By MOLLY KILETE.
THE people of Nimbo, a quiet village located in Uzo Uwani Local Government area of Enugu State, are still gripped by fear, after rampaging Fulani herdsmen raided the quiet village and killed innocent persons.
As if that was not enough, the herdsmen who the villagers said have been terrorizing them for some time, destroyed the Catholic Church and burnt the vicarage, which also serves at the official residence of the presiding Reverend Father.
At the end of the attack, the herdsmen left behind sorrow, tears and blood, as the land is yet to recover from the attack, which was described as very deadly.
Commercial activities in the serene village which borders, Anambra, Kogi and Benue states, and which people are predominantly farmers have been completely brought to a halt.
The village, apart from being deserted, has also been abandoned by commercial vehicle operators from Kogi and Benue states who usually ply the route to Onitsha to do their businesses. Villagers who were lucky to have escaped from the herdsmen, guns and machetes are now taking refuge in places perceived to be safe.
Uzo Uwani Local Government area is said to be the local government with the largest landmass in the Enugu state. Aside destroying their farmland, the herdsmen allegedly raped their women in order to stamp their superiority over the harmless villagers.
The reaction that greeted the attacks was overwhelming and as a result, President Muhamadu Buhari, for the first time, made an open declaration on the activities of the herdsmen across the country. Some public commentators had accused the President of “not talking” about the herdsmen’s rampage especially the Monday killings in Uzo Uwani council area.
As a first step, the President ordered both the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Gabriel Olonishakin and the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase to visit the area to ascertain the level of destruction done there.
The IGP, who was on tour of the North east to see the level of police deployment to liberated cities and towns in the zone at the time of the incident, abandoned the tour after visiting only Maiduguri, and headed to Nimbo community.
The journey to Nimbo, by the IGP, and his entourage from the Akanu Ibiam international airport took about two and a half hours drive, driving through several towns and villages in Nsukka, to get to the village.
Arase made a brief stop over at Nkpunator Kkpologu, where the proposed divisional police headquarters and police barracks are located for an inspection. He met with the Senator representing Enugu North senatorial zone, Chukwuka Utazi.
At the end of the inspection which did not last more than five minutes, the entourage including this reporter drove straight to the village which was totally deserted. At the village square, the villagers gathered to receive the IGP, and his entourage comprising the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of the zone and the Enugu state commissioner of police among other principal staff officers from the police head quarters.
How it all happened
Senator Utazi, after introducing the IGP to the people began to narrate what actually happened. He was interrupted by the local government chairman, who took over the narration.
However, the villagers got angry when they felt that the local government chairman was not telling the IGP and his team the whole truth. This forced the spokesman of the community, Dr George Ojogwu, to take over.
Narrating their ordeal, the doctor, told the visitors how the herdsmen had attacked a neighboring town, Abi, where they killed a number of people and burnt down houses sometime ago, an attack that was reported to the police. After the attack on Abi, he said the herdsmen went ahead to attack another village, Anuka, before attacking theirs.
According to him, there have been a lingering problem between the herders and the people over their farmland. His words “They chased us when we went to our farms and they allowed their cattle to damage our plants. They raped our women and beat them up. Sometimes they would catch the man and the wife and rape her in the presence of her husband. They have been doing all manner of bad things to us including kidnapping our people and demanding huge sums of money for their release.
We must commend the police for their effort because if not for them, it would have been worse.
“We were aware that they were going to attack us and we reported to the police who deployed their men here. But as soon as the policemen left, they came and attacked us in the night. Up till this moment, I cannot tell you why they left, because we told them about the need for them to bring in new people before they left but they refused and left.
“Immediately they left, the incident happened. It was only the area commander and his men that came to our rescue and engaged the herdsmen before they left.
We are not saying that the police did not do its job, what we are saying is that if they had heeded all the security reports we have been passing to them, the herdsmen would not have attacked us.
“We had over twenty of our people killed. These Fulani people have been attacking us on a regular basis. We have continued to bury our people killed by these Fulani men year-in, year-out. I am very happy today that the IGP, is here to witness what is happening because we have been crying to government for help. Our people don’t go to farm again.
“Now, there is another revelation about this whole attack because one policeman Chukwu, and each time he came with an alert about Fulani coming to attack, they will strike. The Chukwu, is a corporal serving at Agbani division. This same Chukwu, came with the herdsmen and they started shooting our young men who went to the farm and we fought back and they ran away. We don’t know why an Igbo man, would fight on the side of the Fulani to kill his people and when we tried to ask him, he said we should shut up our mouth.”
Gloom in the village
As expected, the mood in the village was mournful as everyone wore long faces and lamenting over the incident. Apart from the very few young men that came out to welcome the IGP, no woman was sighted as they had been taken into protective custody by their kinsmen to prevent them from being raped.
The market in the village had no commercial activities going on. Shops and other business premises were shut to mourn the dead. Schools, healthcare centers were not left out in the closure as they were closed down for fear of being attacked.
The villagers say they are still in shock over the whole incident and cannot tell for now, when things will return to normal since most of their relatives have been killed and others on admission in hospitals across the state.
The people who are still traumatized cannot tell where their next meal would come from since they no longer go to the farm. Parents have hurriedly relocated their children from the villages to their relations in the cities where they may remain to continue with their education until total peace is restored.
Tales of bereaved families
Parents who lost their children in the raid are still lamenting over the loss of their loved ones and they are yet to come to terms with the reality. Some of them who spoke to Saturday Sun, told of how the herdsmen mutilated the bodies of their loved ones, which made it very difficult for them to identify the bodies save for their clothes and special birth marks.
One of the villagers who found it very difficult to speak said “I was only able to identify the body of my brother because of his cloth because the way they cut his body was nothing but barbaric. I can only imagine the pains he passed through before he finally gave up the ghost. The condition in which we found the bodies of our relatives was so bad that we had to bury them immediately, there was no way we could deposit such bodies in the mortuary because even the mortuary people would not accept those bodies. I just thank God that we survive it because it was a very terrible incident that only those who were here would understand what we passed through and saw.”
Policeman in trouble
On the alleged involvement of one police corporal Chukwu, who was alleged to have played a role in leading the attackers to the village as narrated by the spokesman for the community, the IGP immediately ordered the arrest and detention of the policeman.
He directed the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), and the commissioner of police of the state to effect the arrest of the corporal.
He assured the people that if found guilty, the police corporal would not only be dismissed from the police but also made to face the full wrath of the law.