By Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
Again, Fulani herdsmen have gone berserk attacking another community in Abia State and inflicted life threatening injuries on dozens of farmers after destroying their farm crops.
The latest community that came under attack is Ozu Item in Bende local government where the Fulani herdsmen invaded, destroying farms and attacked people with dangerous weapons. The secretary to Abia State government (SSG), Dr. Eme Okoro hails from Ozu Item.
The attacks which have followed the same pattern from one community to another have left the state government and the state police command helpless as no concrete action has been taken to stem the tide of attacks.
It was gathered that while some of the victims were rushed to the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Umuahia most of them were taken to private hospitals, including Tochi Hospital in Uzuakoli also in Bende local government.
At the FMC, one of the victims, Mr. Sunday Oru, 40, lay writhing in pains at the accident and emergency unit as the herdsmen fractured his right arm and chopped off the fingers. He told journalists that the herdsmen had invaded their farmlands on Thursday and plundered rice, cassava, okro and plantain and fed their cattle with the crops.
According to him, thousands of cattle were led into Ozu Item community by herdsmen and when the farmers became alarmed and asked the herdsmen to leave the community they arrogantly refused and entered the farms.
“They (herdsmen) vowed that instead of being expelled from our community they will conquer us and occupy our community,” he said. He explained that it was after the herdsmen invaded a rice farm on Thursday morning and youths and farmers went to expel them that the herdsmen went beserk hacking people, chopping off fingers and raining matchet blows on people.
“We are not civil servants. We are farmers and our crops are very important to us but the cattle are destroying everything,” he lamented.
The state police command confirmed the latest attack with the police public relations officer (PPRO) Nta Ogbonnaya Nta insisting that “the police is on top of the situation”. When our correspondent, who contacted him on phone wanted to know if any arrests has been made following the series of attacks by herdsmen the police spokesman said that the matter was being investigated.
The state police command has made it a habit of parading arrested suspected criminals almost on a weekly basis yet no herdsman has ever been among the arrested despite their murderous attacks on Abia communities.
But the Abia SSG lamented that the herdsmen had become very audacious in the attacks, lamenting that “there is no Bende community that the Fulani herdsmen have not invaded, adding, “Ozu Item has come under attack by Fulani herdsmen”.
Dr. Okoro said that, three days before the attack, he had actually alerted the Assistant Commissioner of police (AIG) in charge of the zone in Umuahia, Hosea Karma and he promised to send the state commissioner of police, Leye Oyebade.
However the SSG said that he wouldn’t know “if the police are handicapped” since the herdsmen went ahead and successfully launched the attacked without the security agencies stopping them.
Apparently expressing the helplessness of Abia State government to save its people from the marauding herdsmen, Dr. Okoro described the situation as “dicey because the federal government had no coherent policy on cattle grazing in the south” hence the herdsmen were exploiting the loophole to attack people and destroy farm crops.
“We are humane and we’re also very much interested in the unity of this country but not at the expense of our people,” he said, adding that it was unfortunate that the Fulani herdsmen don’t want to know the feelings of other Nigerians hence their penchant to destroy farms and attacking people.
The SSG even disclosed that the herdsmen had threatened to invade his three hectare farm where he planted various varieties of cassava and when he warned them to stay away they retorted that the farm was located in a forest area.
He said that various types of crops including rice, cassava, okro and plantain had been completely destroyed, pointing out that the women of Ozu Item who depend on okro for their means of livelihood had been liquidated economically.
“President Buhari has to rein in his people,” the SSG said.