From Jude Chinedu, Enugu
Stories have continued to make the rounds about the killings, attacks and kidnappings of innocent people in Enugu State, including some security operatives, in different parts of the state.
It was gathered that many communities have been affected, including Eha-Amufu in Isi-Uzo Local Government Area, Eburummiri, Ibagwa-Aka, in Igbo-Eze South Local Government Area; Ogrute, Mkpamute and several other communities in Igbo Eze North Local Government Area; Adani in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area; Achi, in Oji River Local Government Area; and others.
The worst hit has been Eha-Amufu, a farming community bordering Benue State, where no fewer than 10 attacks were reportedly perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen this year alone. This is besides several cases of kidnapping for ransom allegedly perpetrated by herdsmen in the area.
Unconfirmed reports said at least 200 people were killed and many others raped or wounded, while hundreds take refuge in Internally Displaced Persons Camps in the previous attacks on the community.
The horrendous attack of November 21 on rural dwellers in Ohuolu Mgbede, Aguamede, Mgbuji and Ebo communities in Eha-Amufu, also left 70 persons with severe injuries from machete cuts. Many of the villagers were displaced.
It started on Saturday, November 19 when armed herdsmen allegedly invaded Ohualu Mgbede village in Agu-Amede. At least eight persons died in both attacks.
A community leader, Samuel Ezeh, said that armed herdsmen had literally declared war on Eha-Amufu communities, adding that between Saturday and Tuesday, no fewer than 13 persons had been killed. Spokesman for the Mgbuji community, Chijioke Ogbodo, described the attack as an act of war. He regretted that despite alerting the security agents in the state, security operatives were not mobilised to the communities as of 12pm on the day of the attack.
He said: “Since the herdsmen started attacking our community, neither the police nor the military have arrested any of the terrorists. We received information on the attack this morning and alerted all the security agencies. I called the State Director of Security Services, and I called the state Commissioner of Police.
“We notified all the security agencies but as of 12pm, we are yet to see any single soldier or police. Our communities are being razed down and after the attack, the government will deploy soldiers to shield the jihadists.
“If the Nigeria police and other security agencies, especially the military cannot protect the people of the South East, then why are they after the Eastern Security Network that helped communities farm this season? Now, we can’t harvest our crops because so many of the ESN members have been killed.”
On January 6, Mgbuji community was attacked, leading to the death of five persons including women and children, while farmers in about five farm settlements were displaced.
Three days before the incident, three members of the state Neighbourhood Watch were killed while pursuing the killer herders who had kidnapped the wife and 11-year-old daughter of Dr Eugene Edeoga, younger brother of the Labour Party governorship candidate, Chijioke Edeoga, on January 1.
Following the attack, the house of Chief Eric Ebe, one of the stakeholders in the community, was converted to a temporary IDP camp hosting over 50 women and children. Ebe, who described the attack as horrific, said that 10 persons lost their lives in the hands of killer herdsmen between January 1 and January 8.
Then Chairman of Isi-Uzo local government, Chief Jacob Abonyi, lamented that security agencies abandoned the victims to their fate.
He said: “Killing of people and destroying their property, farm crops randomly by Fulani herdsmen is unbearable and unacceptable. I call on the Federal Government to address this immediately before people resort to self-help.
“The state government is doing its best every time but the terrain of that place is making rescue even difficult. You can’t access the place with a vehicle.”
The spate of attacks forced the state government to convene an emergency security meeting with all the security heads and stakeholders in Eha-Amufu.
Apparently, the meeting yielded no fruit as the herders struck again on March 27, as they invaded Mgbuji and Ebo communities in Eha-Amufu, destroying farmlands and killing eight people, including a pregnant woman.
Community leaders, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the herdsmen invaded the settlements at about 3pm with AK-47 rifles and shot indiscriminately.
Ogbodo told journalists that the situation had become unbearable for residents.
“Now, they have expanded their attacks to Agu-Amede Community. They are now attacking Mgbuji and Agu-Amede Communities simultaneously. We have over 6,000 internally displaced people in Mgbuji community alone and nobody is interested in their welfare,” he stated.
Within the same period, herdsmen also destroyed many houses and sacked 14 farm settlements where over 3,000 farmers lived and farmed in Ogbede Mgbuji in Eha-Amufu.
Chief Jerome Odo, who spoke about the continued attacks, said the people were constantly living in fear as no one knows who will be the next to be killed, adding that their women were being raped in the farm. A community leader, Augustine Odo said residents have been deserting their houses over the renewed attacks. “I went to another village yesterday where they killed two persons barely three weeks ago to bring my sister’s property to my own house. In that village, they also burnt two houses.”
Bishop of Anglican Diocese of Eha-Amufu, Rt. Rev. Daniel Nkemjika Olinya, said it had become a regular occurrence in recent times. He linked the killings to the eviction notice given to the herdsmen in the farm settlement. As the humanitarian situation in Eha-Amufu worsened, the state government has called on heads of security agencies to rise to the challenge and deploy more personnel to the affected communities to provide adequate security for life and property.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi clearly condemned the killings and destruction, assuring that government in its determination to put an end to the lingering crisis between farmers and herders in Eha Amufu, will meet with their leaders to decisively resolve the contentious issues that might have led to the recent attack. In a statement by the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Simon Ortuanya, the government condoled with families of the deceased and sympathised with the victims who sustained injuries as well as those who were displaced. The governor also released the sum of N10 million for the immediate needs of the victims in the IDP camp and further pledged to pay all the medical bills of those receiving treatments in the hospital. Heads of security agencies had visited the scene of the attack on November 23. The state Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Ammani immediately ordered an in-depth investigation into the killings.
The command’s spokesman, Daniel Ndukwe, attributed the attack to “a resurgence of the lingering herders/farmers-induced attacks that have occurred in the area, which generally has boundaries with communities in Benue State.”