The Sunday attack by some gunmen on St. Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu, in the Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State, during which no fewer than 11 worshippers were killed, has attracted strong condemnation from Nigerians and groups.
President Muhammadu Buhari, the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State; the All Progressives Congress; the Peoples Democratic Party; and the South-East Governors’ Forum said the act was sacrilegious, calling for prompt action to bring the culprits to book.
The gunmen attacked St. Philips Catholic Church at about 6am.
No fewer than 11 persons were said to have been killed, while over 18 people were reportedly injured.
Our correspondents gathered that two sons of the community, who were based in South Africa, had a business transaction that went sour.
One of them was said to have built two churches for the community, including the one that was attacked on Sunday.
A police source said about six gunmen came to the church, while one entered into the building.
He said, “We received reports that over 30 Ozubulu indigenes based in South Africa had been killed over a disagreement between a man, identified as bishop, and his fellow Ozobulu indigene. It was said that the feud concerned a failed business deal.
“We understand that some gunmen had been after bishop and his men in South Africa and about seven of bishop’s men had been killed.
“At about 6am this morning (Sunday), some men invaded St. Philip Catholic Church.
“As of 9am, 11 persons were already dead, including the father of the man that allegedly built the church.
“The men killed the father since the son is elusive.”
Another source told one of our correspondents that the gunmen identified a particular car parked on the church premises and concluded that their target was in the church.
The Catholic Church where unknown gunmen killed 11 persons and injured 18 others at Ozubulu, Ekwusigo L.G.A of Anambra State… on Sunday. Photo: NAN
“They arrived at the church during the first mass and one of them went inside; he started shooting towards the direction he believed the father was seated. He shot indiscriminately and many bullets hit innocent members of the congregation. He also hit their target – bishop’s father.
“No fewer than 18 worshippers were injured; and I am sure that about 11 persons were killed.”
He said the injured worshippers were rushed to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital, Nnewi, while corpses were taken to a “nearby mortuary.”
He said the six gunmen left the church unchallenged.
The Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Garba Umar, said the command would bring the attackers to justice.
Umar, who spoke at a news conference in Awka on Sunday, said the police had a record of 11 deaths, while 18 persons were injured.
He ruled out the possibility of a terror attack, adding that the command had invited some suspects.
He said, “The intelligence report and preliminary investigation showed that the incident was as a result of a feud between two individuals from the same community living outside Nigeria.
“One of the individuals built the church where the shooting occurred; it is not a terrorist attack.”
The Catholic Diocese of Nnewi, Anambra State, said the attack was regrettable.
The church in a statement by the Director of Communications for the Diocese, Rev. Hygi Aghaulor, said the Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Jude Onwuaso, escaped unhurt.
It read in part, “What on earth would make people open fire on innocent unarmed worshippers, including children and women, on a Sunday morning?
“We condemn this ungodly act in its totality. For the parishioners, we call on them not to be discouraged in their practice of faith.”
The Anambra State governor, who visited the church, described the act as a sacrilege and unacceptable.
Obiano promised to offset the medical bills of injured victims, adding that the government would find ways to mitigate the pains of those who lost their beloved ones.
He said, “The Anambra State will not rest until the perpetrators of the killings are brought to justice.
“Intelligence report linked the shooting to an existing feud between some members of Umuezekwe Ofufe Amakwa community living abroad.
“It is an isolated case and I urge residents to go about their normal activities.”
He also said 50 doctors had been mobilised to the hospital to assist in providing medical care.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the governor also visited Our Lady of Assumption Catholic Cathedral, Nnewi, where he addressed a congregation of worshippers.
The Parish Priest of St. Philip’s Catholic Church, Rev. Fr. Jude Onwuaso, told NAN that the attack took place at about 6.30am.
He said, “An unidentified man came into the church, shot at a man, Chief Akunwafor Ikegwuonwu, before shooting indiscriminately at other worshippers.”
It’s unspeakable sacrilege –Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday condemned the Anambra Catholic church attack.
In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President described the incident as “an appalling crime against humanity and unspeakable sacrilege.
“This kind of atrocity plumbs the depth of depravity and extreme cruelty of the kind that words cannot adequately express.”
According to the President, there is no religion that does not lay constant emphasis on the sanctity of life, adding that “all Nigerians must rise up and speak with one voice against these remorseless evil men.”
One of our correspondents reports that Buhari spoke on Sunday on the telephone with Obiano.
Shehu disclosed this in another statement.
“The President has just finished speaking to Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State, in the course of which he commiserated with him, the families of the victims and the citizens of the state,” the statement said.
Saraki, Ekweremadu lament killings
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said the act was evil.
Saraki in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, said killing of the worshippers represented “the purest kind of evil.”
He said, “This brutal act of attacking innocent worshippers represents the purest kind of evil.
“Our security forces must not stop until those involved in execution of the massacre are brought to book.’’
Ekweremadu, in a separate statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Uche Anichukwu, said the attack was “beastly and sacrilegious.”
While describing the day as a black Sunday, the Deputy Senate President called on security agencies to fish out the killers.
He said, “However, this dastardly act brings to the fore, once again, the need to reengineer our security system, to arrest the rising wave of violent crimes in the country.”
Insecurity reducing Nigeria to the state of nature –Dogara
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, described the attack as abominable and the height of wickedness.
In a statement by the Speaker’s Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Turaki Hassan, Dogara said, “Have we lost our humanity? Where is the place of sanctity of life and sacredness of worship places in our society? What offence did the worshippers commit to warrant their massacre by wicked souls and heartless men?”
The Speaker reiterated his call for the overhaul of Nigeria’s policing architecture that would lead to reform of the police force, adding that equipping the police with modern gadgets would allow them to discharge their duties of protecting lives and property effectively.
Mindless attack taken too far–Okowa
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State described the attack as mindless.
Okowa said it was condemnable for anyone to take his anger on a church which was supposed to be a place of refuge.
A statement by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Charles Aniagwu, noted that the tragic incident was unwarranted.
The statement said the attack was a desecration of the temple of God, adding that the Church should be a place of refuge and devoid of attacks even in war.
He said, “This unwarranted attack and mindless bloodletting is not only wicked, but barbaric and must be condemned by all good men of conscience.”
PDP condemns killings
The Peoples Democratic Party on Sunday said it was in shock over the attack.
The party, in a statement by its spokesman, Dayo Adeyeye, described the invasion as barbaric 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.”
Adeyeye said the killings was a call for moral rearmament by all and sundry, adding that it was a wake-up call for the government to do more in the area of protection of lives and property.
It is barbaric, says APC
The All Progressives Congress said on Sunday that the attack was barbaric.
The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, called on security agencies to ensure that the perpetrators “of this heinous crime are brought to justice.’’
“The APC condemns the barbarism displayed by the callous attackers who gunned down defenceless people while they worshiped,” the statement added.
Abdullahi also called 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.”
S/East govs forum demands probe
The South-East Governors Forum on Sunday demanded a “proper investigation” into the attack on the Catholic Church.
The Chairman of the forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, in a statement said a proper investigation must be conducted to unravel the true cause of the carnage.
He said, “I, on behalf of the South-East Governors Forum, condemn the killings recorded in the church, It shows how wicked our generation is. I call on security agencies to unravel the true cause of the carnage.”
Address proliferation of arms –CAN
The Christian Association of Nigeria also condemned the killings.
CAN President, Dr Supo Ayokunle, said the attack was unwarranted and urged security agencies to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Ayokunle in a statement, said, “I urge the Federal Government, through the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to address the issue of proliferation of arms and ammunition to make our world safer.
“The perpetrators of this ungodly act must be brought to book without delay.”
Also, the youth wing of CAN blamed the attack on lapses in security.
The National President of YOWICAN, Daniel Kadzai, in a statement, said, “This attack was made possible as a result of what we consider a deliberate shirking of responsibilities by the state security agencies.
“We demand the arrest of perpetrators of this terrorist-style crime within the next 48 hours. If the state security apparatuses do not stand up to this challenge, YOWICAN will have no choice but to take up this matter using a much strenuous approach.’’
Anambra people condemn killings
Some residents and indigenes of Anambra State have condemned the attack.
NAN reports that Chief Osita Chidoka, a former Minister of Aviation, said he was saddened by the incident.
He said, “This is tragic; the church is a place of refuge to anyone who runs into it. This attack shows that something has gone wrong on our psyche.”
A former Secretary to the Anambra Government, Mr. Oseloka Obaze, said the attack “dehumanised the society.”
In his reaction, Dr Victor Oye, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, said that no amount of provocation could justify the killing of innocent people in a church.
Chief Jude Emecheta, who hails from Ozubulu and was an eye witness, told NAN that “a dark cloud has befallen my peaceful town”.
Emecheta, who is the Managing Director of Anambra Signage and Advertisement Agency, said, “There was pandemonium and in the midst of the confusion, I just lay down on the floor. The officiating priest and the Mass servers quickly left the altar and the Mass came to an abrupt end.
“Those of us who were to say the prayers of the faithful had just assembled at the altar. Suddenly, I saw someone who put on a cap shooting indiscriminately inside the church. I counted 11 dead people and many were wounded.”