August 3, 2019

Worsening Insecurity: Suspected herdsmen kill Catholic priest in Enugu

Late Rev FR Paul Offu, Parish Priest of St. James the Greater Parish, Ugbawka

*Abduct RCCG pastor, four others in Ogun
* Priests protest, Adeboye calls for prayers

By Sam Eyoboka & Dennis Agbo

Barely three weeks after Mrs Olakunrin, daughter of Afenifere chairman, Pa Reuben Fasoranti was killed by suspected gunmen, a catholic priest in Enugu, Rev Fr Paul Offu is now the newest addition to the growing number of citizens who have lost their lives to the worsening security situation in the country.

Late Rev FR Paul Offu, Parish Priest of St. James the Greater Parish, Ugbawka

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Fr. Offu, the Parish Priest of Ugbuakwa was allegedly shot dead by suspected Fulani herdsmen along Agwu road, Enugu. He was said to be travelling for a visit to one of his family friends when the incident happened.

Just when the nation was grappling with the sad news, five persons including one pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, were reportedly abducted at Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State.

The General Overseer of the RCCG, Pastor Enoch Adeboye announced the abduction on Friday morning while giving a talk at the Redeemed Camp along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

Pastor Adeboye said the abduction took place on Thursday along the Ijebu-Ode axis. He charged the congregation to pray for the release of the abductees.

Irked by the death of their colleague, Catholic Priests in Enugu yesterday staged a protest demanding that criminal Fulani herdsmen must leave the state with immediate effect.

The over 400 Catholic priests said they took the decision after their emergency meeting on Friday at Holy Ghost Cathedral Ogui-Enugu. They subsequently embarked on street protest from the cathedral to Enugu government house.

The priests, who marched peacefully, passed through major roads within Enugu metropolis on their white official cassock to government house where they registered their grievances and made their position known to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.

They held placards with  various inscriptions; “Enough is Enough”, “Catholic Priests are Targets of Hoodlums”, “We Cannot be Living in Fear”, “Government Must Address Security Challenge in Enugu”,  “Bad Herdsmen must be ejected in our state, “We’re dying, life is sacred,” etc.

Addressing newsmen on the development, the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Callistus Onaga, said that the protest came to register the displeasure of the diocese over the incessant attacks on Catholic priests by hoodlums in the state, which he noted have lasted for seven years.

Onaga said that the Catholic priests were simply demanding for better security beef up in the state; adding that “If there are crop of bad herdsmen in the state, they should be fished out and we will continue to live in peace with the good ones.”

The bishop however noted that the attack had become unbearable as the diocese lost a priest in March this year, who was also killed by suspected armed herdsmen. He also disclosed that another priest  shot about two weeks ago in the state, is still receiving intensive medical attention in an undisclosed hospital.

Speaking with Saturday Vanguard on how the incident occurred, the Director of catholic communications, Enugu Dioceses, Rev Fr Ben Achi said “what happened was that after our meeting in Emene, yesterday (Thursday), we came out to hear a news that one of us, Rev Fr James Offu was shot dead by some Fulani herdsmen who took him into the bush around 2pm at Agwu road. He was travelling for a visit to one of his family friends when he was accosted  by these men who shot him dead.

“They were shooting and he kept moving even as they were shooting and because they had shot and deflated the tyres of his car, he and the boy that accompanied him ran into the bush but they cut 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 by the time they were shooting at him. According to the young man who came to speak with us this morning, he said that one of them suggested that they take him and ask for ransom but the others 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 raided with bullets.

Governor   Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi upon receiving the unfortunate news of the incident summoned an emergency security meeting at the Government House, Enugu, which was attended by all the security agencies in the state, Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province (Anglican Communion), representative of the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Rev.   Fr. Dr. Nnamdi Nwankwo, among others.

Briefing journalists on the outcome of the meeting, the State Commissioner of Police, Suleiman Balarabe, stated that they “condemned in totality the dastardly act and we all prayed that his soul rest in peace”, adding that the governor mandated the   security agencies to fish out the perpetrators of the heinous act.

Balarabe disclosed that the state government resolved to have air surveillance in all the flashpoint areas, stressing that the exercise will commence on Monday, August 5.

The police commissioner added that the meeting resolved that the security architecture of the affected areas will be reviewed with immediate effect.

He said that the meeting observed with deep concern the proliferation of dangerous arms in the state, stating that those in possession of illegal weapons have been given three days to submit them to the police “and after which anybody found with illegal weapons will be dealt with in accordance with the law”.

Balarabe revealed that in keeping with the outcome of the recent meeting of the South East Governors Forum, the Enugu State Government resolved at the emergency meeting to employ the services of Forest Guards and equally strengthen the services of the Neighborhood Watch groups in the state.

Meanwhile abductors of RCCG pastor and four others are yet to make any contact with their families after their kidnap.

A statement by the church’s head of Publicity, Pastor Olaitan Olubiyi last night confirmed the development, assuring that church was making frantic efforts to get further details before a detailed response.

Asked if the abductors have gotten in touch, the church spokesman said as far the church was concerned there has been no word. “I cannot say if they had reached out to their family members, but we are making frantic efforts as a corporate organisation to get more facts,” he stated, adding “Daddy just mentioned during ministration in the morning and we are yet get more details.

“The pastor belongs to one of our youth churches coming in from the Ogun state axis for the Ministers Conference. We do not have further details yet. Whether the abductors have gotten in touch with their families I cannot tell but we urge all Nigerians to intercede for the victims.”

“We’re on top of the situation,”Governor Ugwuanyi said last night, adding “we have another emergency meeting tomorrow and security men will begin to comb everywhere to sustain peace in Enugu State which has been very peaceful”.


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