Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, and Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, yesterday, joined the growing number of individuals and groups that have condemned Sunday’s heinous attack on St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State. They described the massacre of over 50 worshippers at the church during Sunday service as a crime against humanity and a grievous and inexplicable sin.
The Nigeria Police, yesterday, said they had launched a manhunt for the killers. The police confirmed that the terrorists used AK 47 rifles and explosives in the attack on the church.
The vice president, Professor Yemi Osibanjo, and presidential aspirant and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, commiserated with the Ondo State governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, the people of the state, and the Catholic Diocese over the attack.
Reacting to the attack, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) asked the federal government to wake up from its slumber and mobilise security agencies to tackle criminal elements causing mayhem across the country head-on.
An explosion rocked the Catholic Church on Sunday, which was immediately followed by sporadic shootings by gunmen suspected to be terrorists. Over 50 worshippers and passers-by died in the incident, with many more injured.
The Archbishop of Canterbury wrote in his verified Twitter handle, “The massacre of worshippers – men, women and children – during a Mass in South-west Nigeria was an act of pure evil and a profound offence to God. My prayers are with all affected by this barbaric attack. I continue to pray for the nation of Nigeria.”
The Sultan of Sokoto’s condemnation of the attack was contained in a statement issued yesterday by the NSCIA Director of Administration, Zubairu Haruna Usman-Ugwu.
The statement reiterated the Islamic council’s absolute solidarity with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Catholic community and the government and people of Ondo State. The Sultan also commiserated with the families of the victims of the attack, “at this time of immeasurable agony and distress.”
He tasked all peoples of faith to take the attack on the Catholic Church as a direct attack on all law-abiding citizens, asking them to be in the vanguard of efforts to halt the evil assailing the life, property and integrity of humanity, particularly believers in God.
He also urged all sub-national governments to issue an ultimatum to the security agencies to unravel the identities of the perpetrators of the violation of sanctity of not only life, but also religion, and bring them to justice.
The Sultan said in the statement, “The security agents, who have been engaged to combat criminality and insecurity, are enjoined to heed the Qur’anic call that: …For had it not been that God checks one set of people by means of another; monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, wherein the name of God is persistently mentioned would surely have been pulled down.
“Verily, God will help those who help His (Cause). Truly, God is All-Strong, All-Mighty. (Q 22: 40). It is therefore mandatory for security agencies to help in rescuing the helpless citizens that we have all become.”
Police Launch Manhunt for Killers, as IG Condemns Dastardly Act
The police high command declared a manhunt for the killers of the worshippers on Sunday in Ondo State. It confirmed that the terrorists deployed AK 47 rifles and explosives in the massacre of the church members. The police also disclosed that they recovered pellets of AK 47 rifles and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) at the scene of the mass murder.
A statement from the Force Headquarters said the police recovered pellets of expended AK-47 ammunition and confirmed the use of explosives, as fragments of the IEDs used were found after thorough sweeping of the scene. It said preliminary investigation revealed that some of the gunmen disguised as congregants, while other armed men positioned themselves around the church premises from different directions from where they fired into the church.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Usman Baba, who condemned the act, ordered full-scale investigation into the incident to bring to book the perpetrators.
The police statement said, “The Inspector-General of Police, IGP Usman Alkali Baba, has condemned in all totality the brutal murder of innocent Nigerians in an attack on St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Owaluwa, in Owo, Ondo State. The attack was carried out by yet-to-be-identified gunmen at about 11.30am on Sunday 5th June, 2022.
“The gunmen, from preliminary investigations, invaded the church with arms and materials suspected to be explosives.
“Police investigators, who were part of the first responders deployed to the scene, have recovered pellets of expended AK-47 ammunition while the Explosive Ordnance Devices – Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Explosives (EOD-CBRNE) unit – confirmed the use of explosives as fragments of the IEDs used were found and after thorough sweeping of the scene, three unexploded IEDs were recovered at the scene of the incident.”
The statement signed by Force Public Relations Officer, Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), Mr. Olumuyiwa Adejobi, added, “The assailants fled the scene using a Nissan Sunny car with Reg No. AKR 895 AG, which was snatched from the owner, and escaped through Owo/Ute road. The vehicle has been recovered while the owner of the vehicle is currently assisting the police in its investigations.
