Enugu: Political undertone of alleged renewed herdsmen attack
By Linus Onyebuchi
The recent false alarm in some sections of the media that Fulani herdsmen returned to the once traumatised Nimbo community in Uzo-Uwani local government area of Enugu State, raped women and threatened to unleash more terror on the community is not only unfortunate and costly, but also a hoax embedded with political undertones.
The alarm which nearly threw the entire country into another nightmarish apprehension, according to media reports, allegedly emanated from the traditional ruler of the community, Igwe John Ikemefuna Akor, who immediately addressed the press and denied the reports.
It is quite unfortunate that the traumatic hoax came at a time peace had returned to Nimbo and the people of the community were recovering from the shock of the senseless carnage.
The Igwe in question, did not only dispel the alarm as unfounded, but went further to state categorically that no woman was raped and that he did not speak to any reporter on the issue.
Hear him out: 'There are no Fulanis in my community again. Since the attack in April, they all fled. As I am talking to you now, normalcy has returned to Nimbo; the people are back on their farms. The story is a figment of the imagination of the writer. No woman was raped and I didn't speak to any reporter.'
As a consultant farmer to one of the industrialised agricultural establishments in Uzo Uwani, I do visit the area on a daily basis. I have been following with keen interest the unfolding developments in the Nimbo incident, and to the best of my knowledge, I had not encountered the presence of the Fulani herdsmen or their cattle, as the Igwe rightly stated.
Confirming the Igwe's stance on the alarm raised in the media, the Enugu State Police Command, through a statement signed by its Public Relations Officer, SP Ebere Amaraizu, swiftly described the publications as 'false, malicious, mischievous and misleading'.
Amaraizu, said that the state police command had been working tirelessly in partnership with other security agencies, the Enugu state government and relevant stakeholders, since after the sad incident at Nimbo Community, to ensure that peace returns to the community and that lives and property of the people of the area are protected.
He maintained that security operatives had been on ground in Nimbo community since the ugly incident.
The state police PRO, while presenting a detailed account of what had transpired, disclosed that 'the Commissioner of Police, CP Emmanuel Ojukwu, on receipt of the misleading report, quickly contacted his security operatives on duty at Nimbo community where he got a report that the area is still peaceful and that there is no trace of Fulani herdsmen since after the ugly incident.'
According to the police statement, 'the Area Commander, Nsukka Zone and the DPO, Adani in charge of Nimbo also confirmed that there is no trace of herdsmen in the area since after the ugly incident of 25/4/16.
'Also contacted were the Traditional Ruler of Nimbo Community, HRH Igwe John Akor and the Chairman of Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area, Cornell Onwubuya who maintained that the area is peaceful and there have not been any trace of Fulani Herdsmen and their cattle since after the ugly incident and wondered why there should be such publication.
'However to ensure that things were not taken for granted, the heads of Fulani/herdsmen communities were summoned to this effect and in his reaction, Bala Ardo, the general secretary maintained that Fulani herdsmen since after the incident at Nimbo have not gone to the area and its environs as he stressed that it will be morally wrong for them to go back to the area when the community is still nursing injuries of their lost ones.'
Sensing political undertone in the entire scenario, the police PRO, stressed that 'probe into the publication revealed that it is not only false but baseless and aimed at undermining the efforts of the state government as well as that of the security agencies put in place to restore normalcy and to ensure that there is lasting peace not only in Nimbo, but other communities in the state.
'The command also viewed such publication as capable of generating tension, rancour and bitterness among people in the state. The command has mobilised its security apparatus to fish out those in the habit of spreading false and dangerous rumours in the state and bring them to book.'
Also dispelling the said media reports, the Fulani community in the state during the joint press briefing with the leadership of Nimbo community, insisted that no such renewed attack occurred in Nimbo. They added that the Fulani herdsmen had not returned to the community and appealed to Nimbo residents to inform their leaders or security agencies whenever they sight any pastoralist in the community.
Dismissing the alarm as 'false and mischievous', the Chairman of the local government, Hon. Cornell Onwubuya, alleged that it was also 'targeted at undermining the successful efforts made by the present administration in Enugu State to resolve the Nimbo incident, amicably.'
According to a timely statement, Hon. Onwubuya personally signed to dispel the false alarm and douse the already tense situation, 'as the Chairman and Chief Security Officer of the Local Government Area, I wish to state categorically that the said publications are false and mischievous.
'It is on record that peace has returned to Nimbo since after the attack and the state government has taken all necessary measures to provide adequate security to protect the lives and property of the people of the area.'
As this was not enough, I became more worried and convinced that the detractors were at work in the state, when I read the headline reports in an online platform (NAIJ.Com) two days after, that there was 'Tension in Enugu as Fulani herdsmen attacks stir protest …the people of Nze community have protested against the continued attack by the marauders'.
But, I was glad that a swift reaction from the Enugu state command of the Nigeria police dispelling the unwarranted alarm raised in some sections of the media saved the day.
I was relieved when I read the police statement signed by its spokesman, SP Amaraizu, saying that 'there was no attack by Fulani herdsmen at Akpakume/Nze on 9/6/16 and also, no tension in Enugu whatsoever over any issue relating to alleged attack by any group of person or Fulani herdsmen as alleged in some sections of the media.
Shedding more light on the matter, the police command, disclosed that, 'a case of malicious damage of farm crops was received on 9/6/16 from Akpakume /Nze community from a yet to be established cattle rearer which prompted a meeting between the seven members of Fulani cattle rearers led by Alhaji Shimo Mohammed, farm owners and security agencies and after, parties had visited the farm site to establish the extent of damage to farm crops by cattle.
'Meanwhile, discussion/ talks are on with a view to arriving at the peaceful modalities of compensation of the damaged farm crops. This however did not generate any tension in the community and its environs or any attack as the area and its environs are still peaceful with people going about their lawful business.'
From all indications, there is no gainsaying that the recent false reports of alleged renewed attacks, rape of women, among other threats from the herdsmen, were mischievously peddled and politically motivated, basically to undermine the tireless and successful efforts of the present administration in the state in restoring peace and security in Nimbo and other communities.
It is a fact not disputable that the horrific incident of kidnapping in the state has reduced to a minimal level since the inception of the present administration, and one continues to wonder why the herdsmen issue should be politicised to this extent.
I therefore, call on the governor and security agencies to properly investigate the spate of false and unwarranted alarms being peddled over the herdsmen issue, because of its sensitive nature.
For those who peddled and published such unfounded alarmist tales, it is quite understandable why they did so. But intelligence demands that such sensitive issues should be carefully verified and handled with utmost sense of responsibility, wisdom and maturity in order not to generate another national crisis, for Enugu State is now in the Hands of God.
Onyebuchi, an agriculturist and public affairs analyst writes from Onitsha, Anambra.