UGHELLI – DESPITE claims by Delta State Commissioner of Police, CP, Hafiz Inuwa, that police were waiting autopsy report of exhumed corpses of the eight victims allegedly killed by herdsmen at Uwheru kingdom in Ughelli North Local Government Area, findings by Vanguard, yesterday, revealed that the investigation had been put on hold due to financial constraints.
This is even as a leader in the community, Prof. Patrick Muoboghare, revealed that soldiers threatened to destroy their community, if they failed to present corpses of the eight victims as evidence of the killing by the herdsmen.
According to him, the threat explains the reason the community made efforts to exhume the bodies already buried by the herdsmen.
The revelation came yesterday as President-General of Uwheru kingdom, Cassidy Akpedafe, raised the alarm that the people of the community could no longer go to their farms for fear of further attacks by herdsmen.
Meanwhile, two persons were allegedly killed yesterday by gunmen suspected to be herdsmen at Owan village, an agrarian community in Ovia North East Local Government Area of Edo State.
The victims, identified as Owoh, 45, and Samuel Imonkhai, were killed in their farms by the herdsmen.
The Delta State Police commissioner, while speaking with Vanguard on the level of investigations on the matter so far on Tuesday, had said: “For now, we are investigating the matter to know what happened, how it happened, whose corpses were recovered, whether they were killed during the Fulani herders’ conflict or whether they were exhumed elsewhere. ‘’Experts will have to come and give us their advice and opinions before we make our final conclusion.”
However, findings by Vanguard yesterday revealed that autopsy is being conducted on only two of the corpses due to lack of funding, contrary to claims that all eight corpses were undergoing autopsy.
Though it was not certain if the results of the autopsy conducted on the two corpses were ready as at yesterday (Wednesday), a source at the hospital mortuary confirmed that autopsy was conducted on only two corpses brought in on Sunday.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “For now, we are embarking on the autopsy of only two of the corpses, one of which was burnt before it was buried.
“We are yet to begin autopsy for the other corpses which were brought in on Monday and I was made to understand that the reason for the delay is finance.’’
On who paid for the autopsy of the two corpses, the source said: “The council chairman, Godwin Adode, was the person that made financial provisions for the autopsy of the initial two before others were brought in.”
‘Soldiers threatened to destroy our communities’
Meanwhile, locals from the community revealed that they had to agree to exhumation of the corpses because soldiers from 222 Battalion, Agbarha-Otor who were drafted from Bomadi to the community to maintain peace and order, threatened to destroy their community, following the melee that ensued during the protest that trailed the killings.
Recall that two soldiers drafted to maintain peace and order in the community were shot during the protest by youths from the communities and were rushed to Bomadi General Hospital for treatment.
Lamenting the ordeal faced by indigenes of the communities whose loved ones were killed by the suspected herdsmen, a traditional chief from the community, Prof. Patrick Muoboghare, who is also the Delta State Commissioner for Higher Education, alleged that following injuries sustained by the two soldiers during the protest, “their colleagues threatened to destroy our communities, if we fail to produce the corpses of those killed.”
He said: “On that Saturday when the boys were angry, they barricaded the road. That’s when the herdsmen knew that they had to call their brothers who are soldiers and they came shooting.
“They shot one boy and he was taken to Uwheru main town for treatment but died. However, the soldiers now insisted that since their soldiers were injured, we must produce the corpses of those we claimed were dead. We told them that herdsmen have taken over the place and we cannot enter the bush.
“They (soldiers) insisted that we must exhume the bodies and that if we don’t, they will destroy the communities.”
We can no longer go to our farms— Uwheru PG
Also yesterday, the President-General of Uwheru kingdom, Cassidy Akpodafe, told Vanguard that their people could no longer go to the farm for fear of being attacked.
Akpadafe, who spoke on telephone, lamented that if the situation was not quickly brought under control, there would be hunger in the land.
He said though there seemed to be relative peace in the communities, the herdsmen were still in the farms with their cattle.
He said: “The situation in Uwheru communities right now is that the herdsmen are still in the bush as I am talking to you. So I cannot tell you that there is peace right now.
