The Ebonyi State government has denied insuniations that Fulani herdsmen were behind the recent attack on the people of Umuogudu Akpu-Ngbo Community in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of the state where many persons were feared dead and properties worth millions of Naira were destroyed.
The Deputy Governor, Dr. Eric Kelechi Igwe, in statement made available to newsmen through his spokeman, Dr. Monday Uzor, on Monday in Abakaliki noted that the recent attack on Ngbo is linked to the age-long crisis between the community and their Agila neighbours of Benue State just as the leadership of the Fulani herdsmen (Miyetti Allah) has denied involvement in the attack.
Igwe said: “That the leadership of the Fulani herdsmen has assured government and people of Ebonyi State that they will not on any account perpetrate attack on any party of Ebonyi State.
“We have directed the military and police to move into the community to repel the attack and restore peace.
“The general public and in particular the people of Ngbo are requested to remain law abiding and avoid reprisal as government is working hard to restore normalcy to the affected community.
“Please be assured of the readiness of the Governor David Nweze Umahi-led administration to secure the lives and property of citizens at all times,” the statement reads.
However, when Tribune Online visited the area, some of the residents of the five villages attacked alleged that the attack was carried out by Fulani herdsmen and Agila people of Benue State.
A traditional ruler in the area, HRH Godwin Ugadu Ogba, he said: “Early morning today, I got information that herdsmen were killing my people. I called the CSO, Leonard Igwe to invite security men to the affected villages. After this, I heard that the military and other security agents were going to the villages.
“I am expecting that they will visit me before going, I have not seen them, may be they may come. I am also waiting for information from my people living in the affected areas. So, I am still waiting for them. But the information I got is that herdsmen or Agila people were killing my people, burning their houses, destroying their properties in Otebu, Igideobu, Obodocha villages. Obodocha is where they reached and heard that security men were coming and they ran back according to the information given to me.
“The dead body which many people said they saw is one Emmanuel who is a native doctor. So many people had injuries. They were cutting their heads, other parts of their bodies with knives and machetes according to the information I got. My house boy has gone there and come back and he has briefed me.”
Mrs Ogba Ngozi whose husband was killed by the attackers said: “They have set all our houses ablaze, they have sacked us from our villages. The attack was carried out by herdsmen and Agila people, they attacked us this morning. They killed my husband two brother the ones I personally know. Their names are Chidibere and Emma Nwanjoku.”
Another resident, Mrs Ngozi Ebenyi Onwe told Tribune Online said: “Before we woke up this morning, we started hearing heavy gunshots. The gunshots were coming so close and we started scampering for safety. As we were running for our dear lives, we heard that one of our neighbours has been killed.
“We ran out of the community since the gunshots were much. They shot many people and burnt many houses including my own. My sewing machine, motorcycle and other properties were also burnt. Government should come to our aid. Since morning, I have not seen my children, I am looking for my children and I don’t know their whereabouts. I have not eatien since morning.”
Meanwhile, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Ebonyi State chapter in a statement signed by its publicity secretary, Barr. Silas Onu, condemned the “hasty conclusion” of the state government which exonerated the herdsmen and the “outright accusation” of Agila people “without proper investigation”.
The statment stated that: “While we condemn this brazen act of criminality perpetrated against our people, we are concerned that the Ebonyi State government has jumped into a hasty conclusion by completely exonerating Fulani herdsmen and directly accusing the people of Agila in Benue State, known to have had a long boundary dispute with the affected community.
PDP noted that it is unfortunate that the state government appears more interested in exonerating a group than digging deep to ascertain the real killers.
Reports gathered from persons who are natives of the affected community indicate that “the footprint of the killing does not reflect how the Agila people attacked this community in the past. It is said that the Agila people usually cut off the head of their victim as a trophy and have always attacked using gun, not machete.
“This hasty conclusion reached simply because the Miyetti Allah group denied Fulani herdsmen involvement is very suspicious and is not acceptable to the PDP. No group will accept responsibility for such gruesome murders.
“Since the government now has a way of confirming those killed by herdsmen, can they use the same link to arrest those that killed innocent people in Ishielu? The partnership will be more useful if used to apprehend criminals rather than giving opportunities for baseless denial.
“The Police and DSS are called upon to ignore this hasty conclusion by the government and not to allow it affect their investigation. A thorough and all inclusive investigation must be carried out before any group or Community can either be exonerated or accused.
“We call on all Ebonyians to be peaceful and cooperate with the Police in the discharge of their Constitutional duty.
“May the soul of those who have been killed unnecessarily find peace in the Lord. May their attackers never know peace in Jesus name.”
Credit: Nigerian Tribune