“The IGP has ordered full-scale investigations into the incident in order to bring to book the perpetrators of the gruesome killing of the worshippers at the church.”
The statement affirmed that the IG also ordered the deployment of specialised operatives of the Police EOD-CBRNE, police experts, and other tactical units from the Force Headquarters for a comprehensive investigation and for immediate interception of the villains.
The IG, therefore, condoled with Ondo State Government, family members, relatives and friends of those, who lost their lives in the attack.
He assured that “the heartless killers of the harmless victims, particularly, innocent children, would be made to face the full wrath of the law while the force will emplace strategies to forestall similar future occurrences,” the statement said.
Osinbajo, Tinubu, Fayemi, Makinde, Amosun Commiserate with Akeredolu, Olowo, NGF Donates N50m to Catholic Diocese
Osibanjo and Tinubu yesterday commiserated with the Ondo State governor, the people of the state, and the Catholic Church over the attack.
Osinbajo, while addressing journalists at the scene of the incident, said, “Let me say that I am completely speechless, looking at the extent of the tragedy that took place here yesterday (Sunday). I think the evil is almost unspeakable and horrible, indeed.
“I think it is just terrible and I’m here on behalf of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as the government to express our sincere condolences to the church and the people of Owo community and the people of Ondo State.
“It is a horrible tragedy and I don’t think anyone will wish this to their worst enemies. It is also a time for us to reflect deeply on our relationship with one another.”
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) also paid a condolence visit to the state.
Chairman of NGF and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, visited Akeredolu at the Government House, Akure. Former Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, accompanied Fayemi.
Fayemi and Amosun were later led by Akeredolu to the residence of the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ondo, Bishop Jude Arogundade, before moving to Owo to commiserate with the Olowo of Owo, Oba Gbadegesin Ogunoye, in his palace.
Fayemi, who described the attack as least expected, stated that Owo had been a very peaceful environment.
Fayemi said, “It is a serious and unusual attack on the people who can’t go out and farm or worship God in peace. We are all shocked. Just like the governor said, these people shall not go unpunished. They will be hunted down and brought to book. But this cannot save the lives that have been lost or save the wounded from discomfort.
“As leaders of the people, we will redouble our efforts. This is happening across the county and we are concerned. We know how troubled you will be. And we know that this is something that troubles our minds.
“For now, the government at the state and federal levels are working to bring the perpetrators to book. My colleagues in the governors’ forum have asked me to donate N50 million to the Catholic Church to ameliorate the condition of the families of the victims. This is a crime against humanity.”
Arogundade described the attack as evil. He urged the governors to ensure that those behind the killing and their sponsors were brought to book.
The bishop stated, “I appreciate your coming and comments. How did we get here? Have we lost our mind and humanity? Even in war situation, nobody kills children and women. Nobody attacks the church.
“I am calling on you, the leaders of the country, I think we need to talk and we need to be frank with ourselves. This cannot happen without the backing of some powerful people. Those behind this, no matter how powerful they are, must be brought to book.
“How are we presenting ourselves as primitive. Ondo State doesn’t deserve this; humanity doesn’t deserve this. This doesn’t present us well. People are laughing at us.”
Northern Governors Condemn Attack
The Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF) condemned the attack on worshippers at St. Francis Catholic Church Owo, Ondo State, which over 50 persons dead and others injured.
Chairman of the forum and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, said in a statement signed by his media aide, Simon Macham, that NSGF totally condemned the unprovoked attack on the Church and its worshippers. The statement said the attack was a clear attempt by criminals to instigate religious hatred and inflame passions among Nigerians.
While commiserating with the survivors, families of victims, the Catholic Church, and the Christian body in Nigeria, Lalong said the northern governors wanted security agencies to do everything to apprehend the perpetrators, their sponsors, and collaborators. This, he said, would not only ensure that justice was served, but also send a clear message to criminals bent on causing chaos in the country.
The governor added that the northern governors were in solidarity with their colleague, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, and the government of Ondo State.