Nothing is as provocative as the statement credited to the Commissioner of Police in Enugu State, Mr. Nwodibo Ekechukwu, over last Monday massacre of hapless citizens of Ukpabi-Nimbo in Uzo-Uwani L.G.A of the state. He was quoted as stating that the actual figure of casualty was seven persons killed and 10 others injured while two houses were burnt.
He went further to cast aspersion on the media by saying that none of them made attempt to ascertain what really happened before going to create panic with their reports concluding that the accounts published were far from the truth.
The Commissioner, whose track records were rarely known in the force until his name suddenly came up as the new police boss in Enugu, barely a year ago, continued his swan song over the bloody incident by stating that it was carried out by hoodlums and, thumping his chest, he asserted that his boys “responded swiftly and the hoodlums ran back into the bush.”
As interesting as his comments are, many will take consolation with the actions of his boss from Abuja, Solomon Arase, who swiftly responded to the situation by making statements aimed at calming frayed nerves. The Inspector-General of Police also took decisive actions and made pronouncements that went a long way in restoring people’s confidence in the beleaguered Nigeria Police.
His directive that a police corporal, openly indicted in the massacre, be immediately arrested and investigated went a long way to buttress the fact that his Commissioner in Enugu not only goofed but deserves to be punished officially for leading the generality of Nigerians and the world astray in a murderous incident that could have been avoided, if he was equal to the responsibilities assigned to him.
It should be noted that before the slaughter of innocent farmers at Ukpabi-Nimbo by the herdsmen, the area was a no-go area for indigenes and visitors alike. The herdsmen, in connivance with some local criminals masquerading as members of vigilante along Nsukka- Adani-Onitsha Road, were kidnapping and robbing people almost on a weekly basis. The criminals, who struck in the full glare of armed policemen that claim to be at check-points that dot the road, together with scruffy-looking men that pose as members of vigilante group, armed with antiquated dane guns, sticks and matchets, were demanding for ransom as much as N100million from their victims.
They carry out their dastardly operations in a well known spot very close to police checkpoints unchallenged. As soon as they abduct their unsuspecting victim, they dash into the thick bush that surround the area and disappear into thin air. From there, they contact relations of their victims and demand for ransom.
Accounts rendered by victims, after regaining freedom in a well known spot along Adada secondary School, Nkpologu, spelt out clearly how they trek through the thick bushes in and around the entire towns and villages that make up Uzo-Uwani L.G.A without resistance or confrontation from security men. In fact, they claim to traverse the length and breath of the entire vast farmlands on foot with their abductors without sighting the main road or hearing sounds of moving vehicles.
As soon as the herdsmen collect their ransom, they will lie low for a few days only to re-surface and abduct another victim. Ironically, relations of victims confessed to have paid ransom at the same spot along Adada Secondary School, Nkpologu, notoriously referred to as ‘ransom spot’ and this is well known to security agencies including the police in the area.
Attempts made by relations of victims to engage the police always ended disastrously as the kidnappers easily get all information given to the police at Adani Division and, in many cases, the abductors will threaten to kill their victim after getting such information.
Aside kidnapping, many people have been killed on the same road by these herdsmen. It was at the same spot that a young girl of 19, Veronica Ezugwu, on returning home from Lagos, was gruesomely killed by herdsmen on a Christmas eve. The unemployed graduate was almost a kilometre to her village in Nkpologu when the marauding herdsmen stopped the commercial bus she was travelling in and, when the driver tried to avoid them, they released volleys of bullets into the bus. The driver escaped unhurt. But Veronica and her niece, a 7-year-old girl that earlier went to Lagos to spend the holidays in her house, were not that lucky. While the small girl was hit on the eye, hot leads of bullets pierced Veronica’s skull and exited through the back of her head. She died the following day in hospital.
Many drivers that ply the same road have also fallen victim to such brutal attacks, yet, we have police checkpoints on the same road where Commissioner of Police Nwodibo superintends.
Pointers to the abysmal failure of intelligence gathering by the police in Enugu visa-a-vis Nsukka Area Command, are many. As soon as the 500 armed Fulani herdsmen infiltrated Ukpabi-Nimbo, information went round and the traditional ruler of the town, Igwe John Akor, got in touch with all the security agencies including Enugu government officials.
This prompted Governor Ugwuanyi to urgently call an emergency security meeting where he informed them of the impending danger. Mobile policemen and soldiers, including conventional policemen, were drafted to the communities. What ever made the same security agents to withdraw from the danger zone before the attack and re-appear after the attack remains a big poser. Worse still, few hours before the attack, many of the herdsmen were seen fleeing from the area with thousands of cattle unmolested.
So, from all indications, the stage was glaringly set for the deadly attack and the police should have been in a position to forestall it. Yet, Commissioner of Police Nwodibo was grossly unable to halt the impunity with which unconscionable herdsmen unleashed violence on farmers and unsuspecting victims. Rather, he ended up asserting that his men responded swiftly during the attack. This was after scores of villagers, including a teenager that just arrived from Canada and a corps member, were decapitated like goats.
Recall that few weeks back, no fewer than 76 able bodied men from Ugwuleshi community in Awgu L.G.A, Enugu state were clamped into prison for no other reason than trying to safeguard the lives of their mothers and wives who were being raped and terrorized by herdsmen in the area.
In the same vein, on a day the Inspector-General of Police was busy going round to inspect carnage at Uzo-Uwani area, the unrepentant herdsmen were plotting to attack a serene community, Umuchigbo in Enugu East Council, very close to the Police headquarters in Enugu. There was pandemonium and schools were shut down, as students were asked to go home. Yet, the police in Enugu came out to debunk the scare.
Just as IGP Arase assured that he would probe allegations of complicity by his men, who include the divisional police officer, Mathew Amah, and the corporal who was alleged to have led the rampaging herdsmen to Uzo-Uwani, it should interest the authorities to also probe why Commissioner of Police Nwodibo closed his professional eyes while ‘Rome was on fire’.
This is because the force has been sufficiently embarrassed and insulted that, in the face of such wanton destruction of lives and property, a man saddled with the responsibility of preventing the carnage, in a feat of self-adulation, decided to look the other way only to end up telling Nigerians what did not happen. Herein lies the hypocrisy inherent in the police.