From John Adams, Minna, Scholastica Onyeka, Makurdi
Outrage and condemnation have trailed the murder of Catholic Priest, Very Rev. Fr. Issac Achi of SS Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Paikoro Local Government Area by gunmen suspected to be bandits yesterday.
A colleague of the Rev. Father, identified as Father Collins Omeh, was shot on the shoulder while trying to escape from the scene.
The Niger State government, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) were among those who have condemned the attack.
According to a source close to Kafin Koro, the gunmen in their numbers stormed the residence of the deceased priest located about a kilometre from the main town. After about an hour of fruitless effort to force their way into the house, the gunmen were said to have doused the house with Petroleum Motor Spirit (PMS) popularly refers to as petrol and set it ablaze.
The late priest, a native of Kafin Koro, had survived a December 2011 bombing of Saint Theresa Catholic Church, Madella in Suleja local government area of the state. Two years later in 2013, he escaped another kidnap attempt when gunmen invaded his residence.He was until his death the CAN coordinator of Paikoro local government area.
Niger State government, in a statement by the Commissioner for Internal Security and Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. Emmanuel Umar, said the act was perpetrated by individuals who had no regards to “our values or respect for lives.”
“It is with the deepest regrets that such incident could occur considering the recent efforts of government, security forces, community leaders and stakeholders.”
He noted that the governor has met with heads of security in the state and has made it clear that they have his full support to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice, adding that “they must act decisively to clampdown on those who are responsible for this crime.”
Similarly, a statement by Daniel Atori, media aide to the Niger State chairman of CAN, Most Rev. Bulus Yohanna called for investigations into the attacks and the culprits brought to book. He also called on the three tiers of government to do more in securing lives and property in the state and urged the authorities to apprehend the suspected killers.
“One of the primary responsibilities of any government is to protect lives and properties of the people. Enough of the attacks and wanton killings of innocent Nigeria citizens,” it added.
The association condoled the Catholic Diocese of Minna, parishioners and the entire Christendom as well as the immediate family of the slain priest.
Reacting, CAN chairman in Benue State, Rev. Akpen Leva, charged the security agencies to comb the community and bushes to fish out the perpetrators of the dastardly act.
Mr. Leva, who spoke through his media aide, Sam Tyav, described the incident as disturbing saying he was shocked that the clergy have become endangered species and targets of attacked by gunmen across the country.
He charged the Federal Government, the police and all those responsible for security of lives and property to, immediately, swing into action by rising up to their responsibilities and apprehend the culprits for prosecution.
A priest in the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi, Benue State, Rev. Fr. Moses Iorapuu, also condemned the dastardly act and called on Nigerians to use the event of the forthcoming elections to vote in leaders that would guarantee them all round freedom.
Fr. Iorapuu, Vicar General Pastoral and Director of Communications, in the Makurdi Diocese, said the time has come for the church to stand by its leaders.
In a telephone chat with our correspondent in Makurdi, the Communications Director, Abuja Province said: “Everyone of these despicable acts brings us to doomsday if we fail to be decisive in electing a leader who will guarantee us freedom of worship and freedom of association in this country. How many priests will they kill before we act? This is the time for the Church to be united and the people to stand firmly by her leaders.”
The state police command said it had dispatched a reinforcement team to the area and efforts were ongoing to apprehend the assailants as investigation into the unfortunate attack had commenced.