The Killing Fields Of Nimbo


By SHEDDY OZOENE 

Nimbo community in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State has become a metaphor for the dastardly actions of suspected Fulani herdsmen who have terrorised it for decades. At night and in broad daylight, innocent men, women and children of the community are gruesomely murdered by the marauders who desire their homeland for grazing their cattle. 

The beautiful grassland have been turned to killing fields and the people who try to resist the take-over of their ancestral homelands have become the guinea-pigs in a chilling experiment in forceful land grab. 

Penultimate Sunday, the marauders who have encircled the community and set up camps in the deep forests, paid one more visit to the community and as usual, left behind sorrows, tears and blood. Not only were four members of the community slaughtered like rams, most of the inhabitants of the village have now been forced to desert their homes and run for dear lives.

For long, Nimbo has not known peace. Everyone who has lived there in the past 2 decades has somehow learnt how to sleep with only one eye closed. Their land is fertile and they are preponderantly farmers; they pride their community as Enugu State’s food basket. But the vast farmlands have been targeted by herdsmen who crave it, instead, for their cattle. 

The gruesome event of penultimate Sunday was not the first of that magnitude but it caught national attention because of its similarity with the carnage of April 2016. Exactly eight years ago, they had attacked the villagers at night, killed many and set scores of houses ablaze. 

 

Gov. Peter Mbah of Enugu State

Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, barely a year in office, had promptly visited the traumatised community. He came face to face with the wounded, the bereaved and saw the wreckage of burnt homes. The village was empty, save for the frightened few who sneaked in from nearby communities to receive him. 

The visit was going well as the governor took in the carnage and empathised with the people, until he was overtaken by emotion. He bowed his head at one point and shed a few tears. The crying drama earned him much criticism: of what use are tears to the villagers who expected their governor to stand strong with them? 

But there was a heartbreaking side to why the governor broke down in tears. A few days before the killings, he had received security reports about a possible attack on Nimbo but at the State Security Council meeting which he summoned to discuss it, he was assured by the Commissioner of Police that the situation was under control.  He was assured that the Area Commander of the State Anti-Robbery Squad was on ground in Nimbo. Sadly, in the early hours of the next Monday, reports of the carnage reached him. He was totally let down.

Ugwuanyi picked courage after the visit, and issued the usual threat to bring the perpetrators of the carnage to justice and take measures to strengthen security structures that would endure. For whatever it was worth, the people heaved a sigh of relief. 

Nimbo and the larger Uzo-Uwani area remained the same. In fact, the herdsmen have since become more brazen in their attacks and the people’s misery has increased.The killings and displacement have continued with impunity and many more people have been killed, some in their farmlands, while a large number of their homes have been torched. 

Sadly, not much was done to prevent a repeat. The Commission of Inquiry set up by the administration only scratched the surface; if it made any far-reaching recommendations at all, they only probably exist somewhere in the books. 

A community on the state’s borderline, Nimbo has largely remained forgotten, attracting the attention of government for the wrong reasons. While the people lament the lack of government attention by way of projects and facilities, their sons and daughters are not integrated into government by way of political positions. They have long concluded that they are abandoned to their fate.

Last week, it was at Ugwuijoro that the terrorists struck. The villagers had gathered to mourn their dead and deep into the obsequies, the gunmen wielding sophisticated weapons, struck. The unsuspecting villagers were easily overpowered and by the time their operation was over, four men lay dead with many more seriously wounded. 

Those killed, according to reports, are Okeh Simon Ugwu Oruku, Okeh Chukwuebuka, Julius Ogbonna Odiegwu and Gabriel Ugwor Ezea. Those who could afford to run, abandoned their homes for fear of more attacks. 

The following day, a Monday, Governor Peter Mbah of Enugu State did what his predecessor did exactly eight years earlier, minus the tears. He paid a visit to the community within 24 hours and repeated the usual condemnation  of the people who have taken the indigene’s open arms of welcome for granted. He announced a scholarship programme for children whose parents were killed during the attack, promised that the marauders would be brought to justice and to ensure stronger protection for the people. 

Whether the people believed him is another matter, considering how previous promises turned out to be meaningless. 

The strong police presence Ugwuanyi promised eight years ago is not there. The influx of strange faces with trailer-loads of cattle has continued on a daily basis in spite of the promise of monitoring activities in the forests. It has been easy for the herdsmen who had reinforced in nearby forests around Adani, Opanda and Ugboda, all within Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area, to consistently attack and overwhelm the unsuspecting locals.

They have largely succeeded in terrorising the villagers because government at state and federal levels that should guarantee their safety, chose to handle the terrorists with kid gloves. Some locals even accuse the federal forces of complicity while much has not come from the state government, beyond the occasional treats against forceful take-over of community land by herdsmen. 

The ceaseless attacks on Nimbo and the deaths of the innocent villagers send a strong signal across Enugu State that government has failed to guarantee the people’s safety. It tests the resolve of the government to deal with the criminals who are sworn to forcefully annex that juicy swath of Igboland. If enough, truly, is enough, as the Governor Peter Mbah declared after visiting the crime scene,  he should go beyond platitudes and give the people reason to live safely and peacefully in their ancestral homes.


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