Undercurrents Of Herdsmen Attacks In Enugu | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Undercurrents Of Herdsmen Attacks In Enugu

herdsmen, Idris
Posted: Sep 15, 2016 at 12:42 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Emmanuel Nzomiwu.


ENUGU – In the past five months, suspected Fulani herdsmen have continued to launch gruesome attacks against defenceless communities in Enugu State. At the last count, no fewer than 10 persons had been killed scores of others had been injured, while dg properties and properties worth millions of naira destroyed.

This development has left many people in the largely agrarian state, especially those in the rural communities, living in fear of possible attack on them by these Fulani herdsmen who continue to operate in the state unfettered.

The first major attack occurred in the early hours of April 25 when suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked Nimbo community in Uzo-Uwani local government area. According to official figures, they killed about than seven members of the community. But, it was believed that more people were felled by the marauding herdsmen. Scores were wounded, while several buildings were set ablaze by the rampaging attackers.

Also, on August 25, precisely four months after the Nimbo attack, suspected Fulani herdsmen again struck. This time, they attacked Atakwu Akagbe Ugwu Community in Nkanu West local government area. Lazarus Nwafor, a Catholic seminarian, was killed. Four others were injured. One of them, a 70-year-old Mrs. Ifeoma Agbo died in the hospital a few days after the attack.
Individuals and groups within and outside the state condemned the Nimbo attack. Among them were Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy Senate President; Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma  of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, and Enugu State Development Association (ESDA).

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and several civil society organisations were not left out in the vehement condemnation of the dastardly action of the herdsmen.

Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi wept bitterly at Ukpabi Nimbo, Uzo-Uwani, a day after the attack while on assessment tour of the destruction caused in the community by invading Fulani herdsmen.  Ugwuanyi who was in the company of security chiefs in the state, declared a two-day fast in the state, asking residents to commit the situation into God’s hand during their prayers.

Ugwuanyi stated: “It calls for sober reflection. This is a trying period, not just for this community, but for all of us. Be that as it may, what has happened, has happened? This is not time to blame anybody. Government will do what it is supposed to do.”

President Muhammadu Buhari who was outside the country as at the time the attack occurred on returning to the country a few days later, granted audience to Governor Ugwuanyi. During the meeting, the President commiserated with the people of Enugu State, assuring that security agencies would fish out the culprits.

Back home at the Government House, Enugu, also known as the new Lion Building, it was a beehive of activities for several weeks as several delegations came to solidarise with the Governor Ugwuanyi over the attack. Among them is the All Progressives Congress (APC) Governors and the South-East Monarchs, among others.

Notwithstanding the massive solidarity received by the governor, the state’s Chief Security Officer (CSO) of the State who had sworn to protect lives and properties of the people, one question was begging for an answer. That was: Who should be held responsible for this attack on Nimbo, which was predicted and eventually came to pass?

Addressing a press conference at the Government House four days after the incident, Governor Ugwuanyi stated that only the security agencies, including the Police, Army, Department of State Security (DSS) and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) could explain what really went wrong that fateful day.

Ugwuanyi said he would immediately inaugurate a Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate the attack on Nimbo community by suspected Fulani herdsmen. He said the panel would investigate the immediate and remote causes of all the violent occurrences in the state associated with the Fulani Herdsmen and recommend appropriate measures that would be put in place to prevent future occurrences.

The governor revealed that he recveived security information a day before the incident that such a thing would happen. He said he summoned thehHeads of all security agencies in Enugu to a meeting where they assured him that they were on top of the situation.

Ugwuanyi stated: “On Sunday, April 24, 2016, by 7.pm, the night before this carnage took place, I got security information from Uzo-Uwani Local Government Transition Chairman, Hon. Cornell Onwubuya, that such an incident was likely to take place in the state. I immediately summoned a meeting of the State Security Council which commenced by 10 pm.

“The meeting was attended by the following: Garrison Commander, Brigadier General Olufemi Akinjobi, who normally represented the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 82 Division, Nigerian Army; the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Nwodibo Ekechukwu; the State Director of Department State Security Services (DSS), Mr. M. Abdul Malik; the State Commandant of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Mr. Lar Stephen, and  representatives of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC)and Nigerian Prison Services (NPS), who attended as observers.

“From the side of government were myself, the Governor, the Deputy Governor, the Secretary to the State Government, the Chief of Staff, the Chairman, State Traditional Rulers Council, and the Honourable Attorney General of the State.

“In the meeting, we received assurances from the Commissioner of Police that the Area Commander of SARS was on ground in Nimbo; that the Anti-Terrorism Unit was at Nimbo; that he was in contact with the Kogi State Commissioner of Police and reported suspected herdsmen grouping at Odolu in Kogi State preparatory for an attack on Nimbo and Abbi communities;

“That Police mobile force and conventional police were already drafted to Nimbo and Abbi communities; that he was in touch with the Area Commander, ldah, ACP lkegwuonwu and had linked him with the Area Commander, Nsukka, ACP Monday Kuryas.

