Edited And Published By Nwosu C.S
...#SaveOurSoul--- Monarch Cries Out.
There was palpable fear and tension which enveloped residents of Ugwuneshi Autonomous community in Agwu Local Government Area of Enugu State, following the illegal arrest of 76 villagers in the community by "men in military uniform" over their protest against the rampaging Fulani Cattle Herders.
Awgu is a border community with Lokpanta in Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State where a cattle market is located.
Decrying the horrible situation, the traditional ruler of Awgu community, His Royal Highness Igwe Godwin Nwobi, stated that the incident took place on Thursday last week, saying that the Fulani Herdsmen who settled in the community without their permission had been using their cattle to destroy their crops and farmlands with impunity.
He stated that following the continued destruction of their crops which serve as their only means of livelihood, the youths in the community out of anger and provocation, decided to protest the impunity and execrable activities of the Herdsmen.
According to the Monarch, the villagers after the protest received an information that two women who went to their farm had been abducted by the herdsmen apparently in retaliation.
"When we got such information, the youths and men were gathering in our village square to discuss the matter and plan for a rescue mission when suddenly they were surrounded by men in military uniform who arrested 76 of them and carried them away in trucks", he said.
He appealed for the intervention of Enugu State Government to secure the release of the arrested villagers whom he said had remained in prison custody in Umuahia.
Related article:Enugu community decries arrest of 76 villagers after feud with Fulani
The monarch wondered why his subjects would be crammed into detention for simply protesting the destruction of their crops and farmlands while those responsible for the destruction are allowed to operate freely. "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 Southeast Governors to save Igboland from the herdsmen invasion before it is too late", he agonized.
But in a contradictory twist, the Public Relations Officer(PRO) of the 14 Brigade Ohafia, Major Sydney Mbaneme when contacted, said the "men in military uniform" were not soldiers. He said they might be fake soldiers and civilians who camouflaged themselves, adding that "if at all they are soldiers, they were not our soldiers".
The Army spokesperson further explained that if the said soldiers were real soldiers, the attention of the command would have been drawn to it, adding that "when such arrest is made, the first thing is to carry out preliminary investigation and inform their various units".
When also contacted, the zonal Police Public Relations Officer(PPRO) in charge of Zone 9, DSP Emma Jiakponna, said he was not aware of the incident.
But a source in Abia State Judiciary confirmed that the arrested villagers are currently been detained at Afara prison in Umuahia. The source said the men were grouped into three and arraigned in the court but were refused bail.
However, the source failed to disclose details of the charges preferred against them nor confirm whether it was the police, soldiers or 'fake soldiers' that brought them to court.
Meanwhile, Governor Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State has said he could not help the situation, tasking journalists to help expose the injustices in the country.
The Governor who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Uwakwe Abugu told our source on a phone conversation that "it does not require the attention of the state government before something is done". He simply referred our source to the Army PRO for further inquiries.
Meanwhile, the youth wing of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo has strongly condemned the arrest and continued detention of the villagers, describing it as "an insult to the Igbo nation".
The Coordinator of the seven State Chairmen of the Ohanaeze Youth Council (OYC), Mazi Alex Okemmiri, said it was wrong for security agents to bundle unarmed local farmers into prison for merely protesting the destruction of their crops by Fulani cattle rearers. He called for the immediate release of the villagers, warning that if no urgent measures were taken to resolve the menace of Fulani herdsmen which has assumed a worrisome dimension since the coming into power of President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerians might be in for "something worse than Boko Haram.
Written By Ucheagu Chukwuemeka Chimerue.
Reporting Live From Enugu, For Biafra Writers.