By Vincent Ujumadu & Simon Ebegbulem
…Policeman, okada rider shot dead
…No church attack in Onitsha —Anambra govt
Awka —There was panic among worshippers of Assemblies of God Church, Oguta Road, Onitsha, Anambra State, yesterday, as gunmen shot dead a policeman and civilian at a checkpoint within the precincts of the church.
This came exactly a week after the deadly gun attack on parishioners at St. Phillips Catholic Church, Ozubulu, Anambra State, which claimed the lives of 13 and injured scores of others.
An eyewitness said the gunmen had stopped near the church, adding that on sighting some policemen at the church, they opened fire on them.
But the state government in a statement, last night, said there was no attack on any church in the state.
However, the source said the attackers, after killing one of the policemen, made away with his rifle.
It was learned that the persistent shooting by the hoodlums set off panic in the church, though the attack was not directly targeted at the church.
“When the firing became too hot, the policemen abandoned their patrol vehicle and ran away for safety.
“The gunmen moved to their patrol van and took a gun belonging to the policeman they killed,” said the eyewitness, who claimed he could not identify the number of armed men involved in the attack.
Another eyewitness said the gunmen on okada (motorcycle) shot a policeman and took his rifle, adding that they also shot dead an okada man while making their escape. The okadaman’s passenger was injured.
He said the policemen were attacked as they provided security while church service was in progress.
What happened in Onitsha — Police
Reacting to the attack, spokesperson of Anambra State Police Command, ASP Nkiruka Nwode, said there was no shooting in any church, explaining that what transpired was a confrontation between some policemen on patrol along Oguta Road and hoodlums in masquerade outfit.
She said in a statement issued by the command: “I have the authority of the Commissioner of Police, Garba Baba Umar, to intimate you on the incident that happened today (yesterday) at Oguta Road, Onitsha.
“At about 1030 hrs, gunmen in disguise as masquerades attacked policemen on foot patrol, and opened fire on them. The team of policemen responded swiftly and arrested one, while others on the run are being trailed and would soon be apprehended.
“Unfortunately, one of the policemen was critically injured and has since been taken to the hospital for proper medical care.
“CP Garba warns perpetrators and would-be perpetrators to desist from acts of crime as the command will not hesitate to deal with anyone found committing any act of crime in Anambra State, in accordance with the provisions of the law.
“He also advised parents to restrain their children and wards from engaging in acts capable of ruining their future.
“The commissioner, while imploring Ndi Anambra to assist the police in its responsibilities of safeguarding the state by reporting suspicious movements in their localities promptly, promised that the command will not relent in its drive till all criminals relocate from the state.”
The Commissioner of Police, Mr Garba Umar, who also confirmed the incident to journalists, said it was not an attack on the church, adding that the gunmen took away a rifle belonging to the slain cop.
“My men were on patrol near the church when they were attacked by some gunmen. It was not an attack on the church in the real sense of it,“ he said.
No church attack in Onitsha — Anambra govt
In its reaction, the state government said there was no truth whatsoever in the story that a church in Onitsha was attacked.
The government in a statement signed by Chairman of Governor Obiano’s Media Team, Mr. Chuks Iloegbunam, said:
“What happened was an attack by hoodlums disguised as masquerades who tried to snatch the personal belongings of pedestrians on Oguta Road. Consequently, a policeman on foot patrol was killed, while two others were injured.
“The Anambra State Police Public Relations Officer, Princess Nkem Nwode confirmed this to be true. The Assemblies of God Church on Oguta Road was not at all affected. It conducted its Sunday service peacefully.
“The government of Anambra State urges its peace-loving people to continue to go about their lawful businesses and interests as there is absolutely no cause for alarm.
“There is no doubt that purveyors of false stories intended to disrupt the peace and tranquility of Anambra State will fail woefully, as Governor Willie Obiano and his able team are on top of the situation.”
Meanwhile, the Benin monarch, Oba Ewuare 11, weekend condemned the killing of some worshippers at St Philip’s Catholic Church, Umuezekwe Ofufe, Ozubulu, Anambra State, and called on security agents to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators, describing their action as barbaric and wicked.
Ozubulu: Oba of Benin condoles with Obiano
In a condolence message signed by Chief Press Secretary to the Oba, Desmond Agbama, the Oba commiserated with the governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano and the entire people of the state on the incident which he described as a national tragedy.
The revered monarch called for strategies to stop a recurrence of such dastardly act, declaring that the wrath of God would surely visit those who killed in the house of God.
“His Royal Majesty called on the various security agencies to carry out proper investigations to fish out and prosecute those behind the gruesome killings.
“The Benin monarch prayed that God and the ancestors should grant the families of the deceased the fortitude to bear the great loss. We wish such calamity will never again befall our nation or community,” the message read.
Unknown gunmen on August 6, attacked worshippers at St. Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu, Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State, killing no fewer than 13 persons and injuring 27 others.
A Federal Government delegation, led by Senator Chris Ngige had on August 12, visited Anambra to condole with the people and government of the state as well as the Catholic Diocese of Nnewi over the incident.