By Anayo Okoli
THERE was tension and fear among the residents of Ugwuneshi autonomous community in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State, following the alleged arrest of 76 of their people by “men in military uniform” over a clash with Fulani herdsmen. Awgu where the community is situated is a border community with Lokpanta in Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State which hosts a cattle market.
According to the traditional ruler of the community, Igwe Godwin Nwobi, the incident took place on Thursday last week. Igwe Nwobi alleged that Fulani herdsmen who settled in the community without permission had been using their cattle to destroy their crops and farmlands over the years. He said pleas and warnings from the farmers to the herdsmen had always fallen on deaf ears as they continued to graze on the community’s farmlands with impunity. Irked by the continued destruction of their crops which he said were their only means of livelihood, the youths of community protested the impunity of the herdsmen.
He disclosed that after the protest, information filtered in the village that two women who went to farm had been abducted by the herdsmen. “When we got such information, the community gathered to discuss modality of dispatching some people on rescue mission and suddenly they were surrounded by men in military uniform who arrested 76 of them and carried them away in trucks”, the monarch said. He therefore appealed for the intervention of the Enugu State Government, to secure the release of the arrested villagers who he said were taken to Umuahia Prison. “It is wrong for our people who fled the North because of Boko Haram to be treated as slaves in their own land. We don’t want to be destroyed by herdsmen like they did in Agatu, Benue State. Government should please come to our rescue.
We appeal to our Governor, and other South East Governors to save Igbo land from herdsmen invasion before it is too late”, Igwe Nwobi lamented. But the Public Relations Officer of the 14 Brigade Ohafia, Major Sydney Mbaneme, denied knowledge of the incident, saying the “men in military uniform” were not soldiers. According to him, they might be fake soldiers and civilians who camouflage themselves, saying that “if at all they are solders, they are not our soldiers.” However, the zonal Police Public Relations Officer of Zone 9, Police Command, Emma Jiakponna, DSP, said he was not aware of the incident.” Meanwhile, Ohanaeze Youth Council has condemned the arrest and detention of the villagers, saying it as “an insult to the Igbo nation.”