For the rural dwellers of Abi Community, an agrarian community in Uzo Uwani Local Council of Enugu State, life has become a tale of sorrows, tears and blood. Their woes emanate from the gruesome attacks unleashed on the community by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
Indeed, the villagers in the community are still counting their loses after the attack of February 9, 2016, from the suspected Fulani herdsmen. The attack led to the loss of lives – as well as the destruction of property worth millions of naira.
Most of the villagers no longer have a roof over their heads and live under trees because of the destruction of their houses by the rampaging Fulani herdsmen.
According to the eyewitness, the terror unleashed on Abi Community by the Fulani herdsmen was occasioned by the killing of one of the herdsmen who defiantly grazed his cattle in a cassava farm that belonged to the villagers. However, another source said that the excesses of the Fulani herdsmen had been a burden on the community, even as they are tolerated among the natives.
He stated: “There have been successive stories of Fulani grazing in their farms and intimidating them with firearms, raping their women in their farms as well as maiming anyone that dared challenge them. This may not be unconnected to the fact that Hausas live in many parts of the Local Government which shares a common boundary with Kogi State (a North Central state)”.
‘Thus, most of the Fulanis even have their own houses, mosque and school in the LG. But the major challenge between them has been the issue of the visitors operating without restriction and even ready to kill anyone who questions their will’.
The eye witness, who escaped by the whiskers, narrated that the mayhem on Abi community by the suspected Fulani herdsmen numbering over 20, started around 4pm on that particular day, Tuesday, February 9. He said the assailants came through a forest that demarcates Abi village with Ogwurugwu (another village in Kogi State). He said that the assailants were led by some other neighbours who knew the terrain very well based on the fact that they meandered through the bush and burst at their target, Abi community, and were led by four people who covered their faces.
A native, Ezeugwu Emmanuel, said: “We were all in the farm when more than 20 of them arrived, some covering their faces. They shot me from the back but I escaped”. When asked how he escaped unhurt, he laughed and replied that he is a traditionalist who believes in what he believed in.
Ezeugwu narrated that 51 years old Felix Okozie wasn’t as lucky as he was. Okozie was shot at the back and the chest at his cocoa yam farm. As he tried to run, the assailants closed up on him and butchered him with their cutlasses.
According to Ezeugwu, the assailants, as soon as they gained entrance into the village square, set many choice houses ablaze with gallons of petrol in their possession. While some of them still targeted and shot at the villagers.
He said that Mrs Mercy Anyaogu (54) and her first daughter Ugochukwu Okezie were shot as they scampered for safety. Unfortunately, because of her bullet wound, Mrs Mercy Anyaogu couldn’t get far before they closed up on her and butchered her.
Mr Felix Ugwuoke , a native, said the assailants, suspected to be Fulani herdsmen,
burnt his three room apartment and kitchen to ashes while he was still in the farm; everything was burnt to ashes before his return.
His words: “As you can see, I have never begged in my life but I’m now a beggar. This cloth I’m wearing was given to me by my neighbour who noticed that I was left with only farm cloth I came back with; that is the only cloth in my life now. My two wives and some of my 10 children have left to various places they could find shelter but I have no place to go, which is why I am sleeping under the tree”.
Mr Ugwuoke and many other Abi villagers are pleading to the government and the police authorities to carry out a thorough investigation of the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice. His words: “Please beg the government and any person that can help to come to our rescue. I and my family and many others are depending on people’s help to see the next day. We need help urgently”.
Attempts to reach the Enugu State Police Command Public Relations Officer, Mr Ebere Amaraizu, on how far the police have gone with their investigations proved abortive.
The good news, however, is that President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered an investigation into the incessant bloody clashes nationwide between Fulani herdsmen and various rural farming communities where these itinerant herdsmen graze their cattle. As it was in the Agatu Community in Benue State and various other places recently, so it was in the Abi Community in Enugu State a few weeks ago.
It is a vicious circle: the rural farming communities accuse the Fulani herdsmen of allowing their cattle to graze on their farmlands, thereby destroying their economic crops; the Fulani herdsmen accuse the rural community farmers of refusing to allow them grazing rights for their cattle – and of harassing them and their cattle when the cattle are grazing. And the violence breaks out sooner or later…
Hopefully, the inquiry ordered by the President will shed some light on how to end, once and for all, these bloody and violent clashes between Fulani herdsmen and rural community farmers in various parts of the country.