By Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba and Monday Osayande in Warri
Tragedy again struck in Illah community in Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State as assailants suspected to be Fulani nomads beheaded a woman and left two others with sever machete wounds.
In a related development, Delta State Police Command said it lost more than six police officers to armed bandits within three months, just as the Fulani herdsmen had reportedly killed 30 persons in the past three years in Ughelli North Local Government Area of the State.
The dead and the wounded were said to have gone on fishing in in a stream in area when the suspected nomads allegedly pounced on them and attempted to rape the women.
The women had gone to the Otu Ngegu River (Gulugulu) in Ajaji area of the community to fish but they were attacked on the way by the suspected nomads who allegedly tried to rape them, inflicting matchet cuts on them as they put up resistance, community sources said.
The incident has caused a big stir in the usually peaceful agrarian community as fear has gripped the people such that some residents had not been unable to go to their farms out of fear of attack.
One community source said, “The women were fishing when some person dressed like herdsmen and wearing masks emerged from the bush nearby and attacked them in an attempt to rape them.
“However, the women resisted which infuriated the assailants as one of them brought out a sharp cutlass to cut off the neck of one of the women, killing her instantly. The attacker also inflicted injuries on the two other women.”
A team of policemen reportedly stormed the scene of the attack but the attacker had fled before their arrival.
The source further told THISDAY that the policemen eventually evacuated the remains of the dead woman to a morgue while they also rushed the two injured ones to the hospital for medical attention.
While confirming the report, the Delta State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Celestina Kalu (DSP) said that the police could not say if the assailant was a herdsman or not as he was masked and his identity could not be ascertained.
According to Kalu, “Yes, there was an attack on three women who were said to have gone to fish in a river in Illah community, but we cannot confirm that the assailants were herdsmen because the attacker covered his face with a mask.”
She nevertheless said that the police had commenced investigation into the incident. The PPRO said, “We are already on top of the situation and normalcy has been restored. The matter is under investigation.”
Illah community was recently thrown into mourning following the death of one of its sons, Samuel Dumebi Okonta, an NYSC member who was killed during the INEC rerun election in Rivers state.
Delta State Police Commissioner Mr. Alkali Usman told stake holders in town hall meeting in Ughelli that in a bid to discharge their official duties, the Police Officers were killed in a gun battle with the hoodlums at various locations across the State.
Usman who admitted a short fall of man power and logistics in his command, informed that the “hoodlums are going about with sophisticated weapons with which they ambush my men who take delight in serving members of the public’’.
He appealed to the people to have a change of mind towards the Police and report any suspicion movement of person or groups, on time, to the Police with a view to fighting crime, saying the Police cannot do it alone.
“We too are not magicians. We are doing our best with the limited resources available to us. We have pushed them (the criminals) to a tight corner and you can see that crime has reduced considerably in the State’’, he said.
On the activities of the Fulani herdsmen, the Police Commissioner said the Police had no constitutional power to evacuate the cattle rearers as demanded by the people, but he assured them that those found wanting among them will be arrested and prosecuted.
The secretary to Uwheru Traditional council, Chief Benjamin Ohworeko told the Commissioner of Police at the stake holders town hall meeting that Uwheru kingdom has lost no fewer than 30 persons to the Fulani herdsmen in the past three years.
Continuing, he said ‘’some of those killed were not even found, let alone giving them a befitting burial’’.
According to him the cattle rearers had wreaked havoc in the kingdom such as raping, maiming and even killing and decried the ugly trend because it had resulted in many people refusing to go to farms for fear of Fulani attacks.
“Over the years so many of our men have been assaulted and dehumanised, a case in point is one Mrs. Roseline Okoro who was brutally raped, a week after her marriage, killed and buried in a shallow grave in Oguname town while Mrs. Oke Useh was badly raped but survived’’, he lamented.
Another participant Comrade Egbagbara Omars Blessing lamented that most of the police stations run short of man power and vehicles.
Egbagbara, who is the secretary, PCRC, B division Ughelli Agbarha- Otor said in his paper presented to police Chief, that the police could not fight crime effectively with four police personnel – two men, two women and no single vehicle at Ufuoma station with a population of over 5000 people.
Chairman Nigeria Bar Association (N B A) Ughelli branch, Mr. Alex Amusi Lampooned the police at the B division Ughelli for failing short of their responsibilities to members of the public.
Amusi said, “the officers there are not working at all because the vigilante had almost taken over their jobs”, and thus appealed to the CP to call his men to order with a view to inculcate discipline in them to carry out their onerous assignments with zeal.