It came in torrents, like a heavy shower. In one fell swoop, three prominent indigenes of Enugu State were mowed down in cold blood. Although, there had been other pockets of incidents, the climax was the recent brutal elimination of these citizens of the state, brazenly.
First was Reverend Father Clement Ugwu, Parish Priest, St. Mark Catholic Church, Obinofia Ndiuno in Ezeagu Local Government Area. He was abducted from his parish around 9 pm on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, shot and taken to an unknown destination. Frantic efforts to locate him failed. His abductors had demanded N50m, and later reduced it to N20m.
While church authorities rigidly stuck by their well known stand of not succumbing to ransom, they were also making discreet contacts with the police to rescue him. Unfortunately, few days later, the badly decomposing body of the 42-year-old cleric was found somewhere in the bush by some locals who promptly alerted the church authorities. The strange discovery raised many questions. Could he have bled to death without assistance, or was he killed instantly by his abductors? However, it was a known fact that he was shot by the abductors before they disappeared with him. The body was, however, recovered and interned immediately at the priest’s burial ground at the Holy Ghost Cathedral, Enugu.
Regrettably, a very disappointed Bishop of the Diocese, Rt, Rev. Callistus Onaga was quoted as recalling how he personally visited the police in Enugu three times, asking for urgent action to rescue the cleric only for them to keep on telling him that they were “on top of the situation, and were closing in on the kidnappers”. Alas, when the bubble burst, it was not even the police that recovered the body but the locals. So far, the police in Enugu have woefully failed to either round up his suspected killers or come up with concrete efforts geared towards arresting such situations.
While the police, like the biblical Nero fiddling while Rome burns, another tragic shocker took place, barely one week later. Like a thunderbolt, the brutal decapitation of the body of the Secretary, Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of the state, Dr. Nnamdi Ogueche, 40, by suspected herdsmen after he attended a peace meeting at the isolated Local government headquarters, Umulokpa, took the centre stage again. The father of three and a lecturer at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, capital of Anambra state was reportedly murdered at about 5pm by suspected Fulani herdsmen between Olo in Ezeagu Local government Area and Umulokpa in Uzo-Uwani LGA.
He was on his way back to Enugu, after attending the peace meeting between the people of Uzo-Uwani LGA and herdsmen following unprovoked clashes recorded in the area. They were three people in the hired taxi taking them back to Enugu when about five heavily armed Fulani men blocked their way, brandishing their weapons. Reports said the Secretary and his friends ran out of the cab and took to their heels but while his friends succeeded in escaping, he fell down. The murderous herdsmen were said to have descended on him and pumped hot leads from their AK47 rifles into his skull leaving blood and bile.
Notably, the two roads leading to Umulokpa (Nkpologu)/Uvuru/Ukpata and 9th Mile/Ezeagu, have, for long, become terribly risky to ply as a result of the menace of the herdsmen. The precarious situation degenerated to the death of many indigenes and non-indigenes of the area on the hands of gun wielding Fulani herdsmen who have colonized the area and nobody seems to be doing anything. In December last year, they reportedly kidnapped two indigenes of Umulokpa who were returning for Christmas. One of them was shot on the leg during the ugly encounter and at the end of the day; they collected about N2m ransom from them. Confirmed reports said that many indigenes of the area who were coming home for the festive celebration suffered untold hardship in the hands of the marauding herdsmen.
Shockingly, since the brutal killing of this young man, the police in Enugu have only succeeded in saying that they are still after his killers and provocatively described them as ‘hoodlums’. Worst still they could come out with re-assuring measures aimed at addressing the wanton waste of lives and continued abduction at the Olo/Umulokpa road which for long, has been a death trap. Tragically, the road also leads to Ukpabi/Nimbo axis where the same Fulani herdsmen wrecked havoc in 2016.
Then, came the bang. This time around, inside the Coal city of Enugu, gunmen suspected to be assassins struck again and snuffed life out of the Head of Nursing Services, HNS, Federal Psychiatric Hospital, Enugu, Mrs. Mary Amadi, Phd. The woman was reportedly about to open the gate to her house at Federal Housing Estate, near NOWAS Filling station, Trans-Ekulu, Enugu when the daredevil gunmen pumped bullets into her stomach. She was immediately rushed to Park lane Hospital, located at the GRA, Enugu by sympathizers after the assassins fled the scene. But she gave up the ghost while doctors battled to save her life.
The victim, a mother of two, was said to have secured the job with Federal Psychiatric Hospital, Enugu after a thorough and competitive examination. She was known to be industrious, hard working and diligent to the admiration of the management. No sooner it happened than police authorities condemned the incident and later boasted that they arrested two persons in connection with the murder, assuring that other persons linked to the murder would be arrested.
However, the killings and manner of negligence by the police raise more questions than answers. It smacks of vile attempts to stultify public consciousness to the fact that not just Fulani herdsmen but hardened killers are on the prowl in the state. Residents of the area who spoke with Saturday Vanguard lamented that tales of one abduction or the other along the notorious Olo/Umulokpa axis are now common. According to those interviewed, many people have fallen victims to the menace of these herdsmen either along Olo/Umulokpa axis or Nsukka/Obimo/Nkpologu/Adani road in spite of the heavy presence of both the military and police along the way.
A transporter from one of the neighbouring communities, Anthony Okpeja stated unequivocally that the situation is worse than people see it. “It is an open secret that we have a spot notoriously called Sambisa forest” along that Olo/Umulokpa axis but very close to Umulokpa. It is like a no-go area for security agents. These herdsmen, in their numbers, reside there and they are equipped with all sorts of sophisticated weapons. When the former Commissioner of Police, Dan Mallam was in charge in Enugu, he gave them a tough fight. He carried out many operations personally inside the forest but now, the situation has degenerated to a point that nobody is safe. Even the present Inspector-General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, in his years in Enugu, made sure that the excesses of these marauders were curtailed. What we have on ground now is sending jitters in the minds of discerning members of the public and nobody is happy. Attempts by those concerned to paint a picture of peace in the state are grossly misleading. We are in trouble and the authorities concerned should urgently focus attention in Enugu before things get out of hand.
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