From KASSIDY UCHENDU, Nsukka
The people of Nimbo in Uzo Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State are now licking their wounds following a recent attack on the peasant farming community by Fulani herdsmen.
At least two villagers were killed in the mayhem unleashed on them by the herdsmen who allegedly settled on the community’s farmlands in contravention of a subsisting court order.
The invaders also allegedly raped women, burnt houses and vandalized yam barns before fleeing the area.
According to sources, the only ‘offence’ of the villagers was that they dared to tell the herdsmen to take their herds of cattle off the farmlands of their hosts. During the attack, two students of Nimbo Community Secondary School were shot dead by the herdsmen. Those killed were identified as Thaddeus Utazi (17) and 19-year-old Michael Okeja , both JS3 and SS II students respectively. It was gathered that Thaddeus’ father, Chief Ugwo Utazi, fainted when he heard the news of his son’s death and died four days later. He was buried before his late son.
The entire community was still mourning the dead when Sunday Sun visited the area. At the home of the Utazis, the graves of the father and son were side by side. Mother of the late Thaddeus, Mrs Caroline Utazi, was seen inside a hut apparently devastated by the death of her husband and her son, described as the family’s breadwinner. Family sources told Sunday Sun that when he regained consciousness initially, her husband had vowed that he would not be alive to bury his son. He died before the police released Thaddeus’ body for burial.
The story was the same at the family-home of the late Michael Okeja, as scores of plastic chairs used by mourners littered the compound while some villagers sat in groups. The stepfather of the deceased, Mr Wilfred Okeja his wife hardly spoke as sympathizers trooped in and out of the compound. Mr Okeja who is staff of Uzo-Uwani Local Government told Sunday Sun that Michael was working in their farmland located at Ugbo Owerre when the herdsmen struck.
“My son was killed in cold blood by the Fulani people who had been a thorn in the flesh for our people for some time now. Michael was not armed. He was the third child in a family of seven children and had been a quiet hardworking child. “His offence was that he challenged the Fulani for bringing their cattle into our farmland. That was the third time they invaded our farmland in one week and, they shot the boy dead.
The Fulani were using sophisticated weapons like Ak-47 riffle. They raped our women with reckless abandon and impunity”, Okeja lamented. A community leader, Mr Charles Ezea, wondered if the Fulani herdsmen were rapists and murderers or deliberately sent to terrorize his people in another version of Boko Haram. Speaking to Sunday Sun, Ezea, said: “ You know that farming is our main occupation. Each year, we record huge losses in farm produce due to the devastation caused by herds of cattle brought in by these Fulani herdsmen.
We went to court to stop them from bringing their animals into our farms and got an order in our favour. We identified our boundaries with signposts, but they removed them at night. They have been a source of worry to us.” It was gathered that after the attack, the herdsmen retired to their tents and shot sporadically into the air throughout the night, apparently to ward off possible counter-attack.
The following morning, they fled using the Odoru route in Kogi State. Meanwhile, the community has petitioned the Enugu State Commissioner of Police, Mr Musa Daura, and sent copies of the petition to Governor Sullivan Chime, the Chairman of Uzo-Uwani Local Govrnment and the SSS, protesting the attack. Sources stated that the Commissioner of Police visited the area and saw the corpses of the students before they were buried.
Chairman of Uzo-Uwani, Mr Cornel Onwubunya told Sunday Sun over the telephone that the incident was unfortunate and condemned the killing of the two students. He called for peaceful co-existence of the Fulani and the natives, and urged the herdsmen to desist from destroying the crops of their host communities.