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Owo Killings: Outraged Buhari Mobilises All State Resources to Neutralise Attackers, Curses Them

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In a move unprecedented, outraged President Muhammadu Buhari, has instructed an immediate mobilisation of all state resources, directed to finding and neutralising the criminals, who attacked the St Francis Catholic Church, Owa-luwa Street, Owo Kingdom, in Ondo State, yesterday, and killed scores of people, mostly women and children.

To further underscore the extent of his rage at the unprovoked attack of worshippers, the president also rained curses on the terrorists, who were yet to be identified, saying eternal sorrow awaited them, both on earth and in the hereafter.

Describing the killings as heinous, Buhari, however, maintained that Nigeria would never give in to evil and wicked people, even as he vowed that the country would win eventually.

Also, speaking, the Ondo State Governor, Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, (SAN), who was deeply saddened by the unprovoked attack and killing of innocent people, vowed to go after the attackers and hunt them down.

But the Owo Catholic church, while reacting to the development, said at the point the nation is now in her history, it was time to seek God’s intervention in the affairs of the country.

This is as the Police command in the state, has confirmed there was the use of grenade in the attack, even as they were unable to ascertain the casualty level.

At the same time, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), has called on Nigerians, especially the people of Ondo State, to donate blood in order to help save as many lives as possible.

In view of this, however, more and more eminent Nigerians and prominent bodies, both locally and internationally, have begun to react to the incident, condemning it in the strongest terms possible.

An explosion, yesterday, rocked the St. Francis Catholic Church, Owa-luwa Street, in Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State capital, which was immediately followed by sporadic shootings by gunmen suspected to be terrorists.

The explosion, which occurred on the church premises, left scores dead and many others injured.

An eyewitness, Kehinde Ogunkorode, told THISDAY that the incident caused pandemonium in the area as residents, who were taken by surprise, ran for safety.

When THISDAY visited the scene of the incident, it was observed that the gunmen used dynamites to blow the altar of church while the service was going on.

Parts of the altar POP caved in as the gunmen shot many worshipers

Pool of blood littered the floor of the church as corpses were moved to the Federal Medical Centre and St Louis Catholic Hospital, Owo, as well as those who sustained injuries.

Another eyewitness, Ikechukwu Eze, told THISDAY that, “Immediately I heard gunshots, I smartly escaped through the fence. The gunmen were up to 10 in number,” adding that, security men, who later came to the scene of the incident were chased away by the angry people.

The Catholic Bishop of Ondo, Jude Arogundada, was seen at the scene but refused to speak with Journalists.

To this end, the President, who had put the security on the alert, vowed to track and bring to justice, everyone involved in the attack, promising to set an abiding example with the criminals.

A presidency source, who hinted THISDAY at the situation, said the incident left the president utterly distraught and had said enough of the criminalities, because he would never surrender the state to evil.

Apart from condemning the incident, Buhari, also in a release issued by his Media Adviser, Femi Adesina, said only fiends from the nether region could have conceived and carried out such dastardly act

According to him, “eternal sorrow awaits the perpetrators of the bad act both on earth here, and ultimately in the hereafter.”

President Buhari, however, mourned the dead, condoled with their families, the Catholic Church, and the Government of Ondo State, charging emergency agencies to swing into action, and bring succor to the wounded.

But in submitting, Buhari said, “No matter what, this country shall never give in to evil and wicked people, and darkness will never overcome light. Nigeria will eventually win.

Akeredolu, in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Richard Olatunde, said the vile and satanic attack was a calculated assault on the peace-loving people of Owo Kingdom, who had enjoyed relative peace over the years.

“It is a black Sunday in Owo. Our hearts are heavy. Our peace and tranquility have been attacked by the enemies of the people. This is a personal loss, an attack on our dear state.

“I have spoken to the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ondo, Most Reverend Jude Arogundade, who is presently on his way to Owo. Similarly, I have had to cut short my party’s national assignment in Abuja and visit Owo immediately. This is an unexpected development. I am shocked to say the least.

Nevertheless, the governor has said, he would commit every available resource to hunt down the assailants and make them pay.

“We shall never bow to the machinations of heartless elements in our resolves to rid our state of criminals. I commiserate with my people in Owo, particularly, families of the those who lost their lives to this ugly and unfortunate attack. I extend my condolences to Olowo of Owo, Oba Gbadegesin Ogunoye as well as the Catholic Church.

“I urge our people to remain calm and vigilant. Do not take laws into your hands. I have spoken to the heads of the security agencies. I have equally been assured that security operatives would be deployed to monitor and restore normalcy to Owo kingdom,” Akeredolu said.

On their part, the Catholic church in a statement by the Director of Social Communication at the Catholic Diocese of Ondo, Rev. Fr. Augustine Ikwu, said the attackers stormed the church during the Mass, shooting randomly and leaving unspecified persons dead and others injured.

“It is Pentecost Sunday, a time every Catholic is expected to be in Church to commemorate the solemnity. It is so sad to say that while the Holy Mass was going on, men of unknown origin, wielding guns attacked St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State.

“Many are feared dead and many others injured and the Church violated. The identity of the perpetrators remains unknown while the situation has left the community devastated.”

The church said security agencies have been deployed to the community to relatively handle the situation.

“At this point in the history of our dear country, Nigeria, we need God’s ultimate intervention to restore peace and tranquility,” the statement stated, adding that all the Priests in the parish were safe and none was kidnapped as the social media has it.

“The Bishop of the Diocese is also with them at this trying time. Let us continue to pray for them and the good people of Owo and the state at large. We turn to God to console the families of those whose lives were lost in this distressing incident, and we pray for the departed souls to rest in peace. Amen. The Bishop appeals that we remain calm, be law abiding and pray for peace and normalcy to return to our community, state and country,” it said.

The Ondo State Police Command, which confirmed the attack, in a statement by Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Funmilayo Odunlami, said “the Commissioner of Police, Oyeyemi Oyediran, had deployed men of the Explosives Ordinance Device Unit also known as Anti Bomb Squad to the scene while all efforts were being intensified to arrest those, who perpetrated this evil.

“The Ondo State Police Command is aware of the attack at Owo, we will give you the full details of the incident later. We want to implore the people of the state to be calm as all security apparatus is currently active to ensure peace in this area,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, Nigerians from all walks of life have started to react to the development, and unanimously condemned what a majority of them considered unprovoked attack.

Christian Association of Nigeria:

The leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has condemned the unprovoked attacks and killing of several innocent worshippers at the St Francis Catholic Church, Owa-luwa Street, Owom, and therefore, called on the security agencies to apprehend the perpetrators of the dastardly criminality.

A statement issued by the Media Assistant to the CAN President, Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, described the attack and killing of innocent worshipers as very sad and condemnable.

“This is sad, wrong, condemnable, outrageous, unacceptable and satanic. There is no explanation for this unprovoked attack and assault on a place of worship. This is raw persecution. These people are possessed, demonic and are not working for the good of the country. May God descend heavily on them and fight them mindless agents of Satan from their roots in Jesus’ name.

“We are once again reiterating our quest for a total overhauling of the security architecture and are asking President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the recycling of those criminals and terrorists in the name of de-radicalising programme. If the programme is not counterproductive, how come the criminalities are always on the increase and nowhere is safe again.

“Criminals are operating with impunity all over the country and unfortunately, our government appears to be so busy with the 2023 general election that it has no time for the unending killings in the country. What legacy is the government and those who are the managers of our security architecture leaving behind for the unborn generation?

“We are praying for the government and the security agencies to get it right before it will be too late. If the federal government is not interested in the State Police, what efforts are being put in place to arrest this unpleasant situation?”

While commiserating with all the bereaved, the Olowo of Owo, Oba Gbadegesin Ogunoye, the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) and the Ondo State Government, CAN said, “We call on the state governors to meet with the president to find lasting solution to these killings. Issuing mere press statements of condemnations and what looks like empty threat is apparently not a way out of it.”

Goodluck Jonathan:

Former President Goodluck Jonathan, has condemned Sunday’s deadly attack on a Church in Ondo State, by unknown assailants, which claimed the lives of scores of worshippers and charged the security agents to be swift in their efforts to apprehend the criminals and make them pay for their actions.

Jonathan, who stated this in a condolence message to the government and people of Ondo State, said, “I offer my heartfelt condolences to the victims, their families, the entire congregation of Saint Francis Catholic Church, in Owo as well as the Government and people of Ondo State.”

While denouncing the “brutal killing in cold blood of innocent worshippers by mindless outlaws, out to cause havoc and mayhem in the society,” Jonathan further decried the nefarious activities of murderous criminals in the country and urged security agencies to go after them, adding that all efforts should be made to apprehend and bring them to justice.

