Is there a ‘Sambisa Forest’ in a place called Ollo, near Ugbokolo in Benue State where gangsters keep guns? This is what social media platforms are saying but the Police in Benue State say they have never heard such a name. Over five social media platforms have reported a vicious, violent siege on Ugbokolo by gangsters sometimes called thugs or cultists or armed robbers whose siege has resulted to the killing of eight persons within the last one month in and around Ugbokolo, described as the host town to Benue State’s second highest educational institution – the Benue Polytechnic.
Further investigations in the aftermath of the online reports showed that the suspected gangsters shot the elder brother of a chief killed in an earlier raid on April 19th, 2017 by name Emma Idibia. Last night, the gang shot his elder brother by name Charles Idibia. Moses Yamu, an Assistant Superintendent of Police and the Police Public Relations Officer for the Benue Police Command confirmed that shooting, adding that youths in the area retaliated and killed one of the gangsters. He further confirmed what he called cult related problems in and around Ugbokolo over which he said the police had conducted raids in the area and many of the suspects taken to court and remanded in prison. His narrative on that tallies with what the social media platforms have reported although it is not clear if the case of Charles Idibia is the same thing he was referring to. Intervention learnt from well placed sources in the community that there is no likelihood of any youths challenging the suspected gangsters when they are out in action.
The PPRO, however, declared ignorance of ‘Sambisa Forest’ which is said to be out of reach to police because of perceived mismatch in instruments of violence. The lady victim among the list of eight persons listed to have been killed perished there.
According to Asp Yamu, the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Ugbokolo sends routine reports and anything outside that would require cross checking of the source. He added how clampdown on suspected cult groups has pre-occupied the current Commissioner of Police in the state.
Highlights of the online reports on the violence in Ugbokolo include the killing of the following in addition to Chief Emma Idibia: Inalegwu Uloko, Ameh Apeh, an Immigration officer from Ogungaga on the outskirt of Ugbokolo and John Abah. 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. She was killed at Ollo, which is the place nicknamed ‘Sambisa Forest’.
Among those matcheted or beaten severly are Emmanuel Ameh, Mrs Mary Abah, Emma Easy, Elias Oboh, Oga Monday, Enenche Abah and Sunday Ella, a staff of Okpokwu Local Government Council. This is beside an all night robbery session said to have taken place April 30th to May 1st at Ajide, meaning expansion of operation beyond the places around the Benue Polytechnic such as Efoyo, Ichakwu, Aokpe Road, Ollo, Okwungaga and Ugbokolo urban.
Equally highlighted is what is called the intriguing silence of elite from the area, especially political leaders, community elders, the unusually vocal catholic Church hierarchy and even the journalists of Lagos, Ibadan and Abuja based newspapers although EDEMA, the elite group from the Edumoga District had recently advised young people in the area to embrace peace and development. What is not clear is how the violence in Ugbokolo connects to the general violence around Benue State of recent.