CRIME: Uzo-Uwani, South East community where banditry, kidnapping, massacre, daylight robbery ‘reign supreme’

AbeyaNews Nsukka Correspondent, PAT NNADI, visits Uzo-Uwani, an Enugu State LGA viciously attacked by herdsmen in 2016, leading to the death of some 40 people and destruction of invaluable property, and reports that since then, several communities in the place have become hotbeds of banditry, kidnapping, massacre, daylight robberies, among others, thereby making life unbearable in these communities and socioeconomic activities almost zero.

Since Fulani herdsmen attacked Ukpabi-Nimbo in Uzo-Uwani in 2016, slaughtering many villagers, mostly women and children, and destroying valuable property and places of worship in the process, communities in the local government have known no peace – in fact, they have become victims of perennial attacks! Indeed, for the people of Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area, banditry, kidnapping, massacre and daylight robberies seem to have now become daily experiences.

Easily the largest but least developed local government area in Enugu State, both in terms of infrastructure and human resources, Uzo-Uwani has, in recent years, continued to witness unprecedented cases of criminal activities, ranging from kidnapping, banditry, armed robberies to other forms of criminality.

For over half a decade now, it has been a tale of one security breakdown or the other.

On April 25, 2016, more than 40 persons were reportedly murdered by Fulani herdsmen.

scene of destruction in the Ukpabi-Nimbo, Uzo-Uwani LGA, Enugu State, attack by herdsmen in 2016

Said to be hell-bent on occupying a portion of the farming community’s land for cattle grazing, the Fulani reportedly plotted the attack and, in a show of daredevilry, sent what was like a cable to the natives on April 23, 2016, notifying them of their planned.

The intelligence was promptly reported to security agencies who met accordingly. However, at about 5.15 am on April 25, 2016, the armed herdsmen numbering over 500 struck killing 40 people. The following day, April 26, 2016, six more bodies were recovered and 14 victims were lying critically ill at Royal Cross hospital,Nsukka, Nsukka District General Hospital and Bishop Shanahan Hospital, Nsukka.

The raid also led to the burning of a church, known as Christ Holy Church International (AKA Odozi-Obodo), at Onu-Eke, and 11 other houses by the marauders.

There was no response from the security agents, who had inexplicably been withdrawn from the area barely one hour before the attack, a reason the attack on Nimbo was not only brutal but also total.

As a result of the insecurity, displaced villagers fled to neighbouring communities of Nkpologu and Uvuru, even as indigenes of those communities themselves also fled to Nsukka for fear of further attacks.

Invasion of Ukpabi-Nimbo community, now known in the annals of mass attacks as the “Enugu Massacre”, by roaming Fulani herdsmen, came as a byproduct of security lapses experienced in the area a few days to the incident. Just why did the police deploy and then withdraw shortly before the attack?

Besides, there was an earlier invasion of neighbouring Abbi, another Uzo-Uwani community, where a brother and sister, namely Fidelis and Mercy Okeja were reportedly killed on the spot earlier in February 2016. 19 persons were declared missing while seven houses and motorcycles were raised . It was reported that the invasion was carried out by 30 masked Fulani herdsmen.

These were early warning signs, which should have prepared the authorities to nip the bud the Ukpabi-Nimbo attack about which the invaders had earlier notified the villagers.

Victim of a recent attack by herdsmen at Adani, Uzo-Uwani being evacuated to the hospital…

And, indeed, the security agencies, at the behest of the state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who provided all the necessary counter-attack logistics for the agencies, did prepare. But the question that has continued to agitate the minds of patriotic indigenes and South Easterners at large is, why did the police, already deployed at strategic places at Nimbo to foil the attack, suddenly withdraw from the area, on the instruction of the then police commissioner, Mr. Nwodibo Nwachukwu, an Igbo from Imo State, barely one hour to the attack?

According to Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, the vicious attack on Nimbo and the carnage that followed, may have happened due to the failure of security agencies to successfully act on the intelligence report about herdsmen grouping at neighbouring Odolu in Kogi state in preparation for the Nimbo attack.

The question is, why did they fail to “successfully” act on the intelligence report about herdsmen grouping at neighbouring Odolu in Kogi state in preparation for the Nimbo attack? The  answer, analysts say, is still blowing in the air.

However, the 2016 attacks seemed to have opened a wide window for subsequent attacks and outright criminality currently going on in Uzo-Uwani.

On March 21, 2019, tension once again heightened in communities in the area following the murder of the secretary of the local government council by armed men suspected to be herdsmen along the road in Olo town in Ezeagu Local Government Area of the State

It was gathered that the late secretary identified as Nnamdi Ogueche, reportedly went for a peace talk between communities and the herdsmen that had been terrorising parts of the area and was on his way back from the peace meeting, along with three others in a vehicle, when the alleged herdsmen attacked their vehicle.

According to reports, while the other occupants of the vehicle jumped out in different directions scampered into safety, the assailants pursued the council scribe whom they caught up with and shot and killed.

Again, in April this year, some gunmen reportedly attacked the Divisional Police Headquarters, Adani, Uzo-Uwani LGA, killing two police officers, injuring several others and burning down the police station.

A few weeks before the attack, unidentified attackers had invaded the Fulani community in the area, killing about seven of them.

AbeyaNews reports that prior to the attack, the Fulani had been accused of destroying farmlands in the area with their cattle, an accusation they reportedly denied.

However, while violent attacks and counterattacks continue to fester in Uzo-Uwani, about the most problematic crime in the area now is kidnapping, which has taken a different dimension along the major high ways in the area, what with commercial bus passengers, motorcyclists and private individuals frequently abducted for ransom.

Victim of a recent attack by herdsmen at Adani, Uzo-Uwani, Enugu State

When Abeyanews visited some of the major towns in the council area, commercial activities in those areas had literally collapsed.

At Adani town, for instance, many shops especially on Iggah road were found under lock and key as their owners were said to have left the town, for fear of attacks by a multiplicity of criminals operating in the area.

One of the residents of the town, Mr. Thomas Ugwo, told our reporter that “since April when more than dozens of persons were killed, everybody has become too cautious to stay here. Many of the residents have run away to Nsukka, Enugu and other cities.”

According to Mr. Ugwo, “the situation is not pleasant at all. In the night, nobody sleeps with eyes closed. We are all living in palpable fear.”

On the economic impacts of the frequent attacks in the area, a rice farmer in Adani, Mr. Jonas Ugwu told AbeyaNews that Adani is no longer what it used to be.

“Before now, a small painter of garri was N500 or N400 as the case may be. But today, the situation has  changed. A small painter of garri now sells for N1200 or N1400 as the case may be. This is because of the insecurity we experience here. Many people no longer go to farm again because of fear of attack by herdsmen or bandits and these attacks have become almost a daily occurrence now,” Ugwu lamented.

However, to further heighten the insecurity in the area, on Tuesday evening, July 13, 2021 two military personnel were beheaded at Iggah/Asaba check point, Adani.

The incident has led to renewed calls for government to tighten up security in the area.

Said a former councillor in the area, in a chat with AbeyaNews: “We call on the Federal and state government to find a lasting solution to this security problem.”

The councillor who did not want his name in print for fear of political victimisation, said: “Nobody is happy about what is going on here. The truth is that we cannot continue like this. Adequate security should be provided to forestall total break-down of law and order in this area.”

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