Posted by News Express | 6 May 2017 | 1,756 times
Ugbokolo, the host town to Benue State’s second highest educational institution – the Benue Polytechnic – has come under violent siege by a killer gang for about a month. Native Idomas and the flourishing Igbo traders are the main targets of the almost nightly raids by armed young men who rob, machete victims and kill in many cases, too.
Ugbokolo, the commercial capital of Western Idoma in Benue State, is located between Otukpo and Enugu, close to Obollo Afor and, therefore, direct to most south-eastern towns such as Aba and Onitsha. Ugbokolo was before now described as a haven of peace by its multicultural inhabitants – indigenes, Igbos, Hausas, Bini, Ijaw, Tiv, Calabar, Edo, etc.
The most prominent among those killed in Ugbokolo in the past one month is Sunday Oteikwu, the community leader of Efoyo, the sub-urban area to Benue Polytechnic, who was murdered on April 19. Others killed are Inalegwu Uloko, Ameh Apeh (an Immigration officer from Ogungaga on the outskirts of Ugbokolo), Emma Idibia and John Abah – both staff of Benue Polytechnic. The three others killed whose names have not been confirmed are two students and a lady suspected to be a girlfriend of a member of the gang. The said lady was killed at Ollo, also known as ‘Sambisa Forest’, a place the police reportedly dreads.
One worried source said: “Although the Benue Police Command recently declared some alleged violent killers wanted, it is still not clear why Ugbokolo is experiencing the violent turn. More intriguing is how that level of organised, open violence could have gone on for this length of time without serious action being taken by the police and the Benue State Government to checkmate it.”
The daring gangsters took the battle to the police in late January, killing a Police Inspector and taking away his gun. In retaliation, the police killed one of the gangsters. The young men re-organised and allegedly set out to burn the local police station, claiming that their colleague was extra-judicially killed. It was at this point that the Police Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) struck and arrested upwards of 70 of the suspected gangsters, some of whom have been released, about 50 of whom are, however, still in prison custody in Makurdi, the state capital. Many people, particularly the lawyers around Makurdi, believe that the ones in prison now are not the real culprits.
The morbid drama took a new turn in early April when the suspected cultists gained the upper hand. As a result, “night life ceased and life became nasty, short and brutish. This meant not only the overcoming of the local vigilantes that sprang up in most local settlements around Benue Polytechnic’s campus such as Efoyo, Ichakwu, Aokpe Road, Ollo, Okwugaga and Ugbokolo urban but the police, too,” a source said.
On April 11, the emboldened gangsters carried out a house-to-house operation that was eventually extended over the few days. Among victims of the brutal attacks are Emmanuel Ameh, Mrs Mary Abah, Emma Easy, Elias Oboh, Oga Monday, Enenche Abah and Sunday Ella, a member of staff of Okpokwu Local Government Council. Mr. Ella’s case is particularly pathetic; he had no cash the night the gangsters came calling, so they decided to teach him a bitter lesson with several machete cuts, leaving him in excruciating pains.
The criminals are believed to have informants in the police, thus making it difficult to tame them. “The local police at both Ugbokolo and Okpoga are not reckoned with at all. No one gives them any chance. Some say their operatives have become too familiar and too integrated to be of any use in this regard. Others say they are outgunned.”
Contacted by News Express on Saturday morning, Mr. Moses Nyamu, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) for the Benue State Command Benue, said: “I know we have recorded cases of murder or homicide in Ugbokolo.” He added that “what is happening in Ugbokolo is the handiwork of some criminal elements.”
The PPRO said that raids have been conducted by the command and that “some have been prosecuted and remanded in prison custody.”
He promised to get back to News Express when asked the specific number of suspects arrested, the court before which they were charged and when they were remanded in prison custody.
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