…Pupils, teachers from neighbouring communities flee from school for fear of suffering similar fate
By Sam Otti
Teachers and pupils in neighbouring communities in Uzo-Uwani LGA, Enugu State, on Wednesday fled their schools, following unconfirmed reports that the herdsmen were regrouping for a renewed attack. Students of Community Secondary School, Abbi Ugbene, took to their heels, thereby disrupting the ongoing Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) by SS3 students.
An eyewitness told Education Review that there was also stampede in public primary schools in Ugbene Ajima, located about eight kilometres from Nimbo, where pupils hurriedly packed their school bags and dashed out of their classrooms.
One of the assistant headmasters in Ugbene, who pleaded for anonymity because she didn’t have the permission of the Enugu State Ministry of Education to speak to the media, confided in Education Review that teachers and pupils had settled for the day’s academic work when the commotion ensued. According to her, pupils, including the under-aged ones, were running in different directions, following widespread rumour that herdsmen had infiltrated the area.
“We were in the classroom when pupils and teachers started running. I ordered them to get back to their classes but they said that the Fulani herdsmen were advancing towards the community. Within few minutes, both the Community Primary School, Ugbene Akutala and Model Primary School, Ugbene Akutala were deserted. There is no police station or patrol vehicle here, so we have to take precautionary step by allowing the children to go”, she said.
A retired teacher, Richard Eze, said other public schools also shut down for fear of daylight attack by the herdsmen. The affected schools, according to him, include: Central School Ugbene Ajima, Central School, Abbi, Oriental Primary School, Akibite and Hilltop Primary School, Ajona Ugwu were also shut down in panic reaction to the gruesome attack in Nimbo that left over 20 people dead.
Education Review gathered that the people of Ugbene Ajima had been vigilant after the attack, as speculations were rife that it could be the next target of the invaders. Since two communities within Igbo Ano region had been attacked (Abbi and Nimbo), other remaining communities, Nrobo and Ugbene, now sleep with their eyes open.
It was also gathered that both public and private schools in Nimbo had been under lock since last Monday’s attack. Worst affected were students writing their West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in Community Secondary School, Nimbo. No date has been released for the re-writing of the suspended examination by the examination board nor were the affected students relocated to another centre.
To avert further calamity, the traditional ruler of Ugbene Ajima, Igwe Bartholomew Aluma, urged the state and federal government to beef up security within the neighbouring communities, judging by the successive attacks on Abbi and Nimbo communities within two months.
“There is no peace yet. We are worried because there is no police station within this area. Local vigilante cannot do much in this regard. We need police patrol vehicles within Nimbo, Abbi, Nkpologu and Nrobo. The herdsmen had launched successful attacks on Abbi and Nimbo. We must stop them from attacking other areas. Enough is enough”, he said.
Also speaking, former Director of Social Communication, Catholic Diocese of Nsukka, Rev. Fr, Paulinus Ike Ogara, said he saw the ominous sign in 2001, and repeatedly warned of the danger posed by the Fulani herdsmen. According to him, shortly after the herdsmen attacked Abbi community, he made a renewed call on Uzo-Uwani people to act fast if they don’t want the merchants of death to overrun the whole local government.
Ogara, who works as a supervisor with the Enugu State Post Primary School Management Board (PPSMB), pleaded with the government to beef up security around schools in these vulnerable communities to douse fears of renewed attack.