Anambra state police command says it has launched an official investigation into the gruesome murder of farmers in some farm settlements in Anambra West local government area of Anambra state with a view of bringing the perpetrators to book.
The state police public relations officer, SP Haruna Muhammad, who made the disclosure on Sunday said the state police commissioner; Mr Mustapha Dandaura, was keen to unravel the circumstances surrounding the incident.
It was gathered from residents in the area that some heavily armed men, in the early hours of last Thursday, slipped into the agrarian settlement and launched a pre-dawn attack that left, at least, six farmers dead and scores of others with various degrees of machete injuries.
Sources, however, claimed the latest killing could have been undertaken by herder Fulani men as a reprisal to avenge the alleged killing of four Fulani herdsmen in the area between last December and early February this year during clashes with farmers at Mmiata-Anam. The clashes also witnessed butchering of five men and a woman, all farmers at Mmiata-Anam, Umuoba-Anam and Iyiora farm settlements.
According to a source, speaking on the latest development, “Fulanis, numbering about eight heavily armed men, took off from Anaku crossed to Eziagulu Otu Aguleri, gunned down one farmer before heading to Mmanyi, Umuoba side and down to Mmiata farm settlement where they butchered many people to death. We equally heard that, as early as 1 am this same day, the last set of Fulani herdsmen and their cows in an exodus out of Anambra West, move passed through Umueze Anam Bridge to Aguleri junction and their final destination, we don’t know”, disclosed the source who spoke under anonymity.
An eye witness, Mr. Orjiako Nnaluo (Ideh Anam) claimed that, “the herdsmen stormed three farm settlements, Agweopia, Iyiogbu and Iyinkolo, in the early hours of last Thursday and started machetting and shooting people to death, burning houses and raping many women.”
He went further: “Before the people in the farm settlements could know what was happening six people had been killed and about 30 people injured. Those who sustained the various degrees of injuries are currently in some hospitals where they are being attended to in Onitsha and other communities”.
However, the chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACABAN), South East region, Alhaji Gidado Sidiq denied speculations that Fulani herdsmen were behind the latest killings in the area. In an exclusive interview with Orient Daily, the MACABAN leader claimed that Fulani herdsmen had since evacuated their cattle from the area and could not be responsible for the crime.
“They are just accusing Fulani herdsmen for being responsible for these killings for no reason. There is no Fulani man in Mmiata and Anambra West. Can the Funali become spirits and go back there to attack them?” Siqiq, who is the special adviser to Anambra governor on cattle-rearing matters, queried. He insists that Fulani herdsmen operating across Anambra state and the south east are under instructions not to engage in reprisal attacks to avenge killing of their kinsmen or cattle.
“I can assure you that in Anambra state and south east, we have a rapport with our people and have told them not to engage in reprisal attacks as it will never bring a good outcome, so what happened at Anambra West has nothing to do with Fulani as they have since left the area.
According to him, the killings may be fallout of communal clashes in the area. “Don’t forget that Mmiata and Igala people are having problems and what happened may be fallout of that.
Meanwhile, the Anglican Bishop of Mbamili Diocese, the Rt. Rev Henry Okechukwu Okeke, has condemned the latest killings of farmers by suspected herdsmen in the area, describing it as inhuman. According to the clergyman, the latest killings in the area would have devastating impacts on economic activities. “This is a very unfortunate incident because these are core farmers; they are the food basket of Anambra state. Definitely, it is going to affect the economy of our country. Now, with the incident, farmers are on the run. Most of the farmers run away from their various settlements.
He urged the federal government to take proactive measures to address the farmers/herdsmen crisis in the area. “I want to say it clearly that that federal government has the key to tackle this crisis and should not sit and watch people being killed by suspected herdsmen and farms being destroyed. Government should summon the leaders of the herdsmen and the rest of them. I think with that the fire can be quenched now.
Bishop Okeke also advised youths in the area not to take laws into their hands, even as he urged the stakeholders to come into the matter. He decried the absence of presence of security men in the zone as one of the major challenges.
Also reacting, the state chairman of Action Democratic Party (ADP) Hon. Mathias Ameke, said the horrific death of farmers in the area had further heightened fears in the area and underscored the need for adequate security presence in Anambra West.
Ameke lamented: “our lives are in danger, we need protection, internally displaced camps, (IDCs) have been established now at Mmiata-Anam where I come from, for the homeless because of this attack and there is no food and shelter for them”.
In the same vein, the Anambra West Youth President, Mr. John David, called on the youths to remain calm and law abiding, noting that the issue would soon be resolve.
The chairman of Anambra West Council, Sylvester Okafor, who also decried the incessant killings by suspected Fulani herdsmen, has urged security operatives to track down perpetrators of the crime and work towards ensuring that similar attacks don’t take place in the area.
Okafor who made the call while addressing stakeholders at Umuoba Anam community town hall on Friday, also urged youths not to take laws into their hands and to be law-abiding as heads of security agencies in the state were already investigating the activities and all apparatus had been mobilised to arrest the armed men.
He equally lauded the efforts of the House of Representatives elect representing Anambra East/West Federal Constituency, Hon Chinedu Obidigwe for his prompt action in mobilising the heads of security units in the State was on ground in efforts to track the men. “All stakeholders must support the ongoing moves to ensure that peace and normalcy returns to Anambra West.”