|Photo credit: The Sun News|
On those days, gun-totting young men stormed the area and dished out death, pain and sorrow.
And before long, four persons, including a retired Major, Lawrence Ugboh, and three others lay dead while smoke billowed from many houses that had been set ablaze by these agents of sorrow.
Sadly, in the case of Major Ugboh, a former state Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), his assailants, after hacking him to death, hauled him into his car, poured fuel on the vehicle and then set it ablaze, thereby reducing his corpse to ashes. His house in Ogobia Town and three other cars in his compound were also set on fire.
Another family that was grossly affected by the crisis is the Ujah family. The breadwinner, Mr. Christopher Uja, was killed, his seven-year-old son shot while their house was also set ablaze in Ondo town.
When our correspondent visited the St. Daniel’s Hospital, Otukpo, where Uja’s son was recuperating alongside two other victims, who were also shot in the fracas, his widow, Mrs. Christiana Uja, who is still nursing a nine-month-old baby, could not respond to questions put to her. She continued to weep uncontrollably all through.
A neighbour, who had accompanied her to the hospital, told the reporter that her husband, a retired policeman, was killed and their son was shot and taken for dead by the attackers.
Others who also had hot lead pumped into their bodies are Adakole Pius and Inalegwu Joseph (13). They are currently being treated at the St. Daniel’s Hospital, Otukpo.
Also affected by the invasion is another ex-serviceman, Tony Ochela, whose four-bedroom bungalow, as well as all his life’s investment, was set ablaze by the attackers.
Speaking to the reporter by his burnt house in Ondo town, Ochela, who is in his sixties, said he woke up with his wife at about 6am on Wednesday. He explained that they were about having their morning prayers when he suddenly heard gunshots close to his house.
“As soon as I heard the first gunshot, I listened very well. Then another shot resonated through the air, and then another. It was then I told my wife that the sound I was hearing was that of an automatic rifle and that we must leave the area and run into hiding.
“Immediately, we took our children and ran into the bush under the cover of the morning. By the time the gunshots stopped and we came back into town, I was shocked to discover that my house, my whole life’s savings, had been reduced to rubble by these attackers.”
Ochela, a father of seven, who said he retired as a Staff Sergeant at 82 Division, Enugu, said he did not know who could have done the havoc to him. He said since he wasn’t around when the incident happened, he didn’t know who carried out the burning of his house.
He said after his retirement from the Army in 2006, he came home and built the house in 2007 and had since been staying there peacefully with his family.
“When I told my colleagues that I was coming back home to my fatherland to settle down after my disengagement from the military, they advised me against that decision but I insisted I was coming home. Now, they have been proven right that anyone who retires should rather settle elsewhere instead of coming back home to his people,” he lamented.
The retired soldier said he never had any problems with anyone since he returned home in 2007 and expressed surprise that anyone could ever think of carrying out such a dastardly act.
“Whoever has done this had stripped me naked in the open. This is all that I have. This is all I brought back after my meritorious service to my country and now, I have nothing to lay claim to anymore. Whoever partook in committing this crime has not done me well at all,” he lamented.
The mayhem was allegedly traced to two brothers, Ijachi Udeh and Benjamin Udeh. Ijachi is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and was at a time, the Caretaker Chairman of Otukpo Local Government Area for one year while his brother, Benjamin, is said to be a staunch member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Each of these brothers, our correspondent gathered, wields great influence in Ugboju, controlling each half of the area. It is also alleged that each of them also has supporters in the area.
On the fateful Wednesday, Ijachi was said to have driven into town in a Hilux vehicle with his supporters and in no time, began to shoot sporadically everywhere. At the end of the shooting, three persons were allegedly killed with others injured.
This development, sources said, did not go down well with his brother, Benjamin, who was said to have mobilised his group the next day and stormed the area, killing, injuring and burning houses too.
Following the development, residents of the two neighbouring towns have deserted the area and are now taking refuge in adjoining communities, including Obotu, Adoka and Otukpo.
The Benue State Police Command, through its Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Moses Yamu, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) confirmed the incident. He said four persons were killed in the mayhem.
Yamu also confirmed that one of the alleged masterminds of the crisis, Benjamin, had been arrested while his brother, Ijachi was still on the run. He promised that the police would not rest until the two brothers were made to face justice.
Otukpo Council boss, George Alli, who strongly condemned the crisis, said, however, that it had nothing to do with politics as being insinuated. He explained that the trouble arose over land.
He said he was on phone with the late Major Ugboh when the deceased was suddenly attacked by the assailants. The council boss said the shock was too much for him and that he had to immediately visit the area that same Thursday.
The state governor, Samuel Ortom, vowed that all those fingered in the mayhem would not go unpunished. He has ordered the security agencies in the state to fish out the fleeing Ijachi.
Ortom visited the two communities on Friday along with his deputy, Benson Abounu, an engineer, and other members of his cabinet just as the remains of the slain Ugboh were being interred.
The governor recalled that he served under Major Ugboh, as the state secretary of the PDP at a point in his political career, adding that the deceased was a very peaceful man, who couldn’t hurt a fly. He said reports that he got showed that this was not the first time the two brothers were causing mayhem in the area.
“When democracy came, Ugboh was the state chairman of PDP and I was the secretary. I saw many missed calls from Major Ugboh recently but could not return those calls. Maybe, he was trying to share some thoughts with me. He was a great man and for him to have died in this manner is unfortunate.
“If he went into the military and came back alive, he shouldn’t have died in this manner. I knew he was very sick at a point but he came out of it only to be treated in the manner these people did. We are leaving everything to God, as Christians but as a government, we have the responsibility to protect lives and property. So, we will not allow this to go free.
“If they have been going free in the past, I am assuring you that under my watch, they are going to be apprehended to serve as a deterrent to others. However, I am praying that this is the last time that such would happen in this community. Whatever foundation that was laid for this crisis, let this be the end. I pray that Ugboh’s death should bring peace to this community,” the governor said.
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