About 20 persons in Ukpabi Nimbo, an agrarian community in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, were feared dead during an attack by Fulani herdsmen on Monday.
It was learnt that scores of armed cattle herdsmen, reportedly numbering more then a hundred, swooped on the sleepy community in the early hours of Monday.
Sources in the community disclosed that continuous gunshots were heard as the rampaging herdsmen moved to sack villagers from their homes.
Apart from guns, bows and arrows and machetes, or swords, were also wielded by the herdsmen, it was learnt.
Many of the villagers escaped to neighboring communities in the Uzo-Uwani area, but it was gathered that people in the nearby towns are also worried about possible attacks from the herdsmen.
A police source said that, as of the time of filing this report, the corpses of five persons who died in the attack had been recovered.
It was learnt that the corpses, which were deposited at the morgue in Bishop Shanahan Hospital, Nsukka, were recovered from farmlands.
There were indications that more bodies would be recovered, as it was learnt that the combined team of police and military personnel, who moved into the community to repel the attack, were yet to get to all the affected areas.
Also, sources in the Ukpabi Nimbo community insist more than 20 of their kith and kin were killed before rescue could come.
However, Police Public Relations Officer, Enugu State Police Command, Mr. Ebere Amaraizu, who said that the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Nwodibo Ekechukwu, led other officers and men to the area, said the total number of casualties could not be ascertained as of the time of filing this report.
Amaraizu said the situation in the community had been brought under control.
“We moved in to ensure that the situation did not degenerate beyond control and right now everything is under control.
“The Commissioner of Police is there with other officers and men and the area is being secured.
“We can’t give the total number of casualties yet, it is when the operation is concluded that we will collate figures and give a definite number,” Amaraizu said.
Many members of the Ukpabi Nimbo community, who are mostly farmers, have their homes around their farmlands.
It was gathered that several houses, as well as farms and crops, were also destroyed by the herdsmen.
It was learnt that the herdsmen had previously fallen out with the villagers over their grazing activities in the community.
Sources in the community disclosed that the villagers had been resisting the use of their farmlands as grazing fields by the herdsmen.
It was equally learnt that the situation further degenerated after some herdsmen who operate in Ukpani Nimbo and other communities in the Uzo-Uwani area claimed that their cows were missing.
There were also claims by the herdsmen that some of their colleagues were killed in the area.
The villagers alleged that most of the herdsmen that were involved in Monday’s attack were ‘imported’ from Nasarawa State by other Fulani herdsmen who were already operating in Enugu.
It was gathered that, before the herdsmen struck on Monday, there was tension in Ukpabi Nimo and other communities in the Uzo-Uwani area over widespread rumour that about 500 herdsmen were mobilising to attack them.
It was learnt that the villagers, in anticipation of an imminent attack by herdsmen, had alerted the Enugu State Government, and the leadership of the Enugu State Police Command.
According to sources, the Chairman, Transition Committee, Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area, Cornell Onwubuya, who was said to have informed the state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, and the police commissioner, Nwodibo Ekechukwu, of the fears nursed by villagers, also met the leadership of the Hausa-Fulani community in the area over the matter.
Interestingly, the rumoured planned attack by 500 herdsmen was the subject of an emergency stakeholders meeting in the Uzo-Uwani area council during the weekend, hours before the herdsmen struck.
The meeting, reportedly, also deliberated on incessant herdsmen-related problems in the area, including several cases of murder, kidnappings and rape recorded in the recent past.
At the meeting, Onwubuya, chairman of the Uzo-Uwani local council, reportedly disclosed that some leaders of the Hausa-Fulani community had confirmed the rumoured plan by the herdsmen to launch an attack in the area.
Also at the said emergency stakeholders meeting, leaders of the Hausa-Fulani community in Enugu reportedly assured that they would take urgent steps to avert the planned attack.
However, the attack still went ahead, as planned, despite the prior notice given to the authorities, and the assurances given at the stakeholders meeting.