*Villagers panic over fresh killings
Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
Over a year after some suspected herdsmen launched an attack on the Nimbo Community in Uzo Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, leading to the untimely death of several persons, five Fulani and Kanuri herdsmen were yesterday arraigned before an Enugu High Court sitting at Nsukka over.
Those arraigned included Mohammed Zurai, (Fulani); Suleiman Lautai-Kanuri; Sale Haruna Lautai- Fulani; Adamu Suleiman- Fulani and Alhaji Ciroma, born in Keffi, Nasarawa State but an indigene of Kogi State.
This came as fresh tension gripped residents of Uzo Uwani, following the alleged killing of two farmers at Adaba, capital of same Uzo Uwani Local Government by suspected herdsmen on Monday.
Those killed in the fresh attack were identified as Chiaha Okeke and Charles Maduegbunam, both from Adaba in the area. They were reported to have been killed in their farms Fulani herdsmen between Saturday and yesterday.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Ebere Amaraizu, said he had not been briefed on such a matter and promised to get further information over the issue, but a lawyer from the area, Chief Reuben Ochi, confirmed the story in an interview at the Nsukka High Court, yesterday, saying that Chiahaâ€™s corpse was yet to be recovered.
Ochi said Chiaha was butchered and his remains taken away while Maduegbunamâ€™s corpse had been found.
They were said to have levelled war on the people of Nimbo, killing many natives, most of who died of shock and haemorrhage sometime in April, last year.
The accused persons pleaded not guilty of the charge.
However, the defence counsel, Dr A. N. Mohammed, pleaded for the release of the accused persons on bail, saying that the suspects had stayed in prison custody for about a year and four months without any charge filed against them for their purported crimes contrary to the law which stipulated that they should not have been detained for more than three months without charges being filed against them.
Mohammed quoted section 35 (a) and (b) and other sections of the 1999 Constitution to buttress his argument that his clients deserved to be admitted on bail while their trial continued.
â€œFor purposes of clarity, the accused persons have been in detention from April 25, 2016 till date. Information about this matter was only filed last month, June 2017. Taking into consideration of the provisions of the constitution, especially Section 35 (a) and (b) the second to the fifth accused persons are entitled to be granted bail unconditionally.
â€œIn line with the discretional and constitutional powers of this honourable court, or the courts inherent powers to admit suspects on bail, these accused persons deserve bailâ€¦,â€ he said.
But counsel from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Paul Ugwueze with Chuka Ezike opposed Mohammed saying that the issue bordered on the circumstances under which the accused persons were charged.
Ugwueze said the defence counsel had not proved or shown any special circumstances or consideration to warrant his application for bail saying that he made â€œa feeble attempt to bring the issue of ill-health, even when he (Mohammed) stated that the issue had been overcome with herbal medicine.
â€œThe defence has not shown any special case to warrant his application even if tangentially. The sections of the 1999 Constitution and other laws he cited are not applicable in this caseâ€¦ We are dealing with capital offence and his arguments are unknown to any law in Nigeria. That is not the practice, trend or the law.â€
After listening to the arguments, the Presiding Judge, Justice Anthony Onovo, adjourned the case to October 16, 2017 for ruling on the bail application.
About 40 persons were reportedly killed by some Fulani herdsmen at Nimbo in Uzo- Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, according to sources at Nsukka Police Area Command, near the area on April 24, last year.
About seven villages in Nimbo (Nimbo Ngwoko, Ugwuijoro, Ekwuru, Ebor, Enugu Nimbo, Umuome and Ugwuachara) were among the areas attacked. Ten residential houses and a church, Christ Holy Church International, aka Odozi Obodo, were also said to have been burnt by the herdsmen just as vehicles and motorcycles were destroyed and domestic animals killed during the mayhem which attracted local and international condemnation.
A young man, whose name was yet to be ascertained, was burnt inside a commuter bus belonging to one Ejima, son of a prominent man popularly called â€˜Are you thereâ€™ near the Christ Holy Church, Nimbo.
Kingsley Ezugwu, former Councillor, Nimbo Ward 2, who was one of the victims of the attack, said then: â€œI was coming out from the house when I heard the community bell ringing. I was going with a friend to know what the bell was all about, only to see about 40 Fulani herdsmen armed with sophisticated guns and machetes.
â€œThey pursued us, killed my friend and shot at me several times but missed. They caught up with me and used machetes on me until I lost consciousness.â€
He said one of them later discovered that he was alive and called on the others to finish him off. They ignored him. He said he crawled until a Good Samaritan helped him to the hospital.
â€œDead bodies litter hospitals. Some residents fled the community. So far, six dead bodies have been recovered and deposited at Bishop Shanahan Hospital, Nsukka, while others, who sustained injuries were rushed to Royal Cross Hospital and Enugu State District Hospital, Nsukka.â€
The traditional rulers of Nimbo, Igwe John Akor and his counterpart in Igga, Uzo Uwani Local Government were among hundreds of Uzo Uwani residents who thronged Nsukka High Court to witness yesterdayâ€™s arraignment of the accused persons.