Against the backdrop of killings of people in worship centres across the country, Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, declared, yesterday, that Nigeria is in a state of emergency.
Onaiyekan said the murders are affront against God and that time has come for people in authority to ensure that the killings stop; to avoid the situation getting out of hand.
In his funeral message at the Sesugh Maria Pilgrimage Centre, Ayati, Benue State, when the remains of the two Catholic priests and 17 other worshippers, who were killed by suspected herdsmen at St. Ignatuis Quarshi Parish Ayar-Mbalom, Gwer Local Government Area, last month, were buried, the cleric called on Nigerians to rise above religious, political and ethnic divide to save the country from drifting into anarchy.
Onaiyekan described the deaths as a “horrific massacre which will not be forgotten for a long time” and also, warned that “the killings “must not be politicised.
“The nation is in a state of emergency.
“(Our) demand for synergy, division, especially on tribal lines will only throw our nation to anarchy.”
He called on the federal government to act decisively to end the spate of killings across the country, and also, on the people to be vigilant and be their “brother’s keeper.”
The Catholic Bishop of Makurdi, Wilfred Anagbe, in his welcome address, stated that the diocese decided to bury the victims Centre because they are “martyrs of the church” and prayed that their deaths would bring “peace to the state.”
Earlier, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, prayed God to console and defend Benue people.
Leading the funeral orations to console the Catholic church, Osibanjo noted that killers of the slain victims neither feared God nor man and concluded that they had gained nothing by their act.
“They were killed by those who neither fear God nor man.
“These killers have gained nothing by their acts. God Himself will console and defend Benue people. The church in Benue is indestructible.”
On his part, Governor Samuel Ortom, who noted that it was the third time the state was conducting mass burial, disclosed that 492 people have so far being killed by herdsmen, since the beginning of the year, while the state government is battling to cater for over 170,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) languishing in eight camps in the state.
He also disclosed that 80,000 Benue children are presently out of school as a result of the incessant herdsmen attack and invasion in the state.
“The herdsmen have continued to attack communities in the state on a daily basis, since January this year. These slain victims were in church for prayers and not in their farms.
“This means that the herdsmen have moved the narrative to other motives.”
Also, the Tor Tiv, Professor James Ayatse, enjoined the people to “remain prayerful, united and vigilant so that the the enemies will not succeed in their plans to over run Benue and take over the land.”