Loveth Ogbonna, Enugu
There was tension in the Oruku community, in the Nkanu East Local Government Area of Enugu State, as gunmen suspected to be cultists injured one person and burnt over 35 houses and a market.
The incident reportedly occurred between 6.30pm on Saturday and 7.30am on Sunday.
Our correspondent, who visited the community with the new state Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Aliyu, observed that some houses were still aflame as of Sunday morning.
Only a handful of people were sighted at the community, as residents were reported to have fled for fear of being killed by the hoodlums, who wielded AK-47 rifles and GPMG.
The gunmen were said to have shot continuously throughout the night.
Among the houses burnt was the palace of the traditional ruler of Aguikpa autonomous community.
A community leader and former Chairman of Nkanu East Local Governmrnt Area, Ejike Ani, who conducted the commissioner round the burnt houses, said he got information that a gang was going to attack the community, adding that he reported to the council chairman.
According to him, the Chairman, Uchenna Nwobodo, assured him that he had informed the police but the community was still attacked and over 35 houses and a market were razed.
He said, “I saw a post on social media on the indigenous people of Oruku Facebook account that some natives had hired some people from Benue State and that Oruku community would be attacked in less than one week, and in less than one week, we were attacked.
“I called the council chairman, Honourable Uchenna Nwobodo, and told him. He said he had called the Divisional Police Officer of Amechi Idodo and you can see the end result.”
Narrating the genesis of the crisis, Ani said, “We got a message from the Commissioner of Police that all illegal arms should be handed over to the traditional ruler for onward handover to the police. We held a meeting and in the meeting we agreed that we were handing over our arms.
“Out of the 20 AK-47 rifles and two GPMG guns we had along the line, because of what had been going on with STS and our community, two AK-47 rifles were handed over to the state Director, DSS in 2020.
“So, some community members are still having 18 AK-47 rifles and they are using the guns now to hunt the people that went for the peace process; the people that signed the agreement with the Umuode community.”
The chairman of Oruku neighbourhood security watch, Mr Emmanuel Ani, appealed to both the federal and state governments to rescue the community from those who had refused to give peace a chance.
He blamed the situation in the community on the Inspector General of Police Special Tactical Squad, whom he said disarmed the neighborhood watch and released hoodlums they arrested to continue to terrorise people.
A widow, Mrs Nwatu, said the gunmen threatened to kill her if she did not come out of her house.
“Immediately I came out, they torched the house. Not even appeals that I was mourning my husband stopped them. They wanted to burn me inside the house. They burnt everything, including our clothes,” she said.
About one month ago, the traditional ruler of the community was shot dead by operatives of the Special Weapons and Tactical Squad (SWAT), during an annual general meeting at the community’s town hall.
The killing of the community leader sparked anger that led to the burning of houses and property of those suspected to have conspired with the police in the murder.
But addressing journalists, the police commissioner, Aliyu, who described the incident as unfortunate, appealed for calm, saying the police would investigate the cause of the arson.