evening when news came that some people had been killed by Fulani people at Egedegede. People were running up and down, but I can’t stand up from here. I didn’t even know he was among them. You can see that I am already old. Who will take care of me, his wife and children? These Fulani people have killed me. They would have come and killed me and leave my son alone,” the septuagenarian sobbed.
A youth leader in the Obeagu community, Ekene Aja, who said his brother and friend were among the people killed by the herders, told our correspondent at the community that at least six persons from the community had been confirmed killed.
He explained: “About six persons from this community were killed by the Fulani herdsmen. Their names are Ichafu from Ikpele, Friday Ede from Obodo-Aba, Ekene from Amangba, Ofor from Umuodo and Ekweagu Junior from Ameta, all in Obeagu community. Some persons who sustained injuries are being treated at a hospital in Ehamufu.
“We heard that some of them have died, but their identities and communities have not been communicated to us. I was there at Egedegede when the thing was going on. We are yet to get the actual number of deaths, but we have about six persons in Obegu, four from Ehamufu, three from Nkaleha, one from Amazu, one from Umuhuali, one from Nkalegu and one from Ehamufu.”
The Eze-elect of Obeagu community, Lawrence Mba Ede told Sunday Sun that the community was yet to recover from the shock of the incident.
He lamented that many of the people killed were youths who were the breadwinners of their respective families, noting that the community was still mourning their untimely demise.
The traditional ruler designate also said that the actual figure of the persons killed during the attack was yet to be ascertained.
He commended the Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi and the security agencies for their prompt intervention on the matter.
“We have never seen calamity like this before .It was on Monday night that we got information that hoodlums suspected to be Fulani herdsmen blocked Egedegede Junction, and started shooting people. About six young men from Obeagu were among the victims. Some of them have been buried while others are still at the mortuary. It was a big shock to us”, he lamented.
One of the survivors; who gave his name as Ede Thomas, said that he was still in deep shock. The young man in his late 20s said that he did not know that there was a problem as he travelled from Ehamafu to Nkalagu.
He said that he and the Okada man that was ferrying him were almost running into the bandits when they noticed some unusual movement and turned back immediately. He added that some gunshots were fired at them, but they escaped by whiskers.
Consequently, condemnations have trailed the massacre of innocent people in the farming community of Ishielu LGA. Governor Umahi who visited the scene promised that every effort would be made to track the perpetrators and bring them to book.
He linked the incident to possible reprisal following the killing of two herdsmen sometime last year in the area. He called on the security agencies to immediately fish out the perpetrators, adding that such act was capable of triggering another civil war.
He, then, appealed to the affected communities to remain calm, assuring that “we have their identities; we have their connections, we have the contact.”
Meanwhile, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other groups have also condemned the heinous killings, describing them as despicable and unacceptable.
The apex Igbo group said that it would soon meet with the Southeast governors to find solution to the menace of herders, including making their regional security outfit operational.
On its part, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) has vowed to avenge the killings in Ebonyi State, disclosing that it has already deployed the Eastern Security Network (ESN) to Ebonyi State to fish out the killers.