There is obvious tension in Eke Autonomous Community of Udi Local Government Area, Enugu State, following the purported murder of a volunteer member of her neighbourhood vigilante and a housewife from the locality by Soldiers of the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Enugu.
NewsBits learnt that Eke is the hometown of some prominent individuals such as the Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr. Osita Okechukwu, immediate past Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffery Onyeama, and Chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Barrister Godwin Onwusi, who ran for the Udi North state Constituency in the just concluded 2023 general election. Eke is also the hometown of the late Supreme Court Judge, Justice Anthony Aniagolu and the late Justice Dadi Onyeama, among others.
Newsmen who visited the Community yesterday and Hospital, (name withheld for security reasons), where the victims are currently receiving medical attention, saw the victims in critical conditions in their hospital beds, amid severe pains. The reporters were told that the sad incident has thrown residents of the area who had ugly tales of Herders/Farmers clash into fear, as they have stopped going to their farms.
The soldiers, were said to have equally shot three other members of the local security outfit at close range, leaving them with various degrees of bullet injuries, including one whose private part was completely shattered. Mr. Ebuka Oke, the deceased shot dead during the barbaric attack by the soldiers, was said to have lost his father exactly one month on the same day he was killed.
The Assistant Chief Security Officer of Eke Security Neighbourhood Vigilante Watch, Mr. Emeka Anigbo, who is among the victims and sustained several gun shot injuries all over his body, managed to narrate to reporters in his hospital bed what transpired.
Wreathing in pain, Anigbo, said they were at 9th mile Conner on Thursday night where they had gone to felicitate with their colleagues who were being inaugurated as neighborhood watch members, when they got a distress call that armed robbers blocked the major road leading to the popular Catholic Church Prayer Center (Ugwudinso) and Eke, from Ama breweries.
Upon receiving the call, Anigbo said that they abandoned the food and drinks they were about consuming, and swiftly drove out with a view to confronting the criminal elements. However, due to heavy traffic gridlock occasioned by the blockage of the road, they could not get to the scene with their vehicle.
He said they decided to park their vehicle along the road, and started moving towards the place, and that while approaching the scene, they figured three armed soldiers who ordered them in a loud voice to stop. Anigbo said they obeyed the soldiers and stopped, telling them that they were neighborhood vigilante watch guards. At that point, they were then asked by the soldiers to keep coming.
He recalled that on approaching where the soldiers were standing, they started firing at them, killing one of their members and the wife of one of those who were inaugurated at 9th Mile Corner, who was on a motorcycle with her husband going back to Eke.
“Despite the fact that we were in our full security uniform and had identified ourselves, the trigger-happy soldiers opened fire on us at a very close range, killing the late Oke, and the woman,” he said.
“After shooting me severally, while I was on the ground, one of the soldiers still, notwithstanding seeing my ID card and my uniform, went ahead to shoot me again on the shoulder,” Anigbo said in tears.
Anigbo further narrated: “the same soldier kept on matching me on the chest, saying, I will kill you today. In fact, it was the timely arrival of police operatives from 9th Mile Corner that saved my life. It was the police that stopped the soldier, confirming that we are Eke neighborhood security guards.”
Efforts to speak with Chinedu Okolo, whose manhood was shattered by the soldiers’ bullets failed, as he could not utter a word due to severe pains. Also, the third victim, Obinna Offor was seen passing through excruciating pains, while under Oxygen support at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
But some natives of Eke Community, who craved anonymity while speaking with newsmen for fear of uncertainty, condemned the unprofessional conducts of the soldiers in strong terms, describing it as “barbaric and callous” and called for independent Investigation.
When contacted, the Deputy Director, Army public Relations, 82 Division Nigerian Army, Lieutenant Colonel Jonah Unuakhalu, described as untrue the narrative of the victims, saying from the available information in the Division’s disposal, the deceased Woman was killed by a strange bullet from armed hoodlums who engaged the Soldiers in a shootout.
He stated that the troops received a distress call that some criminal elements were operating along the Eke Road, and they immediately rushed to the scene, on sighting the Soldiers the hoodlums opened fire on them, but the security Operatives overpowered them, leading to the arrest of one of them, and recovering of two pump Action guns and some live bullets, after some ran into a nearby bush.
The 82 Division Spokesman, who said he has no information regarding the second deceased, adding that it was in the course of the exchange of fire between the troop and the hoodlums that a strange bullet hit the deceased housewife who was rushed to the hospital, “but unfortunately, later died.
“So, there is no iota of truth in the information being peddled around that it was Soldiers that killed the Deceased. Our men only rushed to the scene to salvage the situation, after receiving a distress call.” he insisted
“Its unfortunate that the woman died, if not, she would have been in the best position to narrate exactly what happened” stressing that the Division is going to carry out proper investigation on the incident, so as to unravel what actually transpired.
However, a native of the Community, who did not want his name in print has called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to constitute a panel of inquiry to carry out thorough investigation on the unfortunate incident, prosecute the soldiers and subject the bullet shells recovered from the scene to forensic examination so as to determine its source, and uphold the rule of law.