*Lagos-Benin expressway blocked over incessant herdsmen’s attacks
By Vincent Ujumadu, Chioma Onuegbu & Ozioruva Aliu
GUNMEN were again on the rampage in Anambra and Akwa Ibom states in the last 48 hours, attacking a police station and kidnapping the founder of a church, as frequent attacks by herders in Edo provoked protest by communities and civil society organisations, NGOs, which resulted in barricade of the busy Benin-Lagos highway.
In Anambra State, the gunmen attacked another police station in Anaku, the headquarters of Ayamelum Local Government Area of the state, while in Akwa Ibom State, there is tension in Ibekwe Akpan Nya community in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area of the state as gunmen kidnapped the Founder of Solid Rock Kingdom Church, Apostle John Okoriko.
The Anambra attack came barely few days after the police repelled an attack at Nteje police station in Oyi LGA of the state.
Yesterday’s attack was also repelled by police officers on duty, causing the gunmen to flee.
State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Tochukwu Ikenga, who confirmed the incident said the gunmen, after being successfully repelled, threw a locally made explosive into the compound, although no casualty was recorded.
According to him, the police in the state were now more determined more than ever to protect all their facilities from attacks, as well as face the attackers squarely.
He said: “Following the successful repelling of an attack at Anaku divisional headquarters, the Anambra State Police command is now more firm and courageous.”
Church founder, Okoriko, kidnapped in A-Ibom
In Akwa Ibom, it was gathered that the hoodlums invaded Okoriko’s residence within the church premises about 5p.m., Tuesday, and whisked him away to unknown destination.
Sources told newsmen, yesterday, in Uyo that the suspected kidnappers jumped into the premises through the fence and started firing gunshots repeatedly to scare away people in the environment.
An eyewitness, who spoke on the ground of anonymity, said the gunmen after scaring away people then entered the cleric’s sitting room, dragged him out of the building and escaped with him through a nearby bush.
The eyewitnesses, who spoke in tears, also explained that the police was contacted immediately and some youths joined the Police team to comb the bush in search of the cleric but he was not found.
It was learned that all the branches of the church have, however, began prayers for God’s intervention so that the cleric said to be an octogenarian would regain his freedom soon and unhurt.
State Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr. Odiko MacDon, who confirmed the kidnap of Apostle Okoriko to newsmen, yesterday, assured that the command was working tirelessly to bring the perpetrators to book.
Meanwhile, there have been concerns in the state over incessant kidnappings between Ekparakwa community in Oruk Anam LGA and neighbouring villages in Mkpat Enin LGA in recent times.
It was learned that no fewer than 15 persons have so far been abducted, including a medical doctor, who was kidnapped while operating on a patient in the theatre at Health Care Centre, Ikot Ekpaw in the community last month but later regained his freedom after undisclosed ransom was allegedly paid.
Communities, CSOs protest herdsmen attacks in Edo, barricade Benin-Lagos road
Meanwhile, 15 communities and civil society organisations led by the former Attorney-General of Edo State, Osagie Obayuwana, yesterday, barricaded the Lagos-Benin express road for hours, protesting the activities of herdsmen, which they said have resulted in killings, destructions of farm produce and forceful evictions of the people from their ancestral homes.
Some of the communities include Odiguetue, Afintebe, Igolo, Okokuo, Abumwenre I and II, Obarenren, Uhiere, Uyimo I and II.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, Obayuwana, said: “We want the whole world to know the experience our people have been going through for quite some time now.
“We are zeroing in on Ovia North East communities. About 15 communities have been under siege for some years. Farmers have been prevented from going to their farms, another planting season is going away, they have been sentenced to hunger and this has an implication for the larger society.
“It is one of the reasons the price of food is rising beyond the reach of even those in the middle class.
“So far, we have not seen a serious effort to address this issue. Our people have gone to various offices, both the legislative arms even traditional quarters and nothing seems to be coming out of it.
“We are concerned that what had been happening in Benue and Plateau states will be coming to the shore of Edo State, where armed herdsmen drive people from communities, change the names of the communities and occupy their houses, we don’t want that.”
Also, former Public Relations Officer of Edo State Civil Society Organisations, EDOCSO, Osazee Edigin, said the level of insecurity in Edo communities has gone from bad to worse and thus, decided to join their voices with the people to call on the governments to come to their rescue.
Edo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Abutu Yaro, represented by the Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, Mr. James Chu, while appealing to the protesters to be calm, said the command share in their pains, stressing that machineries have been put in place to curtail the excesses of armed herdsmen in the various communities in the state.