Rev Fr Offu’s killing: Igbo give condition for cohabitation with ‘bad Fulani’
By Dennis Agbo
ENUGU- EVER since last Thursday’s gruesome killing of Rev Fr Paul Offu at Ihe in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State, different groups of Igbo have given conditions under which they would continue living in the midst of the people they called ‘bad Fulanis.’
Such groups include the catholic community which is the immediate victims of the casuality. The Christian Association of Nigeria also lent its voice in pain, as well as the coalition of South East youth leaders, COSEYL, among other groups and individuals.
Even though the Miyetti-Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, in the south east denied that herdsmen were responsible for the killing of Rev Fr Offu, different groups and individuals have insisted that the herdsmen were responsible for the dastard act.
The Enugu Catholic Diocese said that government must flush out bad Fulani from the state and asked government to effectively equip the vigilante groups to provide protection and security for their various localities.
The church further suggested that the legislative arm should enact laws that will flush out the bad eggs that perpetrate the killings; while it also urged every family to pray the Rosary every day for the security of the diocese.
In the same vein, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Southeast zone, directly accused herdsmen of the heinous crime and urged security details to brace up with their responsibility of protecting lives and properties.
CAN chairman in the zone, Bishop Goddy Madu said: “I write to condemn the killing of Rev. Fr. Paul Offu by suspected herdsmen, as well as other men of God who have been murdered under similar circumstances.
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“The CAN Southeast is calling on the National Assembly to make a law stopping these deadly herdsmen from parading and causing disunity and tears to the good citizens of Nigeria.”
In its reaction, President General of Coalition of South east Youth Leaders, COSEYL, Goodluck Ibem said “The Inspector General of Police, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Defence staff and other security heads should work in synergy to arrest the notorious and murderous Fulani herdsmen that killed the Catholic parish priest.
“The state Houses of Assembly in the South East should as a matter of urgency, promulgate laws prohibiting open grazing in their various states and the South East Governors should immediately sign it into law.”
Over 400 Catholic priests had marched peacefully along major roads within Enugu metropolis in their cassock to government house where they registered their grievances and made their position known to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
They held placards with the various inscriptions: “Enough is Enough”; “Catholic Priests are Target of Hoodlums”; “We Cannot be Living in Fear”; “Government Must Address Security Challenge in Enugu”; “We Are Not Happy with Government”; “Bad Herdsmen must be ejected in our state;“We’re dying, life is sacred,” etc.
Speaking with South East Voice on how the incident occurred, the Director of Social communications, Enugu Catholic Dioceses, Rev Fr Ben Achi said, “We came out to hear news that one of us, Rev Fr James Offu was shot dead by some Fulani herdsmen who took him into the bush at Awgu road. He was travelling for a visit to one of his priest friends when he was accosted by these men and shot dead.
“They were shooting and he kept moving even as they were shooting and because they have shot and deflated the tyres of his car, he and the boy that accompanied him ran into the bush but they caught up with them and eventually killed him.
“They left the boy that accompanied him but they killed the priest because they said the priest was the one driving and that he refused to stop when they were shooting at him.
“According to the young man who came to speak with us, he said that one of them suggested that they take him and ask for ransom but the other said because he had given them troubles, they were going to kill him. He said that one of them said that even if they take him, the ransom may not be paid. So out of anger, they decided to kill him. His body was riddled with bullets.
“Our demand for the protest is very clear. We had a meeting before we moved to the government house; we saw the governor and made our point very clear. Since the herdsmen have become so murderous and are still killing our people, we are no longer comfortable with them, we are demanding that they leave the state. We have lived with herdsmen and cohabited with them over the years but this time, their stay has become inimical to our people and we are no longer comfortable with that.
“So, if they can no longer live peacefully with us, we demand that they leave our state and we are demanding that the government should see to that. The governor received us and we left our statement with him.”
A native of Ihe community where the killing took place, popularly known as Onowu confirmed that the priest was killed by herdsmen.
Onowu told SEV that “The truth is that Fr Offu after attending a burial ceremony in Ihe decided to visit one of his colleagues in Agbudu when herdsmen attacked and killed him on the way. The same herdsmen had earlier kidnapped somebody from Isuawa in the same place. The herdsmen live in the bush there between Agbudu and Isuawa”
Chairman of MACBAN in the South East, Alhaji Gidado Siddiki however exonerated members of his group as perpetrators of the killing and urged security officials to fish out the killers.
Siddiki sent condolences to the Catholic Church, saying that the killing of Rev Fr Offu was condemnable and heartily regrettable.
He called on government to rise to the occasion and provide adequate security for citizens of Nigeria across the length and breadth of the country.
The Enugu state commissioner of Police, Sulieman Balarabe was quoted last weekend as saying that the police had made some arrests in connection to the killing but refused to give further details since investigation was still ongoing.