By Peter Oyedele |
A sense of fear today pervades many parts of Nigeria, particularly the Middle Belt, South South, South East and South West. Fulani herdsmen are almost on a daily basis unleashing terror on many communities in those areas. The herdsmen, armed with powerful guns, kill farmers, burn down whole villages, rape women, kidnap for ransome and rob commuters on major roads.
Ukpabi Nimbo, a community in Uzo – Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State is the latest victim. The herdsmen invaded the community in the early hours of Monday with guns, machetes and other dangerous weapons. Not less than 20 persons were reported killed on Monday during the attack. A catholic church and lots of property were destroyed. Many villagers were said to have escaped to neigbouring communities.
At the Bishop Shanahan Hospital, Nsukka, it was reported that the corpses of about 20 persons who died in the attack and were recovered from farmlands had been deposited at the morgue. The marauding herdsmen also burnt down a Catholic church located in the area. The spokesperson of the Ukpabi Nimbo community, George Ajogu blamed the law enforcement agencies in the state who failed to forestall the attacks which according to him, were indeed foretold. “Had it been that security agents responded appropriately, this would not have happened. They did not take us unawares. We knew they were coming. Because we lack security, the Fulani come here and tell us the land is theirs. They tell the farmers to kneel down and they rape the women in front of their husbands.
While lamenting the ineffectiveness of the security agencies’ response to the incident, the Executive Governor of Enugu State, Dr Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi disclosed that he could not have done much since he was not in control of the law enforcement apparatus in the state. The governor later made cash donations to the community and personally visited the injured in various hospitals. He however advised the people against going for reprisal attacks, stressing that necessary measures would be taken to beef up security in the area and other parts of the state.
Before the Ukpabi Nimbo incident, cases of Fulani herdsmen’s terrible agression had occurred in Agatu, Benue State, where over 800 people were reported to have lost their lives. These undesirable harbingers of death had also attacked Dori and Mesuma villages in Gashaka Local Government Area of Taraba State killing over 40 people in addition to destroying houses and property.
Expectedly, so many organisations and individuals have reacted to this most unfortunate development. The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) warned that the herdsmen would no longer be allowed to get away with the destruction of lives and property in the South-East. “We condemn the attack on helpless villagers by heavily armed Fulani herdsmen. Even though we are peace loving people, we cannot allow this to continue in Igboland,” they said.
On its own part, the Yoruba socio cultural group, Afenifere through their spokesman, Yinka Odumakin said that President Muhammadu Buhari should speak up on this matter and take urgent action to restore the security of the people of Nigeria, especially in the South and Middle Belt areas. “We reject the statement of the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, that the Federal Government is working silently on this matter. Several killings cannot be going on and the Federal Government is working silently. The action of the government must be open,” he group noted.
The Nigeria Labour Congress believes that if land needed for grazing cattle was the issue, the Federal Government should address it quickly to stop such killings and destruction. They challenged security agencies to ensure that those responsible for this orgy of violence were brought to book in a transparent manner as that remained the only way to earn the confidence of the generality of Nigerians. Angele Dikongue – Atangana, who is a representative of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees says the Fulani herdsmen are the fourth most deadly terror groups in the world. The diplomat sounds the alert on the potential threat of the herdsmen to peace in the country. “In my 20 years of working as a humanitarian, I have never seen such a level of destruction. If steps are not taken, the crisis can affect the country as a whole.”