“Though the security men are here to maintain peace, our people cannot go to their farms right now because their lives are not safe out there. And I am afraid if this situation continues for too long, there will be hunger in the communities.
“So, I am calling on the state government to act fast and bring the situation to normal so that our people don’t begin to die of hunger in their own land.”
Reacting to the developments at Uwheru communities, Niger Delta Peace Advocate and National Coordinator of Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice, CEPEJ, Comrade Sheriff Mulade, called on Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to be proactive in his efforts at protecting the lives and property of all Deltans.
He said: “We want to appeal to the state government to be more proactive and nip the situation in the bud before it escalates. Delta is relatively peaceful today because of the effort of the state government and critical stakeholders, but the governor should be on the driver’s seat to ensure that there is peace in the nooks and crannies of the state.’’
As an aftermath of the killings, the chairman of Ughelli North Local Government Area, Chief Godwin Idode, yesterday called on Nigerian Army to set up a mini camp in the area, and commended
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, for reacting swiftly to the attack on Uwheru.
He said with a mini military camp stationed in the community, the excesses of the herdsmen could be checked and monitored from time to time, adding that the community has lost several promising youths to herdsmen killing in the past.
The LG boss said the communities could not continue to suffer in the hands of herdsmen year in year out without any genuine reasons for their killing.
He expressed confidence that with total cooperation with the security agents, normalcy would be restored.
Stay away from Isoko land — IDU
In its reaction, Isoko Development Union, IDU, the apex socio-cultural organization of Isoko nation in Delta State, yesterday, warned killer herdsmen against extending their attacks on farmers to Isoko communities.
This is even as Ndokwa youths, under the aegis of the Ndokwa National Youth Movement, NNYM, vowed that Ndokwa people would be forced to defend themselves should herdsmen resume hostilities in their land.
Commiserating with the families of eight farmers reportedly killed in Uwheru communities, President General of IDU, Chief Iduh Amadhe, said: “Our prayer is that they should not come near Isoko area because we will not take it lightly.
“All our Isoko people are farmers, apart from those who are into white collar jobs. So, my appeal to herdsmen is that they should not come near our area because they are not sincere. Many of them pretend to be friendly and before you know it, they will start killing people.
Similarly, National Secretary of NNYM, Comrade Presley Idi, said: “While we are yet to record any new attack around Ndokwa nation, it is imperative we sound it clearly that this time around, youths of Ndokwa nation will not tolerate any form of attack or destruction of properties from the herdsmen.
‘’If they should extend their attacks to any part of our land, we will be forced to defend ourselves. We are aware of the modus operandi of the herdsmen, and whenever they resume their attacks, they tend to spread across the state.
“We are giving our assurance that we will continue to be good hosts to the herdsmen who are legitimately and peacefully carrying out their grazing activities in Ndokwa nation.
“We sympathize with our brothers from the Urhobo Nation, and call on the state government to swing into action and ensure that those responsible for the dastardly act are brought to book.’’
I blame Uwheru communities — Bishop Diamond Emuobor
But the Presiding Bishop of Trinity Gospel Mission International (worldwide), Ughelli, Delta State, Bishop Diamond Emuobor, blamed the renewed herdsmen attack on Uwheru communities on those giving out the community lands to herders.
Emuobor, who is an adviser to the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, in Delta State, said: “The problem of herdsmen attack on Uwheru can only be solved by the community people who threw their doors open to the herders by hiring lands to them.
“The case of herdsmen attack on Uwheru people is over 20 years. The state government has tried its best to see that there is peace in the area but what we found in Uwheru is a case of the root being in the fruit.
“Those who are trading with the community lands should be fished out and dealt with by the community. Once that is done, there will be peace in Uwheru. That is what I think.
“Like I said before, the state government and other stakeholders have waded into the matter without solution. You know these herders could not have jumped into the land without the connivance of an insider.”
On the reported involvement of soldiers in the renewed attacks, Emuobor said the military authority should carry out a thorough investigation, with a view to bringing those involved to book.
Suspected herdsmen kill two in Edo