At least nine persons, including a pregnant woman whose foetus was removed, were on Sunday afternoon killed by suspected herdsmen who attacked Mgbuji community in Isi-Uzo Local Government Area of Enugu State.
A resident of the community, Eberechukwu Agbo, who put the figures of the dead at nine, said many others might die from injuries sustained during the attack.
Following this development, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has directed the 68 newly sworn-in development area administrators in the state to relocate to their areas to stem local security challenges in the state.
In Imo State, the return of violent and barbaric killings, particularly in the Orlu area of the state, has caused fear, apprehension and suspicion in the area, resulting in residents and leaders fleeing the community.
The Imo State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, called on the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, to adopt a round-table approach to resolve the Orlu crises.
Herdsmen killings in Enugu
On the Enugu killings, it was learned that after the herdsmen allegedly killed the pregnant woman, they ripped open her stomach to remove her unborn baby which they also killed and placed on her dead mother.
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Vanguard gathered that the armed herdsmen invaded the community through a border with Benue State community, attacking several farm settlers and other unlucky people caught in the farm, including those returning from a marriage ceremony.
While a source who pleaded for anonymity, said the attack came from members of a border community of Benue State who are in a boundary dispute with Mgbuji community, the Bishop of Anglican Diocese of Eha-Amufu, Rt. Rev. Daniel Nkemjika Olinya, dismissed the boundary dispute claim, insisting that herdsmen attacks had been on the increase in the area and entire state.
He also lamented that the state and local government authorities had not put enough measures in place to stop the marauders
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The cleric equally stated that members of the community stopped personnel of the Nigeria Police Force who came on Monday to evacuate the corpses because they had not released corpses of victims earlier killed by herdsmen in the community for burial.
He said: “This is the third time the armed herdsmen are invading Mgbuji community this year, apart from indiscriminate kidnappings on which we have lost counts. Most of the time, they invade the community, kidnap and kill the victims. The last attack before this Sunday’s attack led to the death of six people. Five of them have not been buried and now they came again this time and killed eight persons.
“Some people said the rising attacks in the recent time could be linked to the eviction notice given to the herdsmen and other conditions of operation that are, perhaps, unacceptable to the herdsmen.
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“For instance, some of the people who were kidnapped and released recently by the armed herdsmen stated that the herdsmen insisted that they would continue their criminal actions until IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, dropped his agitations for Biafra.”
Members of the community alleged that the police asked them to sign an undertaking to allocate land to herdsmen and equally agree to live with them before they could release the corpses of those killed during earlier attacks.
Vanguard also gathered that the attacks followed an eviction order on the herdsmen resident in the community by Mgbuji community due to the continued attacks, killings, and destruction of farms by the herdsmen.
All attempts to hear from the spokesperson of Enugu State Police Command, Daniel Ndukwe, at press time proved abortive as he refused to respond to telephone calls.
Relocate to your devt areas to foster intelligence gathering
To stem the tide of insecurity in the state, the governor, Ugwuanyi directed that the new administrators engage all traditional rulers, presidents of town unions, religious leaders, youth and women organizations, Neighbourhood Watch groups, Forest Guards, and, indeed, all stakeholders in their respective development areas, to inspire a grassroots security architecture underpinned by robust intelligence gathering and communication of same to security agencies.
The governor, who gave the directives when he swore in the administrators at Government House, Enugu, said the grassroots engagement strategy “is the only means of fully reclaiming our neighbourhoods, and we expect no less”.
Harping on the imperative for this new paradigm of neighbourhood-based intelligence gathering, the governor pointed out that the strategy “stares us in the face.
“If we must secure our communities/neighbourhoods and fulfill our pivotal mandate of security and welfare of our people, as enshrined in section 14 subsection 2(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), then we must necessarily understand our neighbourhoods and the residents; their means of livelihood, lifestyle and networks.
“Enugu State Development Areas can no longer be superintended by absentee or non-resident Development Area Administrators,” he said.
Governor Ugwuanyi reminded the administrators that they have to also ensure that their subjects are fully enlightened on government’s policies and programmes, and mobilize for a collaborative partnership in peacekeeping as well as implementation of policies and programmes of government.
Fear, suspicion pervade as Orlu leaders flee community
Meanwhile, investigation into the crisis in Orlu by Vanguard revealed that some leaders, especially those involved in politics, have fled the community for fear of being the next victim.
A strategy adopted by many within Orlu and beyond, as observed by our correspondent, is the resolve not to be vocal in speaking about the crisis to avoid being caught on the crossfire. Those who had been vocal in the past, are now gagging themselves.
A top traditional ruler in Orlu said it is risky to speak about the killings.
A top politician contacted also declined comment. “I don’t want to be involved in that”, he interjected.
A source in the community said that it is difficult to say for sure the people behind the renewed killings.
“I can’t say for sure the people behind these killings. Initially, we suspected ritualists. Some people have tried to link it to the issue of Biafra. We don’t just know who is responsible, and for what purpose.
“But all we pray is for peace to return. There is so much fear in the community. Nobody knows what will happen next. We are living in fear. Many people have left the village, especially those who are into politics”, the source stated.
Speaking with our correspondent, the Chairman, Board of Trustees of Orluzurumee, the apex socio-political organization in Orlu, Reuben Okoro, expressed deep worry over the situation.
“I am very worried over the killings. My knees are on the ground every day praying to God to restore sanity to Orlu. If we kill ourselves, who is going to stay back? The situation pains me”, he stated.
On what he thinks could help to restore peace, Okoro said: “You know it is difficult to talk now. If you talk, if ‘A’ does not misquote you, ‘B’ will do. I will suggest elders should be assembled to see what could be done about it. I am just praying to God. God has the solution to what is happening in Orlu, Imo State, and Nigeria in general”, he posited.
A former governorship aspirant who hails from Okporo Community, Leo Okolienta said he was saddened by the killings in his community.
Okolienta, based in the United States, appealed to those behind the killings to sheathe their swords for peace to return.
“I am saddened by the killings in my community. It is very worrisome how human beings are being slaughtered. I appeal to all parties to please give peace a chance. We can’t continue to lose our people.
“Government should handle this matter carefully, we just want peace to return so that people can live without fear”, he pleaded.
It would be recalled that in the past two weeks, about five persons have been killed within Okporo, a community in Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State in what appears like well-planned attacks against perceived enemies. The latest was the beheading of a man suspected to be a leader in the area and the destruction of his vehicle. It happened the same day the unknown gunmen attacked Njaba police station, in which the police said they killed two, and succeeded in repelling the attack.
Follow round-table approach to resolve Orlu crisis, PDP tells Uzodimma
PDP through the State Youth Leader, Greg Nwadike, said a round-table strategy has been effective in the management of the Niger Delta crisis, adding that it should be applied in the Orlu insecurity issues.
According to Nwadike, “My stand is that the governor should approach this insecurity from a round-table strategy. He should meet with those involved and know what their problems are and look into it. This is the way to go about it. It is the approach we saw even in Niger Delta areas and it has worked well.
“It is not to be tackled with the use of gun and bullet approach. We, the leaders of Orlu are not happy about the killings in our area and we want it stopped. There is no security in Orlu and the government must be seen doing the right thing to secure Orlu.”
A source close to the series of meetings ongoing said: “We have met with some groups and the meeting is still ongoing. The traditional rulers are still meeting. This is the second time they are meeting.
“Youth groups are coming together to form alliance and protect their communities like you have seen for the past three days. They have taken over the security of the place.”