Ndiobasi, a border community between Ebonyi and Benue states, has no social amenities to make life meaningful for the people. To add to their pains, many of them have been massacred with their valuables burnt by marauding herdsmen, leaving the community in tears, writes UCHENNA INYA
N diobasi is supposed to be in Ebonyi State but it was ceded to Benue State like Obakotara, Odoke and some other communities. It cannot be easily accessed by motorists because of the bad road network and it has no health facility, potable water, electricity and other social amenities that make life worth living.
When our correspondent visited the community, the only good thing in Ndiobasi is a market which is now in ruins after armed herdsmen unleashed terror on the community, massacred many people and set the market and uncountable residential houses ablaze. The people are predominantly farmers; they produce food and crops like yam, cassava, rice, palm oil, potatoes, groundnut and others in large quantities and sell them in the market. But they don’t have a market anymore after the herdsmen’s invasion, which has added to their suffering.
The member representing Ado/ Okpoku/Ogbadigbo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, in which the community falls into, Hon. Francis Otta Agbo, rightly described the people as “the long suffering people”. He added that the massacre by the herdsmen was one of the reasons he described them so. A traditional ruler in the area, Idenyi Agbo, aptly captured the bad condition of the community. “What worried me most was that when this thing happened, there was no health facility that was around to take the people who were injured to so that they could receive first aid. Most of those who would have survived died on the way to hospitals in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State because there was no nearby hospital to take care of them.
“There is a need for hospitals and good roads so that when issues like this come up, people can have access to good healthcare and also see a means of evacuating those who were affected, which is not possible now. There should be roads and other facilities so that we will have a sense of belonging.
If there are roads, it will enhance communication and people will feel free to visit one another,” he said. A Catholic cleric in the area, Rev. Fr. Clement Eje, also called for good road networks and other amenities in the area. “The security agents were finding it difficult to access the road in order to go after the Fulani herdsmen that morning; it was very difficult for them.
So, the road should be taken into consideration. “I am assuring all of us, despite what has happened, God is not asleep. If He can handle Nebuchadnezzar, then I think He can handle whoever is behind the Fulani killing people all over this country. I am very sure if Nebuchadnezzar can turn into a beast, then they can do the same in this generation. I don’t want to call anybody’s name because I am not sure of whoever (is backing them) but whoever is behind all of this in this country, the God that I serve will take care of them,” he stated.
A massacre foretold
Before the May 30th attack, there was credible intelligence from a man who made a voice note and circulated to social media. The voice message was made on 29th May, 2021 and circulated at 5.38pm, notifying the people of the planned attack. The man who made the voice note from where he sighted the armed herders moving in droves from Ebumali to Utomkom, Benue State to the Izzispeaking community in the same Benue state, revealed the attack would happen on the morning of 30th May, 2021. The message, which was recorded in Igbo dialect by the messenger who did not disclose his name, says “Greetings to everyone.
There is information I am getting now! It is real information. Whoever that knows how to get phone contacts of people of Ebonyi State, especially security agents should tell them that herdsmen are now ready to attack Izzi, Ebonyi State. They are now in Ebumali, Benue State. Their anger is because of the killing of one Isa Mohammed in the past and they want to come and launch an attack on Izzi community, Ebonyi State. They are coming through Utomkom, Benue State as I speak now. Today is 29th May, 2021 and the time is 5.38pm. The herdsmen are in Utomkom heading towards Ebumali.
They are about 300 in number and they are coming down to Izzi, Ebonyi State tomorrow morning by 5am to kill our people. “They want to come in on foot to come and massacre our people there in Izzi. Please spread this message and let the people living in that area leave the place immediately. Please men and women, elders leave that place because this thing I am saying must surely happen. Get security agents or vigilantes to mount security around this particular community because herdsmen must surely attack this place tomorrow morning. They have surrounded you people, they are now in Ebumali and they will enter Izzi in the night today!
Please help spread this information immediately to let the people of Ebonyi State get ready. Pass this information to our leader, Ohamadike, let him send his security to guard this community because this thing I am saying must happen.” As the people were in deep sleep about 3am, the herdsmen struck, massacred them, set their property ablaze and looted many of them unchallenged. The security measures the messenger recommended in the area were neither taken by the Benue State government nor its Ebonyi State counterpart to forestall the attack.
