Bloody Sunday In Anambra as Gunman Kills Scores In Church
• Buhari, Saraki, Dogara, CAN condemn killings, demand justice for victims
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Damilola Oyedele, James Emejo, Senator Iroegbu in Abuja, Benjamin Nworie in Abakaliki and David-Chyddy Eleke in Awka
Scores were left dead and many others injured yesterday as a gunman invaded St. Philip Catholic Church Ozubulu, in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State and opened fire on worshippers that were at the morning mass of the church.
Although the state Police Commissioner, Mr. Umar Garba, said 11 persons were killed and 18 others injured in the incident, eyewitnesses told THISDAY that scores were killed, while several other wounded persons were taken to Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital (NAUTH), Nnewi.
The killings received huge umbrage yesterday as many sympathisers condemned the violence and called for justice for the victims.
Among the early commentators who said the perpetrators must be brought to book instantly were Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara; Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano; Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige; and President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Samson Ayokunle.
The motive for the killings remained hazy yesterday even as there were unconfirmed reports that the gunman might have raided the church in search of a suspected drug baron, who reportedly made his way out of the service, following a tip-off from his informant that the invader was coming for him.
State police boss Garba told reporters in Awka yesterday that investigations into the incident had begun and played down the casualty figures, putting the dead at 11 and the injured at 18.
He said only one gunman carried out the attack and rest assured the public that the police was on top of the situation.
Reacting moments after the news of the attack broke, Governor Obiano condoled with families of the dead and injured.
He visited the crime scene and said preliminary security investigations showed that the shooting was caused by a feud between two brothers from the community living outside Nigeria.
“This is sacrilegious, totally unacceptable in Anambra State,” Obiano said.
The deeply saddened governor asked the people to go about their businesses without fear or panic noting that the incident was an isolated case of security breach, which must be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators must be brought to book.
“We can’t allow this to happen in Anambra, we must get everyone involved to face the music,” the governor said.
Obiano also visited the teaching hospital at Nnewi where the injured were being treated.
He thanked the over 50 doctors who were on the ground looking after the injured and promised their families that the state government would pay all the medical bills of the victims.
Saraki and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, condemned the killings and called on security agencies to ensure that the perpetrator and their collaborators were apprehended and made to face the full wrath of the law.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, the Senate president described the killer as the “purest kind of evil.”
He said: “Today, my heart goes out to Nigeria’s Christian community, Governor Willie Obiano, the people of Anambra State and the families of the victims and the survivors of this terrible massacre. This brutal act of attacking innocent and unsuspecting worshippers represents the purest kind of evil.
“Our security forces must not stop until everyone involved in the orchestration and execution of today’s massacre in St. Philip’s Catholic Church, Anambra are brought to book by the strong arm of justice,” Saraki warned.
He said the Senate would offer all the necessary assistance that would bring the perpetrators to justice.
The Senate president also urged security agencies in the country to step up intelligence gathering to avert such crimes and to unravel any crime committed against Nigerians by undesirable elements in the society.
Similarly, Ekweremadu in a statement said the attack was beastly and sacrilegious, describing the day as a black Sunday for the people of the state and for Nigerians.
“I received with deep grief the news of the blood-curdling killings at the St. Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu today. It is indeed a black Sunday and the act is most sacrilegious and condemnable,” he said, adding: “My heartfelt condolences go to the Government and good people of Anambra, especially the bereaved families and the Church. I also pray God to grant the deceased a peaceful repose, and the wounded a quick recovery.”
He said the dastardly act brought to the fore, the need to re-engineer the nation’s security system, especially the policing system, to arrest the rising wave of violent crimes in the country.
Speaker Dogara condemned the attack, describing it as abominable, barbaric, inhuman, and the height of wickedness.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media & Public Affairs, Mr. Turaki Hassan, he said his heart was broken by the sad news of the massacre of innocent worshippers in cold blood by people he described as “sons of perdition whose souls will rot in hell.”
