76 youths arrested in Enugu community over clashes with Fulani herdsmen
There was tension in the Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State on Saturday over the arrest of about 76 youths by soldiers, following a clash between the indigenes and Fulani herdsmen.
Our correspondent gathered that the people of Awgu had been having a running battle with herdsmen who operate in the area.
Members of the community complained that the herds usually destroyed crops in their farms.
It was gathered that the latest incident, which occurred last week, made the youths in the community to confront the herdsmen after reports emerged that some women were allegedly abducted by the cattlemen.
Unconfirmed reports had it that the herdsmen also killed a member of the community in retaliation, after one of their cattle was killed by the youths.
However, according to accounts by members of the community, the matter took another turn when the youths mobilised to search for the women that were reportedly abducted by the herdsmen.
It was gathered that the youths were in the bush when a company of soldiers from a military base in Okigwe, Abia State, rounded them up.
Awgu, a part of Enugu State, has a common boundary with some communities in Abia State.
The member representing Awgu South Constituency in the Enugu State House of Assembly, Mr. Nelson Uduji, who spoke with our correspondent, said no fewer than 76 Awgu youths were arrested by the soldiers.
The soldiers reportedly handed the youths over to the police after their arrest.
It was gathered that the youths were alleged by armed with machetes when they were arrested by the soldiers.
Uduji explained that the youths had since been arraigned before an Abia State magistrate's court in Isuochi, and subsequently remanded in prison custody.
The lawmaker accused the army of taking sides with the Fulani herdsmen.
He said leaders of Awgu community were making efforts to secure the release of the youths.
Uduji added that the matter had been reported to both the Enugu and Abia state governments.
Uduji, who spoke to our correspondent on the telephone, said, “Those youths were arrested by soldiers from Okigwe; they (youths) called home to inform us of the incident.
“The Fulani herdsmen abducted some women from our community and these youths mobilised to go into the bush to search for them.
“But it was shocking that the soldiers arrested them and took them to Isuochi, arraigned them and remanded them in prison.
“They are in prison as we speak now, even though our people are making serious efforts to get them out.”
Uduji alleged that the youths were not given the opportunity to make statements before they were arraigned and remanded in prison custody.
He explained that the development had caused serious tension in the community, as the other youths at home were getting more restive by the day.
The lawmaker expressed concern that the situation could deteriorate to a total breakdown of law and order, if not addressed urgently.
“The community is boiling. I don't see the reason why the army should collaborate with the Fulani people against members of the host community.
“We as leaders of the community have been urging the youths to remain calm. We don't want to experience what is happening in Agatu in Benue State, in our community,” Uduji said.
He noted that it was not unusual for people in Awgu community, who are mostly farmers, to go into the bush with machetes, as the youths were accused of doing.
Asked if the community got in touch with the military authorities over the development, Uduji said, according to the army, the military's role ended with the arrest and subsequent hand over of the youths to the police.
“I have briefed the Governor of Enugu State (Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi) about the development,” he said. PUNCH