The Police Command in Abia State on Tuesday confirmed the arrest of six persons in connection with the alleged killing of a suspected herdsman in a community on Sunday.
The Abia police spokesperson, Geoffrey Ogbonna, disclosed this in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Umuahia.
Mr. Ogbonna said that the deceased was killed during a clash between some herdsmen and Umuobasi-ukwu autonomous community in Bende Local Government Area of the state.
He said that a peace committee comprising representatives of the community, herdsmen, Hausa/Fulani community, the state government and security agencies, had been constituted to broker a truce between the two parties.
However, in a swift reaction, the Secretary-General of the community, Uwakwe Mbonu, disputed the police claim, saying that his people had no hand in the death of the herdsman.
Mr. Mbonu told NAN in a telephone interview that no death was recorded during the clash.
Narrating the incident, he said that the herdsmen allegedly invaded the community’s farmlands in the early hours of Sunday with their cattle.
He said that they took to their heels, along with their cattle, when the youth accosted them.
Mr. Mbonu said that the community was “utterly shocked” when the police that came to the community after the alleged invasion, brought a corpse from the bush and accused the community of being responsible for the death.
According to him, the place where the police claimed to have recovered the corpse was situated about 10kms. to 20 kms. away from the community, which he said absolved residents of responsibility.
Mr. Mbonu further said that the police had embarked on mass arrest of the natives in the aftermath of the incident, with no fewer than six people so far arrested by detectives from the state Criminal Investigation Department, CID.
“My people have fled their homes and the community has been turned into a ghost town.
“Some are taking refuge in neighbouring villages and bush without food, in order to avoid random arrest by the police.”
He appealed to the police authorities and the state government to take urgent steps to halt the mass arrest.
The community suffered a similar attack in November last year, leaving some casualties on both sides.
Mr. Mbonu said that one the casualties from the community, whose right fingers were allegedly chopped off by the assailants, was still receiving treatment at the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia.