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Catholic church tackles South East governors over herdsmen

By Chinedu Adonu

ENUGU—THE governors of the five South East states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo have now become the butt of criticisms from the church and some rights groups over the poor handling of the crises arising from the incessant attacks by Fulani herdsmen on the people of the area.

Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State
Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State

Herdsmen armed with sophisticated weapons had consistently attacked unarmed farmers in both their farms and houses without the governors condemning the attacks or even meeting to speak with one voice over the issue.

However, Enugu State which was most affected has lost about 43 innocent souls following the attack on Nimbo in Uzo Uwani Local Government Area, Atakwu in Akegbe Ugwu and Umuleshi in Awgu Local Government Area.

However, the latest second major attack at Nkpologu/ Nimbo axis of Enugu which led to the kidnap of a Catholic Church priest, Emmanuel Dim and the shooting of two  other priests Rev. Frs. Jude Chukwuneke and Jude Ezeokana who were in the same vehicle with him, opened the floodgate of condemnations of the governors whom the people said had abandoned their basic roles of providing security for lives and property as the chief security officers of their states.

Addressing reporters at the Assumption Cathedral, Nnewi, Director of Communication in the diocese, Rev. Fr. Hyginus Aghaulor, alleged that suspected Fulani herdsmen, armed with AK47 rifles attacked and kidnapped the Rector of Tansi Major Seminary, Rev. Fr. Dim adding that the kidnappers had called and demanded N2.5 million ransom for his release.

Aghaulor however, said the “Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, has directed that ransom should not be paid for any of the church’s kidnapped priest pointing out that anybody waiting for payment of ransom for the release of any priest kidnapped was wasting his time.”

According to him, “anybody or group of persons waiting for the payment of ransom for the release of any priest were on their own.” In a statement entitled: “Fulani Herdsmen kidnaps Rector of Tansi Major Seminary, Onitsha, demands for ransom” the church further said the incident happened on September 25, 2016, around 7pm along Nkpologwu/Nimbo Road in Enugu State.

The statement read, “The three Catholic priests were returning from Nsukka to Onitsha and Nnewi respectively, after a condolence visit to Rev. Fr. Uchenna Ezeh of Nsukka Diocese who lost his mother, when they were attacked and Rev. Fr. Dim was kidnapped while the other two priests escaped with bullet wounds.

“While Rev. Fr. Dim is still being held by the herdsmen kidnappers who are demanding a ransom of N2.5 million, Rev. Fr. Ezeokana, who lectures in both Fr. Tansi Major Seminary Onitsha and Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, received treatment briefly at a hospital in Nsukka, but is now nursing his wounds at Awka his home Diocese.

“Rev. Fr. Chukwuemeka, who is the Chaplin of St Camillus de Lellis Chaplaincy, Collage of Health Science, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nnewi, who was shot on the head has been transferred from Memphis Specialist Hospital Enugu to Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi, where he is presently receiving treatment

“Another Catholic priest Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ugwu was kidnapped on August 9, 2014 along Ugwuogo-Nike-Opi and a few weeks ago a senior seminarian was killed in cold blood in Attakwu, Enugu State, and one begins to wonder if Catholic priest have become endangered species.”

A visibly angry Aghaulor lashed out at the South East Governors for doing nothing to protect people they are governing, “while their counterparts in the North are influencing the Federal Government in spending billions of naira to contain the Boko Haram insurgents, when something more worrisome and sinister than the activities of Boko Haram is being done in South East by the Fulani Herdsmen.

“The South East Governors and their Chairman have done nothing to protect the people of South East, the Enugu State Governor whose state is where the menacing activities of the herdsmen is worst and the state legislators have not done anything to protect the people there, they should borrow a leaf from Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State.

“We are in a federalism, and each state have the right to make certain law governing them, what prevents Enugu State government from making laws that can protect the people there? Governors of South East and their state Assemblies should make laws that will protect their people.”

Rev. Fr. Aghaulor lamented that since Nigeria, came into being, nobody has seen the levels of killing that are being  perpetrated by the Fulani herdsmen, adding that “while innocent people are left unprotected, we have seen a barrage of military wares and personnel protecting the pipelines in Niger Delta, as if oil is more important than people’s lives. Why should people be killed without provocation in their own traditional lands?

“We are asking the government for how long would this continue, is this the type of country we all signed up for, is this part of the change, are there no rules and laws in this country, all over Nigeria women are being raped, people are intimidated, innocent Nigerians are being slaughtered and property worth billions of Naira destroyed by the suspected Fulani Herdsmen.”

The Owerri Diocese of the Catholic Church also condemned the poor attitude of the south east governors towards the people they govern, wondering what had gone wrong.  Rights group, Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network, CRRAN, also slammed the governors of the five South Eastern states for not doing enough to curtail the dastardLY activities of the Fulani herdsmen who commit all sorts of atrocities in the land.

President of CRRAN, Olu Omotayo, accused the governors of treating “the gory and sorry security situation in the geo-political zone with kid gloves.”

Reacting to the attack on the three reverend fathers and subsequent kidnap of one of them, CRRAN, said that the Igbo was sitting on a keg of gun powder without realising it and pointed out that until the herdsmen arrested over the past attacks in Enugu State were charged to court, the ugly incident might continue unabated.

“The worsening security situation in Enugu State and Southeast states become worrisome due to the inactivity of the governors of the various southeast states who are handling this security challenge with kid gloves.

“We support the position of the Catholic Diocese of Nnewi who through Rev Fr. Aghaulor maintained that the southeast governors are doing nothing to protect the people they are governing. “The position of the Catholic Diocese of Nnewi supported our position that Enugu and sister states in the zone are treating this urgent security matter as a political matter.

“We had before now maintained that until the herdsmen arrested in connection with previous attacks in Enugu state are charged to court, these attacks will continue,” Omotayo said.


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