Victims of Nimbo herdsmen attack buried amid tears
• This Will Never Happen Again On Our Soil, Says Gov Ugwuanyi
• Do Not Participate In Debate On Grazing Bill, Bishop Tells Senator Representing Enugu North
The banner bore their pictures, the victims of the early morning Fulani herdsmen attack, and hailed them as, “You are the heroes of Nimbo.” The roll call: Mr. Okechukwu Ajogwu Johnson, Raphael Onyishi, Okoye Mama, Akor Cyprian, Ezema Benjamin, Ugwu Ogbu, Akogwu Utazi, Eze Sylvanus O., Anibogu Godwin. As the sirens blared and the motorcade made its way into the community from the morgue of Bishop Shanaham’s Hospital, Nsukka, the disconsolate mass wailings rent the air.
Purposefully, the motorcade snaked to the St Mary’s Catholic Church, where the Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, Godfrey Igwebuike Onah and the Bishop Emeritus of Nsukka, Bishop Francis Okobo led over 25 priests for the open air requiem mass, in the uncompleted church.
It was apparent that the villagers never designed the church with this throng of people in mind and canopies were mounted in every available space to accommodate the mass of people. Eight coffins, one gold coloured, the other white and the rest deep ash, sat facing the elevated altar. Nine widows, dressed in white, sat in the front row beside the altar; relatives of the victims sat on the bare red soil behind the coffins. Mourners, natives and sympathisers let out pent up emotions and curses.
“These are people who bubbled with live that morning. They were in their homes, preparing for daily activities, only to be murdered by strange people, people who do not value human life. The perpetrators of this crime shall not go unpunished,” a woman cursed.
The state governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, summed up his feelings as he said: “This will never happen again on our soil. We won’t let this happen.” For many of the villagers, it was the time for the commencement of the healing, the time to begin to forget, the time to begin to breathe again, the time to stop being afraid, as the Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, reminded them in his homily that God has not abandoned them. According to him, it is easy for the villagers to lament and feel that God has abandoned them because of the magnitude of the attack.
He told them: “Even if it looks like God has abandoned you all, I can assure you that he has not abandoned you, because the intention of the marauders was to wipe out this community but God didn’t allow that.” The Bishop called on the Federal and State Governments to do all that is humanly possible not to let this kind of incident happen again.
The Bishop charged the senator representing Enugu North, Chuka Utazi not to participate in the debate on the grazing bill, “and if that bill is passed while you are there, you should not return to Enugu State.”
While challenging the Nimbo community to fish out black legs in their midst, the Bishop implored the State Government to improve on security by ensuring that all the communities in the state enjoyed the presence of neighborhood watch groups.
The uncertainty over the number of people killed was rekindled when only nine widows turned up. It was learnt that some of the dead who “were not indigenes of Nimbo, were buried in their respective homes and villages while the bodies of some victims recovered in the bushes and already decomposing were buried immediately.”
Meanwhile, Ugwuanyi who said that April 25, 2016, “will ever remain a dark, sad and solemn day in the memory of the people of Enugu” promised that “their deaths can never be in vain and we pledge to do all that is within our legitimate means, to give them justice. Like the martyrs they have become, the spilling of their innocent blood is already saving souls as it has aroused in our people and indeed the whole nation, a burning impulse to do all that is necessary to prevent the future occurrence of similar incidents anywhere in the country.
“For, even as we await the outcome of the judicial panel of Inquiry that we have constituted to unravel the circumstances surrounding the incident, we received news that five people, who are suspected to have participated in the attack, had been arrested by the police.”
Thanking the Federal Government and security agencies for preventing future occurrences, he praised the “people of Enugu for their restraint and the confidence they placed in our ability as a Government to deal with the matter in a mature and responsible manner.”
It was a crowded atmosphere, the type that may not have been witnessed before in the history of Nimbo community. Mourning with the community was a crowd of people from all walks of life- dignitaries, politicians, governors, former governors, politicians, the religious, traditional rulers, socialites, members of the State and National Assemblies, the clergy and many others.
The coffins, however, reminded them all that these were the victims of the worst attack on the community, killed 54 days ago, when marauding herdsmen invaded the community in the early hours. The attack also left several persons injured and property worth millions of naira destroyed.
At the end of the mass, each family went home to bury their dead, amidst speculations that there would be a mass burial as a memorial to the dead. In the early hours of the morning on April 25, 2016, an unspecified number of armed herdsmen invaded Nimbo. They had killed and inflicted fatal injuries on residents, targeting men. Properties were also destroyed, leading to many of the villagers fleeing their homes and residing in neighbouring communities. Immediately after the attack, the state government imposed fasting and prayers to seek God’s intervention while blaming security agencies for their laxity.
The outcry over the attack and worldwide condemnation forced President Muhammed Buhari to make his first public comment on the growing attack of herdsmen. He promised to look into the attack and ordered security agencies to fish out the killers. One of the immediate fallouts of the president’s intervention was the deployment of the newly posted Commisisoner of Police, amidst other deployments in the Army and Police. The state government also set up a judicial panel of inquiry to investigate the incident, even as the community is demanding a compensation of N17 billion from the Federal Government for the series of attacks the community suffered in the hands of herdsmen for some decades.