From Okey Sampson, Umuahia
Youths of Isuochi in Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State, yesterday, protested against incessant kidnappings by suspected herdsmen and the alleged complacence of soldiers posted in the area.
The protest was coming barely 24 hours after the kidnapped Prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, Samuel Uche, and two other clerics were released after the payment of N100 million ransom.
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The Prelate had, in a press briefing in Lagos, narrated how people he described as Fulani herders kidnapped them at Isuochi. He equally accused soldiers at a checkpoint, not far from where they were kidnapped, of complacency.
The irate youths numbering over 500 stormed the Umunneochi Council headquarters at Nkwoagu Isuochi, where they conveyed their grievances to the Council chairman.
Wearing black attires and chanting war songs, the youths decried the menacing activities and atrocities of herdsmen in the area.
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They carried placards with various inscriptions such as:”Enough is enough”; “Garki cattle market must go”; “Army should open Ihube/Isuochi road,” among others.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters at the Council headquarters, Divine Uche said the youths of Umunneochi will no longer tolerate continued harassment, torture and kidnappings for ransom by herdsmen in the area.
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The youths accused security agents, especially the army, of not doing enough to checkmate the murderous herdsmen on the prowl in the area.
They demanded immediate relocation of Lokpanta regional cattle market, where they allegedly provided cover for the criminals.\The youths also demanded that the military checkpoint at Lomara junction be removed and the barricade by the soldiers blocking the Ihube/Isuochi road cleared without delay, so that motorists will be plying the route again.
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“The presence of the military checkpoint in the area has not stopped kidnappings and other criminal activities of herdsmen, rather abductions for ransom go on with impunity, under the nose of the security agents at the area.”
The youths vowed that, if after seven days, their demands were not met, they might be forced to take laws into their hands, to protect their people against criminal herders on the prowl in the area.
A woman, Mrs Chetachi Obi-Nwoke, said that the locals now live in fear of herdsmen who have been terrorising the people.
She challenged security agencies to rise to the occasion to avoid angry youths taking law into their hands.
Chief of Staff to the Council Chairman, Mr Emmanuel Azubuike, while responding, thanked the youths for their peaceful demonstration and promised to convey their grievances to the chairman.
He noted with concern, the atrocities of herdsmen in the area and the docility of security agencies.
He expressed sadness that the efforts of the Council to open up the Ihube/Isuochi road were being frustrated by the soldiers at Lomara military checkpoint, who insist that the Council must first complete a perimeter fencing of their post there.
He said the Council has done over 80 percent of the work, but regretted that the soldiers have continued to frustrate efforts to complete the project.
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