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Tension in Enugu community as suspected fake soldiers arrest 76 locals over clash with herdsmen

Tension in Enugu community as suspected fake soldiers arrest 76 locals over clash with herdsmen

Tension in Enugu community as suspected fake soldiers arrest 76 locals over clash with herdsmen

Palpable fear and tension have enveloped residents of Ugwun­eshi Autonomous community in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State, following the arrest by “men in military uniform,” of 76 lo­cals over a clash between the natives and Fulani herdsmen.
Awgu is a border community with Lokpanta in Umunneochi Lo­cal Government Area of Abia State where a cattle market is located.
Speaking with The AUTHORI­TY on Saturday, the traditional ruler of the community, His Royal High­ness Igwe Godwin Nwobi, said the incident took place on Thursday last week.
He said that Fulani herdsmen who settled in the community with­out any permission had been using their cattle to destroy their crops and farmlands over the years.
The royal father said that pleas and warnings from the farmers to the herdsmen fell on deaf ears as their cat­tle continued to graze on the commu­nity’s farmlands with impunity.
He said that following the contin­ued destruction of their crops which serve as their only means of liveli­hood, the youths in the community out of provocation, decided to protest the impunity of the herdsmen.
According to him, the villagers after the protest got a piece of infor­mation that two women who went to farm had been abducted by the herds­men apparently in retaliation.
“When we got such information, the youths and men were gathering in our village square to discuss the matter and plan for a rescue mission when suddenly they were surround­ed by men in military uniform who arrested 76 of them and carried them away in trucks”, he said.
He appealed for the interven­tion of Enugu State Government to secure the release of the arrested vil­lagers whom he said had remained in prison custody in Umuahia.
The monarch wondered why his subjects would be crammed into de­tention for simply protesting the de­struction of their crops and farmland while those responsible for the de­struction are allowed to operate freely.
“It is wrong for our people who fled the North because of Boko Har­am to be treated as slaves in their own land. We don’t want to be destroyed by herdsmen like they did in Aga­tu, Benue State. Government should please come to our rescue.
“We appeal to our Governor and other South East Governors to save Igbo land from herdsmen invasion before it is too late”, he agonised.
But when contacted, the Pub­lic Relations Officer (PRO) of the 14 Brigade Ohafia, Major Sydney Mba­neme, said the “men in military uni­form” were not soldiers.
He said they might be fake sol­ders and civilians who camouflaged themselves, adding that “if at all they are soldiers, they are not our soldiers”.
The Army spokesperson ex­plained that if the said soldiers were real soldiers, the attention of the command would have been drawn to it, adding that “when such arrest is made, the first thing is to carry out preliminary investigation and inform their various units.”
When also contacted, the zon­al Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in charge of Zone 9, DSP Emma Jiakponna, said he was not aware of the incident.
But a source in the Abia State Judiciary confirmed to our corre­spondent that the arrested villagers are currently detained at Afara pris­on Umuahia.
The source said the men were grouped into three and arraigned in the court but were refused bail.
However, the source did not give details of the charges preferred against the villagers nor confirm whether it was the police, soldiers or ‘fake sol­diers’ that brought them to court.
Meanwhile, Gov. Ifeanyi Ug­wuanyi of Enugu State has said he could not help the situation, tasking journalists to help expose the injus­tice in the country.
The Governor who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Uwak­we Abugu told our correspondent on the phone that “it does not re­quire the attention of the state gov­ernment before something is done”.
He simply referred our corre­spondent to the Army PRO for fur­ther inquiries.
Meanwhile, the youth wing of the apex Igbo socio – cultural or­ganisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo has strongly condemned the arrest and continued detention of the villag­ers, describing it as “an insult to the Igbo nation”.
The Coordinator of the sev­en State Chairmen of Ohanaeze Youth Council (OYC), Mazi Alex Okemiri, said it was wrong for se­curity agents to bundle unarmed lo­cal farmers into prison for merely protesting the destruction of their crops by cattle.
He called for the immediate re­lease of the villagers, warning that if no urgent measures were tak­en to resolve the menace of Fula­ni herdsmen which has assumed a worrisome dimension, Nigerians might be in for “something worse than Boko Haram.”

 

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