Obinna Ezugwu |
Tragedy struck in the early hours of yesterday (Sunday) in Amankwo Community, Ozubulu town, Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra as a group of unidentified, masked gunmen invaded St. Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu and shot dead at least eleven worshipers and injured many others, some in critical condition.
Eyewitness accounts said the gunmen went into the church during the 6am mass, identified a particular man and shot him before turning their gun on other worshippers numbering not less than 100.
Both the dead and the injured had since been moved to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital, Nnewi.
The State Commissioner of Police, Mr Garba Umar, who confirmed the incident explained that preliminary investigations by the force showed that the attack was carried out by a native of the community.
“From our findings, it is very clear that the person who carried the attack must be an indigene of the area.
“We gathered that worshippers for 6 o’clock Sunday mass at St. Philip Ozobulu were in the service when a gunman dressed in black attire covering his face with a cap entered the church and moved straight to a particular direction and opened fire.
“The man after shooting at his targeted victims still went on a shooting spree, killing and wounding other worshippers,’’ Umar said.
He further noted that the attacker was speaking fluent Igbo Language, dismissing earlier suggestions that it may have been carried out by Boko Haram terrorists.
The State governor, Chief Willie Obiano who visited the scene of the incident and later addressed residents of the state, also suggested that the attack was carried out by sons of the community, and was a case between two of the community’s sons who live abroad.
“I want to reassure everybody that from the preliminary investigation and briefings I received from the police, this is an isolated case; it is a case between two members of Amankwo community who are living outside Nigeria,” he said.
“It is a tragedy that they had to carry the case to the church and innocent people were killed and injured.”
He promised that his government will take care of the hospital bill of the injured while assuring that the perpetrators must be brought to book.
“We are not going to relent until we bring whoever perpetuated this heinous crime to book.”
Business Hallmark learnt that the attack was as a result of a rift between two sons of the community based in South Africa, which had dragged for about three years.
It was revealed that not less than 30 people had been killed in South Africa as a result of the case over the past three years and that one of the principal actors, one Alloysius Ikegwuonu alias Bishop who now spends most of his time in Nigeria was the key target of the attack.
It was also learnt that there had been calls for the community leaders as well as the church to intervene in the conflict, but nothing was done.
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara has condemned the attack, describing it as “abominable, barbaric, inhuman, and the height of wickedness.”
In a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Turaki Hassan, the Speaker said his heart is broken by the sad news of the massacre of innocent worshippers in cold blood, and questioned if humanity had been lost.
“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 in cold blood by wicked souls and heartless men?” he lamented.
He called on security agencies to fish out perpetrators of the crime and bring them to justice as speedily as possible.
Similarly, a pro-democracy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has condemned the attack while knocking security agencies for failing to protect the lives of innocent worshippers, and other coordinated attacks in the state.
In a statement by its National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, the group said it was unacceptable that humongous budgetary releases are made towards maintaining armed security forces in Nigeria but when the occasion calls for the operatives to exercise their lawful obligations of safeguarding the lives and property of citizens they are found wanting.
“HURIWA hereby condemn this atrocious and primitive attack targeting these soft targets as an outrageous and barbaric act which must not go unpunished. Government must wake up from slumber and play its legal duty of protecting the lives and property of the Nigerian citizens,” the statement read.
“We in the Human Rights community are indeed shocked and disappointed that with all the security votes spent in buying vehicles for the Nigeria Police and other security forces that this type of brazenly murderous atrocities can happen and the perpetrators were neither stopped from carrying out their dastardly crime nor were they arrested so as to prosecute and punish them severely for these grave crime against humanity. Anambra State governor must ensure that those who planned and executed this massacre in Ozubulu are arrested, prosecuted swiftly and decisively punished to serve as deterrent. By the way why is Anambra state not secured additionally by armed vigilante similar to the civilian joint task force that exists in some states even when billions are expended as security votes yearly?”.