Fear of ‘Agatu Treatment’ Grips Abia Community

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• Ohanaeze demands proper investigation

Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu and Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia

The allegation by the Department of State Services (DSS) that bodies of five Fulani herdsmen abducted and murdered were discovered in shallow grave at Umuanyi forest has set the community on edge over possible reprisal attack.

Traditional ruler of the sleepy community in Isuikwuato Local Government Area of Abia State, Eze Uwadiegwu Ogbonnaya, told THISDAY in a telephone interview wednesday that his people were “very much worried” over the implication of linking the community with violence.

“We are worried that our community could be turned to another Agatu,” the royal father said, in reference to the destruction wreaked on the community in Benue state by Fulani herdsmen.
He said the DSS linkage of Umuanyi community to the killing site was “a very malicious and false accusation,” adding that he could not fathom out how the DSS came up with the information that Umuanyi community had anything to do with the location it discovered graves.

According to him, sons and daughters of Umuanyi in the Diaspora have been calling and expressing fear about the safety of the residents of the community, given the familiar reports of reprisal attacks by rampaging herdsmen in some parts of the country.

The DSS had in an official statement dated April 9, 2016, signed by Tony Opuiyo, alleged that five abducted Hausa-Fulani men “were later discovered at the Umuanyi forest, Abia State, where they were suspected to have been killed by their abductors and buried in shallow graves, amidst fifty (50) other shallow graves of unidentified persons.”
But Ogbonnaya said that the DSS was wrong in identifying the geographical location of their findings, adding that Umuanyi community is about five kilometres from the Imo state side of the border with Abia where the graves were found.

The governors of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and his Imo counterpart, Chief Rochas Okorocha had after a joint security meeting Monday clarified that the killing of the herdsmen was a criminal act carried out by kidnappers operating along the inter state border.

The governors also dispelled insinuations that the alleged killings were motivated by ethnic bias, noting that security reports indicated that they were corpses of Igbo people equally found in the area in question.
Even though the DSS said “investigation conducted so far, revealed that elements within the IPOB, carried out this dastardly action” the separatist group has denied any involvement, saying that it has not adopted violence as a tool in its agitation for Biafra independence.

The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo yesterday demanded for a proper investigation into the circumstances surrounding the killing of five Fulani herdsmen and 50 other unidentified persons whose bodies were reportedly buried in shallow graves in a forest in Isiukwuato council of Abia State recently.

The organisation condemned the act of taking human life in any form anywhere in the country, noting that “as travellers to other places, Ndigbo are friendly to visitors and will not endanger life of visitors. All Nigerians are therefore assured of their safety in anywhere in Igbo land.”

The Department of State Security (DSS) had accused members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) of being behind the dastardly act, an allegation that was vehemently denied by both the IPOB and its sister organisation, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).

However, contrary to the claims of DSS, the Governors of Abia and Imo States, Okezie Ikpeazu and Rochas Okorocha respectively had during a joint security meeting in Umuahia condemned the act and attributed it to kidnappers and criminal elements.

But, in a press statement issued in Enugu by the President-General of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Gary Enwo-Igariwey, the organisation said only a proper investigation would unearth not only the circumstances surrounding their death but also ascertain those behind the heinous crime.

Ohanaeze Ndigbo insisted that those behind the act did not act on behalf of Ndigbo and therefore should be fished out and made to face the full weight of the law.

While commiserating with the families of the deceased especially, Igariwey said Ohanaeze had already conveyed its feelings to the leadership of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF).
The organisation also expressed reservations over the statement by the DSS which indicted IPOB as being responsible for the dastardly act, insisting that such explosive statement from a government security outfit remains condemnable in all ramifications.

“We are aware that the governor of Abia state who is the Chief Security Officer of the state said that the security organisations in his state including the DSS were unaware if the discovery as it had nit been reported to the State Security Council of which he is the chairman.

“Such statements are very unprofessional and capable of inciting the polity and endangering unity. We urge Ndigbo to continue to live in peace with fellow Nigerians and resist any action that will breach peace in the country,” the statement noted.