Atiku Abubakar:

Former Vice-President and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has condemned the terrorist attack in Owo, Ondo State, that resulted in the loss of scores of lives.

Atiku, in a statement by his Media Adviser, Paul Ibe, condemned in the strongest terms, the attack and any such attack on a worship centre as unacceptable.

“Any attack on innocent citizens, indeed of a gathering of worshippers in any place in Nigeria, stands condemned; it is a red line,” Atiku said, said, adding: “My prayers are with the people of Owo, especially, families of the deceased. I do hope that the state government and relevant security agencies will leave no stones unturned in apprehending the criminals.”

Bola Tinubu:

A former governor of Lagos State and presidential hopeful, Bola Tinubu, said the attack was reprehensible in every sense of the word, because there was no place for such hatred and wanton taking of innocent lives in the nation.

“No one can discern the darkness in the mind of those that would kill people, who were merely engaged in the harmless practice of their faith. The only thing that can be said for sure is that these perpetrators are evil and that they should be subjected to the full measure of the law and justice.

“This violent attack has shocked the conscience of the nation and shattered the peace of this ancient town. It has saddened our hearts beyond what words can say. However, those who did this have made a terrible mistake.

“They think they can break our collective spirit and our will to live in peace and with compassion to all regardless of faith. What they have done will not pull us apart. We must unite so that together we extinguish this evil from our nation. We owe it to ourselves and to those who lost their lives in this heinous attack.”

Kayode Fayemi:

Ekiti State Governor and presidential aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr Kayode Fayemi, has condemned the attack in Owo, saying it was vile, barbaric and callous, and that there could never be any justification for the heinous behaviour of the assailants.

In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Yinka Oyebode, the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), also commiserated with the Governor of Ondo State, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), the people of Ondo State over the sad incident.

He urged security agencies in the state to ensure that the perpetrators of the crime were apprehended and made to face the full wrath of the law, even as he tasked them to remain vigilant.

Peoples Democratic Party:

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, condemned the gruesome terrorist attack and killing of over scores of innocent worshippers during a church service at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State.

In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, the PDP said it was alarmed by reports of how the terrorists invaded the church, opened fire on worshippers, freely used explosives within the premises, murdered Nigerians in cold blood and left unchallenged.

“Today’s attack on St. Francis Church appears to be a part in the series of apparently organised assaults by terrorists, who are emboldened by the alleged complicity of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration, which has refused to confront the terrorists despite being aware of their plans as exposed by the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai at the wake of recent terrorist attacks on Kaduna State.

“It is now obvious that the APC administration is deliberately surrendering the sovereignty of a large portion of the territory of our nation to terrorists, who are now expanding their reign of terror and territorial occupation in our country.”, the PDP lamented

Nigerian Medical Association

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), has appealed to the people of Ondo State and Nigerians in general, to donate blood to save lives of surviving victims of the Owo attack.

President of NMA, Dr. Uche Ojinma, who made the appeal in a statement, said the association received with sadness, the news of the wanton killing of innocent Nigerians and abduction of some citizens at Owo in Ondo State by gunmen.

“The recurrent shedding of innocent blood in our dear country, has been going on for far too long and it is the position of the NMA that explanations, condemnations and reassurances are no longer comforting.

“The NMA hereby calls for quick intervention by our Governments and security agencies to protect the lives and properties of Nigerians in every part of this nation. The NMA commiserates with the Government and good people of Ondo State over the loss of lives and prays for the quick recovery of those injured.

“We appeal to Nigerians in the affected area of Ondo State to kindly go to the hospitals, where the injured are being treated to donate blood to save lives. We call on all doctors in Ondo State and the environs to mobilise themselves to participate in the treatment of the injured. NMA also calls for the release in good health of those abducted. Let’s all join hands to build a safe and secure Nigeria.”

British High Commission:

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, has reacted to the incident via her verified Twitter account, where she condemned the attack and extended her sympathies to the victims and their families.

She tweeted: “Terrible news today from Owo in Ondo State. I condemn those responsible for this horrific crime. I extend my sympathies to all those affected.”

Ahmad Lawan:

The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has condemned the heinous killings of innocent worshippers by terrorists and described the callous attack as shocking and reprehensible.

