…South West bishops flay attack, task FG on arms possession
From Clement Adeyi, Osogbo
The Catholic diocese of Nnewi, Anambra State, yesterday, unveiled the identities of casualties and those injured in the attack on St. Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu, during Mass on Sunday.
The church was attacked by a lone gunman who killed 11 worshippers on the spot and injured 18 others.
In a statement issued by Hilary Odili Okeke, bishop of the diocese, the church indicated that the death toll in the attack had risen to 13, as two more victims reportedly died in the hospital on Tuesday.
Those killed in the attack said to be a fall out of a gang war between two indigenes of the community are Cyprian Ikegwuonu, Hyacinth Oramadike, Cecilia Ewin, Eunice Akanigbo, Rose Okoye, Anulika Obunadike, Uchenna Obunadike, Anthonia Ufondu, Oluchukwu Uhelu, Christiana Igbeja, Udeze Pauline, Victoria Uzokwe and Florence Nweke.
The statement listed the 22 surviving victims as: Ikegwuonu Caroline, Nwakile Anthonia, Okoye Odinaka, Okoye Patricia, Isaac Chinedu, Oramadike Chinagorom, Oramadike Chinecherem, Udegbunam Chidimma and Ndulue Samuel.
Also injured are Udegbunam Obiageli, Ugochi Obiajulu, Chukwueloka Chineze, Oramadike Chioma, Azuka Basil, Oramadike Chiamaka, Uchechukwu Chukwueloka, Nwanya Ngozi, Ngwuta Chinemelum, Asomba Chukwudum, Nnudule Leonard, Muomah Michael and Oramadike Favour.
Two of the injured have been discharged while others were recuperating in different wards in the hospital.
While soliciting for funds for the care of the victims, the diocese said it has opened a bank account in that regards.
“Anybody, parish, institution, company, society, association or group that would like to join the diocese in providing assistance to the victims and their families can send their contributions.
“We shall keep accurate records of contribution and distribution of the funds,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, the South West Catholic Bishops have called on the Federal Government to check the rising trend of arms possession as a part of fight against insecurity in the country.
The Bishops, in a communique after their second meeting in Ede, Osun State, made the call against the backdrop of the killing of worshippers at St. Philip’s Catholic Church.
The bishops while asking security agencies to double their efforts in securing human life and property, called for the investigation of how the perpetrators of the Ozubulu mayhem came about the deadly weapons used in killing the worshippers.
The Catholic Bishop Conference comprises Ibadan, Ilorin, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo and Osogbo Dioceses of the Catholic Church.
In a communiqué issued yesterday and signed by the President of the province, Most Rev. Gabriel Abegunrin and its secretary, Most Rev. John Oyejola, the bishops asked Catholic faithful to pray for the repose of the souls of the victims of the church killing and also asked God to bring lasting peace to Nigeria.
It reads: “We commiserate with the bishop of Nnewi Diocese, the government and people of Anambra State and several families directly affected by the mass murder which occurred on Sunday at St. Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu, Anambra State.
“We uphold the sanctity of every human life given by God and not to be taken away by anyone and, therefore, can never denounce enough the evil of such a horrendous and callous killing of innocent worshippers right in the church during the holy mass.
“The bottom line is that the security situation in Nigeria remains fragile. We strongly condemn whatever may be at the root of this and similar occurrences.
“Those that are charged with securing human lives and property in the nation must simply do more to protect the citizens. The proliferation of arms in Nigeria deserves urgent and decisive action.
“We call on all our faithful to pray that the souls of the departed may rest in perfect peace and that God may bring enduring peace to Nigeria.
“We also reiterate that the right of all Nigerians to freely adhere to any religion of their choice is sacrosanct and must be protected by all legitimate means.’’
On the ongoing discourse about restructuring, the Bishops said: “It is regrettable that an issue of such importance that should be an issue of justice can be subjected to so much intellectual gymnastics, political sentiments and personal interest.