“Both men according to the CP reported that there were no traces of suspected herdsmen in Nsukka or Idah; that he ordered the Area Commander, Nsukka to redeploy to Nimbo; that the Garrison Commander on his part assured the meeting that Military was already deployed to Nimbo.

Ugwuanyi stated that the state government provided logistics for the deployment and after receiving these assurances, he felt confident that the government had done everything possible to forestall an attack on Nimbo.

Ugwuanyi explained that he was conscious of the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution as regards his Oath of Office as a governor. Sadly, in the early hours of Monday he received the report of the carnage. More disturbing to him was that the attacks were carried out as early as 6.30 am and a Church was burnt.

Also, at an emergency Town Hall meeting with traditional rulers and town unions’ presidents on May 2, a week after, Governor Ugwuanyi invited the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to investigate the Nimbo attack. The Commission of Inquiry he set up had also concluded its public hearing.

While the panel report was being awaited, suspected Fulani herdsmen struck agin, extending their bloodletting to Ndiagu Atakwu Akagbe Ugwu.  Ugwuanyi, who swiftly responded to the distress call from the community, stated that the state still remained in the hands of God. He however maintained that the people would no longer fold their arms while they were being slaughtered.

Emeka Ujam, the lawmaker representing Nkanu East and Nkanu West federal constituency in the House of Representatives, urged the Federal Government and security agencies to step up their duties as it is their responsibility to secure lives and property in the country. Ujam spoke when he led some South-East Caucus members of the House to Atakwu.

Before Ujam and another member of the House of Representatives, Kingsley Ebenyi, representing Isi-uzo and Enugu East federal constituency, angry youths of Atakwu Akagbe Ugwu community threatened reprisal attack if the herdsmen do not vacate their community. While Ujam was addressing members of the community and pleading for calm, the youths became restive. They warned that they would retaliate if the Fulani did not leave their community with immediate effect. Ujam appealed for calm, promising to make more demands in the House. He also visited the traditional ruler of Atakwu Akagbe Ugwu, Igwe Greg Ugwu over the issuein whose palace he commended Governor Ugwuanyi, the police and other security agencies for their timely intervention.

The Atakwu incident rubbed off on the activities lined up to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the creation of the state. Ekweremadu and two former governors, Chimaroke Nnamani and Sullivan Chime, were absent at the events.

Enugu State was created in August 27, 1991 under the administration of former military president, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (rtd). The state government organised an anniversary event at Michael Okpara Square Enugu and a symposium at Nike Lake Resort.

Meanwhile, in Enugu state, people, including those in the upper echelon of the society, frowned at the seemingly weakness of the governor over the herdsmen attacks. Many felt that had the Ugwuanyi acted decisively in the Nimbo incident, the second attack in Atakwu could have been averted.

A school of thought believe that Ugwuanyi who belongs to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was treading cautiously over the herdsmen menace to avoid any confrontation with the All Progressives Congress (APC) led Federal Government headed by President Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani.

A human rights group, Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network (CRRAN) has however, forwarded a letter to the Attorney General (AG) of Enugu State and Commissioner for Justice, asking him to immediately commence the criminal prosecution of suspects in the attack on Nimbo community Enugu State by suspected Fulani herdsmen.

The letter signed by Olu Omotayo, the CRRAN President, was titled, “Arrested Suspects Of Nimbo Massacre: Demand For Urgent Prosecution of the Suspects.” The letter reads further: “The said five suspects are: Mohammed Zurai, Ciroma Musa, Saleh Adamu, Suleiman Laute and Haruna Laute. The Police High Command maintained at the press briefing of May 25th 2016, that there were overwhelming evidence against the suspects as video recording of the massacre was also found on one of the suspects’ phone.

“Our worry is that since that 25th May 2016, which is over three months ago, your office has not deem it fit to call for the case file in respect of this case from the police and commence process to initiate criminal trial of the arrested suspects.

“It is submitted that as the No.1, Legal officer of Enugu State, it is your office that has the constitutional power to commence or discontinue legal prosecution of criminal trials in the state. We therefore demand that you urgently call for the case file from the police in respect of this matter with a view to commence the criminal trial of these suspects. The offences they committed are serious offences against the state and the citizens of Enugu State” CRRAN stated.

When contacted on phone, the Attorney General (AG) and Commissioner for Justice, Chief Miletus Ezeugworie Eze, said he has not received the letter. He said he was fully aware that his office has powers to prosecute the matter.