By Chris Onuoha
The alleged killing of Rev Father Joseph Gor, Felix Tyolaha, and other dedicated members of St Ignatius Quasi Parish, Ukpor, Mbalom in Gwer West Local Government Council of Benue have been condemned by Christian agencies across Nigeria.
A statement by its Director of Communications, Rev Fr Moses Lorapuu, said that the attacks were perpetrated by herdsmen who stormed the Mbalom community, killed parishioners during the morning mass at the church.
Presently the church is in search of some of their prominent businessmen and missionaries who are the major sponsors of activities in the church, allegedly on the death roll of the invading herdsmen.
According to investigations, we gathered that Victor Nwankwo, Silvester Okowa and three others were suspected to be targeted at, during the early morning bloodbath by Fulani herdsmen. These men according to reports are the major benefactors of the Catholic Church development in Benue state. They herdsmen allegedly claim that Victor Nwankwo and his four colleagues was amongst the missionaries that converted hundreds of Muslims to Christians.
According to investigations, Victor Nwankwo and his fellow missionaries are yet to be found as they have become a search agenda in the list of Africa’s most dreaded insurgent group.
The Diocese expressed regret at the nonchalant attitude of the security agencies in containing the killings. It said the herdsmen, who stormed the community, burnt down houses, destroyed crops and killed people. The church, therefore, urged the relevant authorities to stop the killings in the Benue valley.
Rev. Lorapuu said the Diocese had been active in providing food and relief materials to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) since the onset of hostilities in the state and wondered why it could be marked as a target of attacks. “The attack on the priests is an attack on everything that we ever stood for and believed in,” says Lorapuu.
Meanwhile, concerted efforts to get reaction from the Benue Police Command failed as its Public Relations Officer, ASP Moses Yamu, was not forthcoming with remarks. Rev. Fr. Gor had before the attack written on Facebook; “Living in fear. The fulani herdsmen are still around us in Mbalom. They refuse to go. They still go grazing around us. No weapons to defend ourselves”. Herdsmen in the early hours of the morning attacked a Catholic Church and parishioners who went for 5.30 a.m. mass. Reports say the bodies of the dead have been taken to St. Theresa’s Hospital Makurdi.