Tension in Imo as Fulani herdsmen attack local community over cattle grazing

By The Citizen

There was tension yesterday in Umuekune village of Irete community in Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo State, when armed Fulani herdsmen opened fire on villagers who attempted to stop their cattle from grazing their farmlands.

Several people were wounded in the ensuing stampede with two of the injured on danger list.

The situation was worsened by a gun duel between the herdsmen and youths of the community, who came to rescue the farmers.

Many of the youths, it was learnt, were ambushed by the rampaging herdsmen.

One of the victims, Chibuzor Okorie, was shot in the stomach with machette cuts all over his body.

Another victim, simply identified as John, had his hands severed while others narrowly escaped with various degrees of injuries.

The incident, according to eyewitnesses, took place last Friday.

Economic trees and farm corps worth millions were reportedly destroyed during the cattle invasion of the farmlands.

It was reported the farmers ordered the herdsmen to take away the cattle, which they resisted.

Irked by the resistance, some of the youths, numbering over 13, forced the cattle out of the farms.

Eyewitnesses said that they were attacked with dangerous weapons, leading to heavy gun battle that left some of the youths with severe injuries.

One of the youth leaders, Kyria Okeh, who witnessed the melee, said: 'They (the youths) were surprised when the herdsmen started pursuing them with guns and daggers and other dangerous weapons.'

He said the unarmed youths ran for their dear lives, unable to withstand the superior fireworks of the marauders.

It took the intervention of a team of policemen to rescue the villagers and stop the Fulanis who had overrun the village.

Two of the victims are currently in critical conditions at Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Owerri and Solid Rock Hospital in Owerri. Aggrieved youths of the community protested the situation with a rally to the paramount ruler, Eze Ethelbert Ekwelibe.

They disrupted vehicular and human movements along the ever busy Onitsha\Owerri road, displaying photographs of the victims.

They also bore placards with various inscriptions like: 'We need help' and 'We strongly believe Governor Rochas Okorocha is anti-agriculture', among others.