“Most people in Nigeria agree that, as it is currently constituted, our country is simply not serving the development and self-realisation of most of its citizens and therefore needs to be revisited. In other words, let all of us, leaders and people agree to jettison political machinations and self-serving interests and restructure Nigeria according to the laws of equity and justice. We will thus be saving our own lives and the future”.
On the education sector, the bishops advised government at all levels to be vigilant and curb the encroaching Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CEE) and dubious maternal health procedures.
“Governments should not spend public money on the proliferation of artificial contraceptive methods to the neglect of basic infrastructure and the grassroots health needs of our people.’’
Real cause of killing, by monarch
From Cosmas Omegoh, Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka, Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha and David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi and Remi
Traditional ruler of Ozubulu, Igwe Fidelis Nnamdi Oruche, has debunked insinuations that the community is known for drug peddling. He said Ozubulu is not a community of drug dealers.
He also denied handling dispute between Chief Aloysius Ikegwuonu (a.k.a Bishop) and Mr. Chinedu Akpunonu (a.k.a Oborocho), two individuals alleged to be at the centre of the crisis that culminated in the early morning bloody shooting at St. Phillip’s Catholic Church in Amakwa, Ozubulu on Sunday, which he described as painful, barbaric and ungodly.
He said his palace had never received any compliant about any misunderstanding or quarrel between the two natives, adding that the community had only treated the leadership crisis of Ozubulu Development Union (ODU) South Africa branch about 2014 years ago.
Reports have it that Ikegwuonu and Akpunonu have been at loggerheads over alleged drug business in South Africa, which was said to have claimed lives of some Ozulubu people, and their matter had once been treated at the community level.
But Igwe Oruche while denying having such issue discussed or treated in the community said, “some years back, our children in SouthAfrica, and they are many, had leadership problem at ODU. When it persisted, they brought the natter home; and it was first treated at the home of then President-General of ODU, Chief Nobert Anigbogu.
“Some of them did not agree with the decision. They insisted that I, the monarch, should be present in the resolution of the matter, hence the entire community on an agreed date, converged here in the palace where final peace was reached and they embraced themselves and went to a Catholic church where Rev. Fr. Chidolue used the Bible to covenant them. I repeat, it was a matter of leadership of ODU South Africa, who will become the president-general. It had nothing to do with disagreement in business transactions.”
He further noted that a similar incident had happened in the community about four year ago when four vigilance group members were abducted and killed in cold blood and some of their parts removed.
He called on the state and federal governments to unravel the cause of the incident and arrest the culprits and prosecute them, stressing that the community will apply the traditional method to handle the situation.
Igwe Oruche said the community would fix date for the mourning of the victims in the community way and prayed God to console the families and grant the deaths eternal rest.
In its reaction, the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), in a statement by its founder and president, Dr. Frederick Fasehun, described the massacre as shameful and sacrilegious.
“The killing of these innocent worshippers is one incident too many. Happening in that serene rural environment, it demeans all Nigerians. It shows that nowhere in this country is safe. There is total breakdown of law and order in Nigeria as a whole.
“Perpetrators must be speedily brought to book. If there is an international connection to this callousness, as Governor Willie Obiano and the Commissioner of Police have said, then the assistance of Interpol must be solicited in order to extradite those concerned back to Nigeria for investigation, prosecution and conviction.”
The OPC lamented that Nigerians lived in constant fear from assassins, kidnappers and insurgents.
“This country has now entered a state of anomie where life is short and brutish. Nowhere appears to be safe: Not Lagos, not Port Harcourt or Akure or Maiduguri or Jos. If Nigeria is at war, let us know. Government may just as well declare the entire Nigeria a war zone.”
As far Fasehun is concerned, the spate of killings was not only evidence of the palpable insecurity throughout the country, but a failure of Intelligence.
He stressed the need for Nigerian security agencies to be proactive in order to preempt and prevent the wanton killing of innocent citizens.