“My heart goes out to the families of the victims, the Government and entire people of Ondo State. This incident should be painstakingly investigated to unravel the criminals behind it with a view to quickly bringing them to justice.

“It is another wake up call on all security agencies to up their game with a view to averting the occurrence of such incidents in future,” Lawan said.

Sadiya Umar Farouq:

Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, has condemned in its entirety, the killing of worshippers at St Francis Catholic Church, Owa-luwa Street, Owo Kingdom, in Ondo State.

Umar Farouq, who described the murder as cold blooded, evil and horrific, commiserated with the families of the dead, the Catholic Church, the people and Government of Ondo State.

“This killing is horrific and mindless. The killing of many worshippers inside St Francis Church on a Sunday morning is condemnable. A lot of men, women, young girls and children had their lives snuffed out during a church service in Owo. I mourn with their families and state government as well as the church. We pray for the repose of their souls.”

Abubakar Bukola Saraki:

Former Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has commiserated with the people of Owo Kingdom, the Olowo of Owo, Oba Ajibade Ogunoye, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, the government, and people of Ondo State following terrorists’ attack at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo.

In a statement by Yusuph Olaniyonu, head of his Media Office, Saraki, who urged the security agents to get to work quickly and arrest the terrorists behind the incident, noted that the incident, being the home state of his mother, Chief (Mrs) Florence Saraki, was a sad indication that the terrorists, who have unleashed violence on the northern parts of the country in the past few years, were spreading their evil tentacles to the western part and should be decisively contained before they further entrench themselves.

While condemning the attack on a place of worship, where members of the congregation usually submit themselves totally to their maker and seek protection from God, the ultimate protector, Saraki added that the security agencies must wholesomely adopt the use of technology in fighting the terrorists and that strategic intelligence gathering, processing, and usage must be given priority in protecting the people against the non-state actors waging war against the country.

Rotimi Amaechi:

Presidential hopeful on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has condemned the attack and killing of innocent worshippers at a church in Owo, Ondo State.

Amaechi, in a statement by his media office, commiserated with the affected families, St Francis Xavier Catholic Church, the people of Owo Kingdom and the people and Government of Ondo State, calling the sad event, “a terrible, absolutely vile and senseless murder of innocent citizens.

“I feel so sad and livid that these criminals are so emboldened to carry out these barbaric attacks on the people in broad day light. Our security agencies have to put heads together and smoke out these monsters and ensure they are punished, immobilized and totally flushed out. They must also in partnership with our government, step up intelligence and work round the clock to nip such acts of terror in the bud.”

Peter Obi:

Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party and former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, has expressed shock over the terror attack that rocked Ondo State, in which many lives were reportedly lost, describing it as a very sad day in the history of the nation.

In a press release, Obi lamented the continued descent of the country into insecurity and failure of the state. He bemoaned the mindless killing of innocent worshippers, saying it was heart-breaking.

“The heartless waste of precious lives at Ondo, today, and indeed other parts of the country, where lives are lost in droves, reminds us how awfully we have retrogressed as a nation, and the herculean task, of nation building, ahead of us, in taking back our nation from insecurity and every form of failure holding us down,” Obi lamented.

Nigeria Governors’ Forum

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has expressed its deepest sympathies to the Owo community, the government and people of Ondo State and the country in general following the attack on worshippers at the St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo in Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State in which scores of people were reportedly killed

The NGF, in a statement condemned the attack as gory, ugly, and a gruesome act by extremely wicked and warped minds meted out to innocent victims on a holy day.

The governors, however, in the spirit of all faiths, prayed for the deceased and asked that God forgive and grant them mercy. “As Governors, on our oath, we solemnly pledge to work with Mr President, all citizens and residents of our dear Country, Nigeria to assure you of a fully secure environment. Our goal is to halt brutalities, address unresolved criminal acts and ensure all killers are ultimately brought to face the consequences of their actions.”

Civil Society Organisations:

A coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), yesterday, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to live up to his responsibility as president and halt the spiralling criminalities in the country.

The civil society groups also sought the investigation of the allegations by the Methodist Church Prelate that military personnel were complicit in the spate of kidnappings in the South-east.

Members of the coalition include Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre, Lagos, African Centre for Entrepreneurship and Information Development, Abuja, COMPPART Foundation for Justice and Peacebuilding, International Peace and Civic Responsibility Centre, Young Innovators and Vocational Training Initiative and Ace and Vanguard Legal Practitioners among others.

