Deserted. Grave silence. Terror stricken. These words capture the mood of Eha-Amufu, a town in Isi-Uzo Local Government Area of Enugu State, now a ghost village.
DAILY POST correspondent, who visited the town, reports that the communities are totally under siege, with markets locked up, houses abandoned, and all the residents now seeking refuge as Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, in neighbouring towns and cities.
Residents say over 50 persons have been allegedly killed within the last few weeks by rampaging Fulani herdsmen aided by Igala people of Benue State. Sources from the town put the number of those killed in the last two years to 160.
Prior to the latest sad event on Thursday, the 8th day of December, 2022, Eha-Amufu has been synonymous with killings and other criminal activities, with every effort made by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuayi of Enugu State unable to yield the desired result.
On several occasions, the Governor had summoned an emergency meeting involving all the stakeholders from the area. During such meetings, revelations are always made and actions taken. However, as soon as the residents return home, the marauders, said to be Fulani herdsmen will strike again and leave the village bleeding.
This has led to the assertion in some quarters that the ruthless attacks are politically-induced.
Apart from the killings that usually occurred at night, the Eha-Amufu-Neke road has been a den of kidnappers, making it unsafe for any member of the community to pass by once it is 6pm. Road users are always kidnapped and taken to the Benue State axis where they are kept until ransom is paid.
Eha-Amufu, an agrarian community, has a population of over 70,000, with a larger portion of the residents dependent on farming for their survival. It shares boundaries with Ebonyi and Benue States.
However, the entire residents are under threat, including the Federal College of Education, Eha-Amufu, which has attracted some significant development both from the government, as well as private individuals in the area.
A tour of the communities showed that no human activity is going on at the moment.
Shops are under lock, markets and businesses have been closed down. The Federal College of Education, Eha-Amufu is deserted as students of the College have all gone home for fear of being killed.
To make matters worse, the abandoned houses are now vulnerable as criminals vandalise properties and cart away personal belongings of the displaced villagers.
A trader, one Asogwa Nneka, a settler in Eha-Amufu, told journalists that criminals broke through all the shops in their line on Sunday the 11th day of December, 2022, looking for money and other items. She stated that food items were stolen by the burglars.
It was gathered that there are about 40 farm settlements which cut across the various villages in Eha-Amufu community. The living conditions of these farm settlers have been worsened by the incessant attacks by the Fulani herders who attack them almost on a daily basis. The brutal attacks have made the said farm settlers to abandon their houses and farms and run back to the community.
“As a result of this, no one goes to the farm for fear of attack by the Fulani herders. This has plunged the community into some serious social issues, including hunger.
“It has even become worse as the marauders have also pursued our people from the farm settlements right here into the heart of the town,” a village source revealed.
While giving an insight into one of the latest invasions, an indigene, Mr. Chukwudi Omeri confirmed that about 10 people were killed in Ama-Obelebe village, including his brother, Mr. Friday Omeri, a father of five.
“The attack occurred at about 6 a.m. on the fateful day when sounds of heavy gunshots were heard around the community. Most people, including myself, had thought that it was the security agencies that were shooting but we discovered that the gun-wielding men wore black and black attire, while those leading them were in mufti.
“The attackers of the community came through the farmlands. I saw some faces that looked like the Fulani herders, while others looked like the faces of Igala people from Benue State who are our neighbours. They led the Fulani herders to the community.
“I was able to identify the Igala people through their dialect, as well as on face recognition as some of them are traders who come to the Eha-Amufu markets to trade on a daily basis.”
He further stated that though he could not give the exact casualty figure, “about 4 people were killed in Ama-Okwebe, one person was killed in Ama-Ogbu, while four people were killed in Ama-Nkpaka.”
He told journalists that when the crisis subsided, some dead bodies littered the community, adding that “as the tradition demands, we buried the corpses that were recovered by digging shallow graves beside the dead bodies. While some of the corpses were being buried, some police officers came and took some of the unburied corpses away, including that of my brother, Mr. Friday Omeri.”
According to Chukwudi Omeri, his late brother Friday Omeri was gruesomely murdered in his house with matchet.
“Four other persons, who were all men, were killed in the same compound and the police took their bodies away on arrival,” he added.
When asked if the members of the community were able nab any of the killers, Chukwudi said that they were all defenceless and could not fight with the attackers who were armed to the teeth.
report shows that as at Monday December, 12, 2022, more corpses were still being discovered and buried in the community.
The Labour Party Governorship candidate in Enugu State, Barr. Chijioke Edeoga, who is also a native of Mgbuji community, Eha-Amufu, was on a sympathy visit to the affected communities on the said date.
While he was talking with some journalists, Chukwudi Omeri said the survivors were facing extreme hunger.
He thanked Edeoga for providing them with meals.
When asked of the whereabouts of his wife and children, he told journalists that they ran to Nkalaha, a neighbouring community in Ebonyi State and that some of his relatives ran to Anambra for safety.
He asked the government to come to their rescue as the community is at the verge of going into extinction.
Another eyewitness, Mr. Anthony Onunze, a 60-year-old man, revealed that the crisis started from the farm settlements where the members of the community were killed by Fulani herders.
He said that the latest crisis started on January 6, 2022, when the Fulani herders started killing their people.
“Since then, no one goes to the farm again. And this has brought hunger and hardship on the people. He stated that the attack on 8th December, 2022, led to the death of 25 persons in Abor village. The victims were all men as the attackers never killed any woman during the attack.
“The aged men were not left in the attack as my age mate’s lifeless body was discovered and buried on Monday the 12th of December, 2022.
“We have not done anything to warrant these mindless killings; I’m not aware of any issue with the Fulani herdsmen except that they want to chase us away from our ancestral land,” he lamented.
He equally alleged the attackers were assisted by the Igala people of Benue State.
He told journalists that “the said Igala people are so desperate to take over our lands as they have begun harvesting our palm fruit since the crisis started. The Igala people have common boundaries with the Eha-Amufu community, which may be what has necessitated the rift between the two communities.”
A woman, who lost her husband and relatives, Mrs. Nkechi Ebeh was seen crying, which attracted the attention of journalists.
In an interview, she disclosed that she lost her husband and relatives to the attack of 8th December, 2022.
“We were going to the farm on that fateful day when some persons holding guns and machetes started pursuing us which made me run back home. On getting to the house, I could not find my children at home.
“In the evening of the same day, I got my children in Ama-Nkanu, a neighbouring community, which is very far from Eha-Amufu. My husband was buried when his corpse was discovered the next day,” she lamented.
On the identity of those who attacked them, Nkechi Ebeh said that they were Fulani herders, together with Igala people of Benue State.
She pleaded with the government to come to their aid as they would not live as IDPs forever.