The local vigilantes in the community were also not at alert. A third class chief in the area, Dr. Julius Adaebube, said the vigilantes were not keeping vigil and were all asleep when the herders invaded the community. He said: “We have to come together to seek a solution to this type of problem. Let village heads, all the stakeholders, and the clergy come together and reorganise our youths. When we hear vigil, it means a group of people who come together and gather together to protect the community. How do they protect the community?
They never sleep and that is the meaning of vigil. It is because our youths slept, the enemies knew what was happening; they were so comfortable. This thing happened unavoidably.” Another traditional ruler, HRH Eze Augustine Nwegbu, corroborated Adaebube’s views. He said the attack was an opener to the people of the community. He said: “We are in tears but God will console us.
What has happened to us should be an eye-opener so that it will not reoccur. We have to be vigi-lant against these marauders who have massacred many people in the South, West and North in this country. What happened was not caused by our neighbours; it was perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen. Nomadic Fulani have been moving around destroying people’s property all over the country.”
How they slaughtered our people -Survivors
One of the survivors, Samuel Nwankwegu, said he lost one of his two wives and seven of his 11 children to the attack. Nwankwegu also said his pharmacy and provision shops valued at N40 million were burnt by the attackers. He said: “My shop is in this market and my house is also here. I was sleeping and didn’t know that people were coming to attack us here, to burn my house, children and my shop. They killed my children and also one of my wives. They burnt my motorcycles, my two shops; a provision shop and a medicine (pharmacy) shop. “I saw them come into my compound and started running.
They pursued me inside the bush and invaded my house. They killed all the people in my compound, including my children, who were unable to run. They killed them inside the house. They killed my seven children including one of my wives. I have 11 children but only four are remaining. “I am devastated and I don’t know what to do. I am currently staying with one of my wives and the remaining four children. My burnt pharmacy is worth over N25 million while the provision shop is worth N15 million. I went to buy goods for the shops a few days before the shops were burnt.” Another victim, John Nwori (45), said the attackers got to his house about 4.05am on that Sunday.
He added: “They came into our community on foot with machetes and guns. Immediately I heard their noise, when they came in, I dodged somewhere and they came in with knives into our compound and killed my people. They killed my elder brother, his wife, his child, and my siblings who were planning to get married.
“They killed eight people in my family. Two of my children who were attacked with machetes, died on the way to hospital in Abakaliki. My house was burnt by the herdsmen. They also burnt my younger brother’s vehicle. We have vigilantes but they don’t have equipment (arms) for security. Government should come to our aid.”
On his part, John Nkwuda said he lost his brother and sister to the attack with his house vandalised and looted by the killers. Nkwuda disclosed that the attackers invaded the community during a downpour which made it impossible for anyone to notice who was being attacked or killed. He said: “They killed my brother, Peter, and my sister, Chineme. They burnt two houses in my father’s compound. I escaped death narrowly.
They pursued me but I was able to escape. But they looted everything in my house, including clothes and the money I kept in the house. I have nothing on me now. They came with guns and other dangerous weapons. It was raining heavily when they came which made it impossible for one to know who was being killed or attacked. They really dealt with us.” A 23-year-old lady, Chinyere Uduka, said the assailants invaded her house and inflicted machete cut injuries on them, while shooting sporadically. Uduka said the people were far asleep when the herdsmen struck. She said: “It’s was in the morning of Sunday, May 30, 2021, at exactly 3.30am.
My sisters and I were all asleep. What I heard was a bang on the door. When I opened my eyes, I saw flashes of torchlight. “Before I knew what was happening, they started inflicting machete cuts on us and it was then that we started jumping from windows. As I was running, they started shooting; they shot me in the legs.
That is why I’m here in the hospital. I can’t walk now. The Fulani herdsmen who attacked us were up to 300.” Another victim, Udaga Lebechi (13), told our correspondent that his father and three younger siblings were killed in the attack.
He said: “It was the Fulani who attacked us at Odoke community in the Ado Local Government Area of Benue State. It was about 3am on Sunday. They came, numbering more than 300, and started cutting us with their cutlasses. They attacked me and three of my siblings. I am 13 years old. They killed many people in my community and many of our kindred are still missing.