He said: “Have we lost our humanity? Where is the place of the sanctity of life and sacredness of worship places in our society? What offence did the worshippers commit to warrant their massacre in cold blood by wicked souls and heartless men?”
He said the increasing insecurity in the country was reducing the country to the state of nature as life was increasingly becoming cheap.
Dogara reiterated his call for the overhaul of Nigeria’s policing architecture that would lead to the reform of the police, equip them with modern and sophisticated gadgets so as to discharge their duties of protecting lives and property effectively and ensure social order in the society.
He called on security agencies to fish out the perpetrators of the heinous crime and bring them to justice speedily even as he extended his heartfelt condolences to families of the victims, the people and government of Anambra State, Nigeria and the Catholic Church over the sad and unfortunate incident.
The Chairman of the South East Governors Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi, described the attack as ungodly.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Emmanuel Uzor, the governor condoled with the Government of Anambra State and the entire Catholic faithful of Nnewi Catholic Diocese as well as families of those that lost their loved ones, calling for a proper investigation to unravel the true cause of the carnage at the church.
He expressed shock at the level of wickedness exhibited by the unknown gunman.
Umahi said: “This type of wickedness has further opened fresh wounds in our souls and further pointed to the dynamism of human existence. I, on behalf of the good people of Ebonyi State, condemn the wanton killings recorded yesterday in a Church in Anambra State. It shows how wicked our generation is drifting into. The killing of the innocent worshippers is condemnable and I call on security agencies to intensify investigation to unravel the true cause of the carnage.”
The CAN president, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, condemned the attack in a statement yesterday by his media aide, Pastor Bayo Oladeji, and commiserated with the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Obiano and the families of the victims of what he described as unwarranted, senseless and wicked killings.
He said: “What are these silly gunmen here and there turning our nation to be? Whatever may be the reason or reasons for this dastardly act cannot justify this criminal jungle justice. Without a doubt, the act is a madness that all of us must condemn in strong terms.
“I urge the Federal Government through the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, in particular, to address the issue of proliferation of arms and ammunitions so as to make our world safer,” he said.
Ayokunle said the perpetrators must be brought to book without delay, adding: “Enough of these killings in the country.”
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a statement by its spokesman described the attack as barbaric.
It said: “This invasion is indeed barbaric, sacrilegious and a serious indication that our society is fast degenerating into a state of anomie with total moral collapse and utter disregard for the sanctity of human life.
“We sympathize with the Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano and the entire people of the State; and in particular, worshipers of St. Philips Catholic Church and families of the Victims. We wish those injured quick recovery; and may the Souls of the departed rest in the Lord, Amen.
“The killings are a call for moral rearmament by all and sundry. It is also a wake-up call for the government to do more in the area of protection of lives and property”.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) also condemned the Killings, saying it was barbaric.
Its National Publicity Secretary, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, in a statement yesterday commiserated with the Catholic Church in Nigeria and the government and people of Anambra State.
It said: “The APC condemns the barbarism displayed by the callous attackers who gunned down defenceless people while they worshipped.
“The Party calls on security agencies to ensure that the perpetrators of this heinous crime are promptly apprehended and brought to justice.
“The Party also calls on security agents in Anambra as well as other parts of the country to provide adequate security in places of worship to forestall a repeat of this unfortunate incident,” he said.
In its reaction, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) condemned the killings, saying it is a further evidence of the failure of federal policing.
In a statement by its National Coordinator, Mr. Emmanuel Onwubiko, and the National Media Affairs Director, Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA said it was absolutely unacceptable that humongous budgetary releases were made towards maintaining armed security forces in Nigeria but when the occasion called for the operatives to exercise their lawful obligations of safeguarding the lives and property of citizens, they were always found wanting.
“The serial and spectacular inability of Nigeria’s federal police to secure Nigerians all across the length and breadth of the country supports the urgency of now to bring about the state policing institutions to be composed of well trained, well-motivated and well-mobilised police operatives to secure all parts of the country,” it said.