A policeman, who participated in the rescue operation of victims involved in penultimate week Saturday’s attack on farmers in Agadama, Ughelli North local government area of Delta State, has recounted their encounter with suspected rogue herdsmen who, he said, warned them against entering their (herdsmen) enclave.
The rescue team, made up of policemen, soldiers and representatives of the community, was led by a military officer and with the mandate to recover the corpses of victims reportedly killed by the armed herdsmen.
Though the team was able to rescue one victim who had been shot and left to bleed to death by his assailants, the squad had to retreat and call for backup after they met some armed herdsmen who warned them against further entry into the bush.
Speaking on what transpired inside the bush, the police officer who was part of the team admitted that they met the hoodlums who, according to him, appeared battle-ready and were chanting incantations.
The officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “When we saw them, they did not make any attempt to run neither did they look perplexed or scared.
“In a bid to avoid confrontation, while we (rescue team) took cover, our leader, a soldier, decided to raise his hands up and engage the herdsmen who were all armed and stationed on the other side of the river on the need to release the corpses.
“One of the herdsmen, who appeared to be their leader, shouted out a warning that we should not move further else they will engage us in a shootout. Noticing that we were outnumbered, we had to retreat.”
Confirming the story of the security source, the Chairman of Agadama community, Sunday Iniovogoma, wondered why the security operatives who, he said, had about 10 soldiers, refused to engage the armed herdsmen in a shootout but rather decided to discuss and appeal to them on the need to release the corpses.
He said: “When the team got there, they met the herdsmen face-to-face and the herdsmen told them that they should not move an inch.
“At that point, the commander of the team had no option than to hands up to show that they came for peace so that the herdsmen would not open fire.
“The soldier then appealed that one or two of the herdsmen should come over so that they could discuss and that all they needed were the corpses, but their leader insisted that if the team moved five feet forward, they will open fire and kill all of them.
“While the conversation was ongoing, another herdsman, who was inside the bush behind the one who appeared to be their leader, came out with his rifle shouting Allah Akbar (God is great), and ordered that the team should immediately retreat and leave the bush.
“As the second herdsman was shouting out the orders, he was pointing his rifle at the team. At this point, the team had no option than to move back.
“Meanwhile, prior to this encounter, the leader of the team had ordered one of the community boys that led them to the area to go back and tell their colleagues to reinforce because, if anything happened, they will not be able to withstand the firepower of the herdsmen.
“The boy actually came back to the junction by the market area where the other soldiers were stationed and sent two Hilux full of more soldiers back to the bush, but they refused to enter the enclave and were just going round the market area before they finally left.
“That is why there was no single exchange of bullet between the rescue team and the herdsmen when the team encountered them inside the bush, yet they claim that the herdsmen have left the bush.”