They killed my father and my three younger ones.” Another victim, Steven Nwali, only managed to talk owing to the deteriorating state of his health. He said: “I’m from Ishieke Obakotara in the Ebonyi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, but I’m based in Odoke community in Ado Local Government Area of Benue State. But we are neither in Benue State nor in Ebonyi State. “I am 34 years old and it was on May 30, 2021, when herdsmen attacked the community about 2.30am. The invaders were more than 300 of them. They killed our people; in fact they killed more than half of the population of the community.
“Currently, you can see I can’t walk or sit down, because of the bullet wounds on my body now. It’s a terrible situation. Government should intervene.” A stakeholder in the Izzi clan, Chief Godwin Nwode, said herdsmen had put the nation in trouble but he vowed that herders would never rule his people. He said: “Herdsmen have been terrorising every part of the country; we are in trouble.
They have put the country in a serious mess. Governors in the whole country are suffering Fulani herdsmen; it is a national problem. It is quite unfortunate that they visited this place and unfortunate to us, it is our own brothers and sisters they killed. “If we put heads together, we can close the herdsmen coming outright within this axis. It is our duty to make sure that our women and children in the village are also protected.
We should come together to know how to stop this ugly phenomenon. We can never allow herders to rule us in this part of our state. They said once bitten twice shy.” On his part, the traditional ruler of Ijigban community, HRH Chief Christopher Onuma, wondered why the attack should be launched on the highly populated community.
He said: “What has happened is very unfortunate, barbaric and uncalled for because this community, Izzi, has not committed any single offence to warrant the wanton destruction of lives and property. I have come here to sympathise with you to see that such a disaster does not occur any longer. We are all one, since Izzi and Ijigban live here together, we have never caused any trouble for ourselves and we are not friends to Fulani.”
FG, security agents culpable, says lawmaker
The member representing Ado/Okpoku/ Ogbadigbo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Francis Otta Agbo, accused the country’s leadership and security agents of complicity in herdsmen’s killings in the country. Agbo, who visited the community, urged the people to arm themselves and be vigilant to prevent further attacks.
The lawmaker alleged that over 130 people were killed in the Ndiobasi by herdsmen and that the perpetrators were escorted into the community by unscrupulous security agents. He added: “The people who invaded the land and killed our brothers and sisters are Fulani. They are marauders imported, hired and they came here with the protection of very unscrupulous security agents. They came here and wreaked havoc on our people. They are Fulani killers, they are marauders, they are militia. “I want to appeal to our people that wisdom is profitable to direct. Let us be wise and ensure that we behave ourselves.
Let us just lie low. His Excellency, Governor Samuel Ortom, has already launched operation protect yourselves in Benue State and so when I came here, I was very happy when I saw young men with cutlasses and I encourage you to have more cutlasses, more bows and arrows because the governor has proclaimed and there is a back up of the law passed by the Benue State House of Assembly and signed by the governor which allows you and I to have weapons to protect ourselves. “By your bedside, put your bows and arrows and cutlasses. Get your Dane guns, protect yourselves, get your slim, your rubber, your bows and arrow; protect yourselves.
We will manage like that until these people who are in government leave. If they don’t leave, we will continue to have this problem; that is where the problem lies. The security agencies are supposed to do their work but they are refusing to do it. Even if you go to the floor of the National Assembly, you move motions upon motions, if it is about Fulani attacks, nothing will happen.
Ebonyi begins vigil amidst threat, panic
Two days after the attack on Ndiobasi and three other communities on the borders, many residents of the state fled their homes following widespread rumours that armed herdsmen were planning to attack the state. The rumour, which started from rural areas in Abakaliki, spread to satellite towns and the metropolis. The rumours claimed that armed herdsmen were driven into Ugwuachara axis of the state capital and were dropped in a forest in the community from where they shared themselves in groups and moved into rural areas to attack residents. People of the Ugwuachara raised the alarm over the reported presence of armed herdsmen and started fleeing the area. By 4pm that day, the whole area was deserted. The rumour continued spreading and got to Ozibo village, Amike-aba village, Nakaliki, Ishieke, Azugwu, Orokeonuoha and other rural areas. The residents deserted the areas and