*Community trying to get its life back
From Petrus Obi, Enugu
Just like a country fresh from war, the Nimbo Community in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State is still licking the wounds of the April 25 attack by Fulani herdsmen who unleashed mayhem on the people killing scores in the process.
About four months after the bloody invasion, the community lay desolate,with a few people seen at village squares and markets.
However, life is gradually creeping back as indigenes who fled in the wake of the crisis find their ways back into the community.
Rev. Fr. Obetta Okeke, the Catholic priest in charge of St. Mary’s Catholic Parish Nimbo x-rays the present situation of things in Nimbo; “The situation is that things are settling down. Three weeks ago, no one had rest at Nimbo, because people would go to the farm and abandon their motorcycles and run back home, because of the number of Fulani herdsmen at the farm. Some women would go to farm and the herdsmen would want to rape them; and they would run back home. Even last month, one woman received machete cuts from a herdsman who wanted to rape her. But the truth is that the woman used the machete first on the herdsman in defense, and in turn he retaliated. The woman ran back home and caused panic in the town and everybody started packing again and started moving away. I am among the few persons including the policemen that have remained constant in the village.”
But today, the Catholic priest says: “People are returning; by yesterday I shared the relief materials brought by the two bishops of Nsukka, the Catholic and Anglican Bishops with their priests. I shared it amongst the women and they filled everywhere, which shows that they are there; even though some came down from Enugu where they are taking refuge.
“Also one young man who has been spearheading rumours about the coming of the herdsmen into the town was caught and detained; since then the rumours have died down and the people have settled down; there is no cause for alarm now.”
Okeke said that the government had done well in assisting the people of Nimbo by providing food and other items to ameliorate their suffering. “The Federal Government sent NEMA here; also the state government has done much, sending the police, the army. The governor also came down in person severally to encourage the people. The governor also sent money from time-to-time to ensure that people returned and that they remain calm; even up till date the policemen are still there.
“The problem is only with the farm, no longer the town. Since the 25th April massacre, they have not attempted coming back again. It is only rumour that has caused panic; almost every week people start parking off, when they come back another rumour will make the rounds. So they have not come back since the attack on the town, but they have not left the farms.”
The priest said the incident had put fear into the people. “For instance I am housing one man who is the oldest in his village; but everybody in his village has parked out. I just reasoned that if the man is left to be running up and down every day that he may even die. So, I decided to bring him to my house and he is living with me; but people in his village have not returned. Some women whose husbands were killed in the attack left the town; some other people living in the town also left. And the central place where everybody was staying, many parked off from the place leaving it empty and going to neighbouring villages to stay. But people are now aware that these people are not coming back, but there is still fear in them.
The traditional ruler of Nimbo, Igwe John Ako, says peace has long returned to the community. “It’s a gradual thing; our people have been returning because the security was beefed up. The government has also done well; the governor in particular has shown that he is a leader indeed; he has ensured that even the families of the bereaved are properly taken care of.”
For 80-year-old community leader, Dugweke Ezeugwu (Onyishi Nimbo) “It has been a difficult time for us as a result of the Fulani herdsmen invasion; it has affected our way of life as farmers. We had always relied on our farm produce to sustain ourselves, but today the story is different. As a result of the attack, most of our people did not farm this year, apart from some vegetables which a few people did around their compounds. Today is our Nkwo day, if it was the Nimbo I used to know, you can’t see young men around by this time of the day. Yes, things have actually changed because of these invaders. We have to wait until next year to cultivate and if the cattle allow our crops, we will thank God; but for this year, we have nothing to harvest.”
Ezeugwu lauded government intervention which he noted had encouraged people who ran away after the attack to return home. He noted that the presence of the police, reassurance and encouragement from the state government had helped in resettling his people.
But, he said that fear still ruled because the Fulani still terrorize the people along the boundary with Kogi State. Mr. Ezeugwu Michael of Aka village in Nimbo; whose brother was killed in the attack said: “It was a terrible experience; we saw death with our two eyes; if not that we escaped, we all would have been killed. They however succeeded in killing my brother, Akauga Utazi. We are still living with the shock; all of us ran away; nobody was here. If not for the government and our leaders who convinced us to return we had all ran away for our dear lives. Even now that we have returned, everybody is at alert because we don’t know what may happen tomorrow. All we are praying is that God should save us from such an attack on Nimbo again.”
Speaking for themselves the two widows left behind by the victim, Akauga Utazi, said that the state government had been taking good care of them. “They have been so good to us; we have received food and other items as well as cash; we pray God to bless our governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Rev Fr. Ejike Mbaka who also brought several items to our people.”
Chief Enechi James, palace secretary, Nimbo said: “We are managing and everyone is sleeping well. At the peak of this incident, people deserted homes, but today if you visit every compound, people are there trying to survive. Initially after the attack, people out of anxiety refused to go to the farm, but today they are now responding; those who have the courage stay at home and go to their farms. Yes people who have the courage are at home and going to their farms; others are still taking refuge outside Nimbo.
“Like I said, the anxiety is still on; what we need is security to take care of all these things. And again we have a common boundary with Kogi, so we want government to develop that area by putting up one project. Because what they are now saying is that they don’t know the boundary; so sometimes you cannot hold them responsible, because there is no demarcation.
“At the moment I don’t think there is any relationship with the Fulanis because we have not come together to discuss it. Before the attack, the Igwe was arranging with the Fulanis within this area to come for a meeting and discuss how best to co-exist. That meeting never took place and today nobody is interested about that because any attempt in that direction you are accused of taking bribe from them. But personally I still feel there is need for a peaceful meeting with them, because if the Fulanis are existing and living with our neighbours, the tension will continue because they can come in one day and attack us again. Let us have an agreement; because they don’t live in Nimbo at all; but I feel as Nigerians we can sit down and discuss how best to co-exist since they are around us.”
Chief Richard Ogbobe, (Asogwa of Nimbo) thanked Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, for all his efforts to reduce the hardship of the people. He added: “We still need security beef up; but we thank the police and other security agents posted here. Also the track road through which they attacked us, if it could be opened up by government it will help ensure security. If the road could be constructed it will link us to Kogi.
However, the reconstruction promised the Nimbo people is yet to commence. A visit to the parsonage of the Christ Holy Church International which was torched by the herdsmen has remained in ruins four months after. Pastor of the Church Rev. Samuel Chukwuemeka, who spoke to our reporter also confirmed that nothing had been done towards assisting the community in the reconstruction of damaged buildings.
Also the promise by the Inspector-General of Police that a Police Divisional Headquarters would be built in Nimbo has remained a mirage. The Nimbo people who were excited by the prospect of having heavy police presen had hurriedly donated a piece of land which was immediately cleared and a sign post mounted by the police. Four months after, the site and signpost have been overgrown by weed.