Attakwu: Despite our outcry, herdsmen still came to attack us —Catholic bishop

UNTIL last Wednesday, the people of Attakwu Ndiagu community in Nkanu-West Local Government Area of Enugu were relatively living quietly in their ancestral land going about their normal businesses. Unexpectedly they were woken up in the middle of that fateful night by invaders who had sneaked into their communities to unleash terror on them.

In a twinkle of an eye, a catholic seminarian and several others were captured and injured by the invaders suspected to be herdsmen. The Seminarian, Lawrence Nwafor from Imo State, who was on Apostolic work in the community, was not so lucky as he died from the injury he sustained.

“The irony is that the herdsmen have been living harmoniously with members of their host community for over two decades,” one of the villagers told this reporter.

Indeed, the attack was a throwback to the earlier one which occurred only four months ago during which several residents of Nimbo Community in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of the state were killed.

Just like the Nimbo killings, the attack of the Attakwu Ndiagu, Akegbe-ugwu Awkunanaw would have been averted if the call by the Catholic authority questioning security lapses was heeded.

Catholic cleric, Bishop Onaga who rarely talks to the media, told reporters that few weeks ago, both the clergy and the laity gathered to show their displeasure over the activities of the Fulani herdsmen.

“We were able to calm people down; we said let us give government a chance; but you can see the climax, a student has just been butchered; it looks like we are being targeted every year,” he said.

To the cleric, the authorities are not doing enough in terms of protecting lives and property, appealing to government to put more efforts. “The government should do something about this; it is very painful; it is very sad. This is not the way to do things; all of a sudden these people have assumed another level of effrontery, they have assumed another level of boldness. If they cannot live with us, let them quietly go; this is our land, we cannot pack out of this place.

“We are pleading with all the security agencies to look into this because at a time, people may not hold their patience again, there may be free range of anger and violence. Of course we are not prone to violence but at sometimes we can really be stretched so much that we will have no option than to defend ourselves. Life has been lost and to replace it is impossible.

“So, we are really sad; we are really in pain and I need to really summon the courage to address the Catholic Faithful on what happened; how would I explain it? Look at where they came and did these things; go there you will see butchering, blood everywhere.

“Their cows were not killed; they themselves were not touched; just that they scared away their cows in the day time.

“Why would they kill an innocent boy just at the peak of his vocation? I pray and hope that our people will be restrained from overreacting,” Bishop Onaga said, adding: “It is so painful; when I got this news, I was totally disorganised.

Meanwhile, Governor Ugwuanyi on Thursday morning moved swiftly to the troubled community where he condemned the invasion of the community by the suspected herdsmen, saying that government will do everything necessary to bring the culprits to book.

Inside source in government circle revealed that the major headache of Governor Ugwuanyi is that the last Wednesday attack occurred just few days after the commission of inquiry on Nimbo killings submitted an interim report and is about to complete its assignment.

As a matter of fact, there is growing anger in the troubled Attakwu community as many youths in the area threatened fire and brim stone in the presence of their representative at the House of Representatives, Dr Chukwuemeka Ujam, who visited the community on Thursday.

Sunday Tribune who was in entourage of the Lawmaker, observed the presence of armed security operatives including soldiers in the community.

Dr Ujam, who was also furious, however, appealed to the Federal Government and the security agencies for greater protection of the people of his constituency from further attacks by the invaders.

Dr Ujam, who later visited the injured ones at Mother of Christ Hospital, Enugu, told reporters that he was in the community and the hospital to pay his condolences and sympathise with his people.

The lawmaker who is also from the community, and was accompanied by his colleague, Kingsley Ebenyi representing Isi-Uzo/Enugu East federal constituency, and the traditional ruler of the community, Igwe Gregory Ugwu, called on the community to hold the peace.

“My colleague and I are here to see for ourselves what happened in the early hours of yesterday (Wednesday). Let me refresh your memory, I was quite vocal on the floor of the National Assembly when a similar act happened in Nimbo community and we stressed that this should stop.

“We have come here today, painfully, yet again to we hear same story. I will put on record that our people are peace loving people. I want to thank them so far for maintaining the peace. There has been no reprisal and I pray it continues that way.

“But I call on the Federal Government, I call on the security agencies to step up, it is their responsibility to protect the lives and property of the Nigerian citizen. No life is worth losing for any reason whatsoever and when you hear the story about how this happened.

This was simply an unprovoked attack. Cattle came into a farm and cattle were just chased away, does that warrant murder in cold blood?

“My people are pained, they are agitating but we are appealing to them to hold the peace, two wrongs should not make a right. So I once again call on the federal government and the security agencies to protect my people, we do not want to take laws into our hands, we are grieving,” he said.

Earlier, the traditional ruler, Igwe Ugwu while receiving the lawmaker in his palace, said the attack was planned and well-executed. He said he was shocked by the attack because they have been living peacefully and managing the Fulanis for many years despite the fact that their cattle destroy their crops, farms and streams.

He also thanked Governor Ugwuanyi and the security agencies for quick intervention, urged the National Assembly to rise to the occasion and address the menace of herdsmen across the country.

At the Mother of Christ Hospital, Enugu, one of the victims, Ifeanyi Agbo, who was not coherent in greater part of his speech because of the severe pain, told reporters that he was astonished by the attack, stressing that only God saved him.

It was learnt that prior to the attack, the private security apparatus in the community was largely in the hands of the Northern folks as virtually most rich men in the community had their houses by Fulani guardsmen.

Further checks showed that the anger of the herdsmen might have stemmed from the fact that their cattle were chased out by a woman who used musical instrument called “Ogene’, hence they plotted the invasion.

Already, the police efforts in tracking the killers are yielding fruits as the State Police Public Relations Officer, Ebere Amarizu said that a teenager is helping the security following his alleged involvement in the attack.

“The Enugu state command of the Nigeria police force in its resolve towards unmasking those behind the dastardly act perpetrated at Ndiagu Attakwu community of Akegbeugwu in Nkanu West Local Government Area of Enugu state in the early hours of last Wednesday which left one person dead and four others critically injured, have nabbed a suspect identified as one Umaru Isah from Gusau, Zamfara State over his alleged involvement in the incident.

“His arrest came through intelligence information gathered. The said suspect who claimed that he is 20 years old revealed that he came in from Gusau to Enugu recently for the purpose of rearing cattle but has none to rear till now.

“Investigations have commenced in full scale into his alleged nefarious activities and with a view to unmasking his gang members so that they can be brought to book. The state Commissioner of Police, Emmanuel Ojukwu has vowed to unmask all those involved and bring them to book,” the police image-maker added.