A statement issued by the coalition also demanded the investigation of a trending video, where a police officer alleged that military personnel in the South-east were frustrating the efforts of other security agencies to contain kidnapping in the region.

“The primary duty of government is the security of life and property. Therefore, we call on President Muhammadu Buhari to rise up to his duty as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and to ensure that the growing security challenges are addressed,” it said.

Olusegun Mimiko, Ondo CAN:

Former governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, has condemned the gunmen attack on unarmed worshipers at St Francis Catholic Church Owa-luwa, Owo in Ondo State.

Mimiko, in a statement by John Paul Akinduro, his Special Assistant on Media and Digital Communications, said, “the Owo massacre is a condemnable act and it assaults our humanity and bludgeons our sensibilities”

In the same vein, the Christian Association of Nigeria, Ondo State Chapter, has expressed shock over the act, describing the incident as ungodly.

The State Chairman of CAN, Rev Fr. Anselm Ologunwa, in a statement said, the incident was one of the numerous cases happening under the security challenges facing the country, which he called on president Muhammad Buhari to address squarely.

Afenifere:

A pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, has described the attack on a Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State on Sunday morning, as a terrorism act against the South western part of Nigeria bordering on a declaration of war!

The group, therefore, called on all the six governors in the South West of Nigeria to declare three days of mourning for the victims of the Owo carnage.

Afenifere, in a release signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Jare Ajayi, said it was in the same vicinity, Owo, that Olufunke, daughter of its Leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, was killed by Fulani bandits in 2019 just as many other acts bordering on terrorism got daily reported in Ondo State and other parts of Yorubaland.

“The attack with sophisticated weapons, where people gathered to worship is one of the most heinous acts that could ever be committed especially since we are not in a state of war. Going by the extent of the damage and the systematic way that the massacre-like action was carried out, it was clear that the act was planned far ahead with the seeming imprimatur of trained gunmen.”

Babajide Sanwo-Olu:

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has commiserated with his Ondo State counterpart, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi (SAN) and the State Government, over the attack and killings of worshippers at St. Francis Catholic Church at Owa-luwa Street, Owo in Ondo State by unknown gunmen on Sunday.

Sanwo-Olu, who described the attack as callous, inhuman and despicable act, also sympathised with the people of Ondo State, especially, the residents of Owo, Governor Akeredolu’s hometown and members of the St. Francis Catholic Church, Owa-luwa.

Sanwo-Olu in a condolence message issued on Sunday by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Gboyega Akosile, condemned the attack by the gunmen, saying it was crime against humanity to open fire on worshippers on Sunday morning killing scores of people.

“Attacking a congregation and shedding innocent blood during a divine service in the temple of God is condemnable as it is a crime against humanity. It is barbaric, callous and despicable crime for any man to attack and kill worshippers or any fellow man in a manner the yet-to-be-identified gunmen carried out the heinous crime in the Catholic church on this morning,” he said.

Anyim Pius Anyim:

Former President of the Senate, Anyim Pius Anyim, has condemned the massacre of Christians by gunmen at the St Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, saying the killing of the worshippers during Sunday service was despicable, callous, as well as an assault on humanity and desecration of the Church of God.

In a statement in Abuja, Anyim wondered why the evil men could enter into the sacred House of God to kill innocent and defenceless worshippers, who had gone to commune with their Creator.

“I cannot understand why these evil men would carry out this dastardly act against defenceless citizens, who had gone to the Holy Temple of the Lord Almighty to commune with their creator. I call on the Ondo State Government and all the Security Agencies to go after these criminals, fish them out and make them face the law for the mindless murder of innocent citizens,” Anyim charged.

Gani Adams:

The Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba land, Iba Gani Adams, has condemned the attack on worshippers of Owo Catholic Church, saying the incident was ungodly and capable of threatening the foundation and existence of Nigeria.

Adams, who in a statement, described the perpetrators of the gory attack as evil, and said they had sinned against God and should be ready to face the wrath of the most high God, expressed concern on the spate of insecurity across the country, and insisted that the federal government, had failed in its efforts to secure the country, wondering why it has become a crime to go the church to worship.

“Cases of Boko Haram and bandits and other criminal elements always attacking churches and mosques have simply shown the failures of the government. It has also exposed the crass incompetence of Nigeria’s leaders and the security apparatus.”

Culled from THISDAY

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