Owo Massacre: Pope, Osinbajo, Sultan, Ooni, others mourn as police recover three unexploded IEDs

As the dust settles on St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Owaluwa in Owo, Ondo State after the brutal invasion by yet-to-be-identified gunmen around 11:30.a.m on Sunday, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Usman Alkali Baba, has ordered full-scale investigation into the incident to bring to book perpetrators of the gruesome killing of the worshippers at the church.

The IGP has further ordered the deployment of specialised operatives of the Police Explosive Ordnance Disposal-Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Explosives (EOD-CBRNE) and other tactical units from the Force Headquarters for a comprehensive investigation, and immediate interception of the villains.

According to police spokesman, CSP Muyiwa Adejobi, “the gunmen, from preliminary investigations, invaded the church with arms and materials suspected to be explosives. Police investigators, who were part of the first responders deployed to the scene, have recovered pellets of expended AK-47 ammunition, while the EOD-CBRNE unit confirmed the use of explosives as fragments of the IEDs used were found and after thorough sweeping of the scene, three unexploded IEDs were recovered at the scene of the incident.

“Further investigations revealed that some of the gunmen disguised as congregants, while other armed men who had positioned themselves around the church premises from different directions, fired into the church. The assailants fled the scene using a Nissan Sunny car with Reg No. AKR 895 AG, which was snatched from the owner, and escaped through Owo/Ute road. The vehicle has been recovered while the owner of the vehicle is currently assisting the police in its investigations.”

Extending his grief on the incident, leader of the Catholic Church worldwide, Pope Francis, has expressed his “spiritual closeness” to Nigerian Catholics mourning the victims of the massacre on Pentecost Sunday.

A telegram sent on the Pope’s behalf said he was praying “for the conversion of those blinded by hatred and violence.”The papal telegram, released yesterday, was sent to Bishop Jude Ayodeji Arogundade of Ondo Diocese by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

It said: “His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the horrific attack at St. Francis Church in Owo, and he assures you and all those affected by this act of unspeakable violence of his spiritual closeness.

“In commending the souls of the dead to the loving mercy of Almighty God and imploring divine healing and consolation upon the injured and those who are grieving, His Holiness prays for the conversion of those blinded by hatred and violence so that they will choose instead the path of peace and righteousness.”

VICE President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has equally vowed that the perpetrators will be fished out and made to face the full wrath of the law. He stated this, yesterday, when he visited Owo town and the Catholic Church to commiserate with the clergy, community and people of the state. The VP also visited those who were injured at St. Louis Catholic Hospital.

Describing the unfortunate incident as a terrible tragedy and unspeakable evil by depraved minds and terrorists, Osinbajo noted that “the President has already ordered a full-scale investigation of this crime. Without any doubt, those who perpetrated this will be fished out and they will pay for the consequences of this crime.”

Noting the President’s statement condemning the dastardly act, the VP added that, “this barbaric act is one that has to be condemned by all. But more importantly, we must find the perpetrators and they must be punished, and we must set an example.

“Anyone who will go into a place where there are children, elderly people and shoot them, throw explosives at them, cannot be dignified by their description as humans.

MEANWHILE, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on Monday, alleged that the silence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) over Sunday’s gruesome terrorist attack and killing of innocent worshippers confirms APC’s complicity and implicit support for terrorism in the country.

The PDP said it is also appalled by “the lame and disconnected press statement by the Presidency, which did not demonstrate any presidential empathy, concern, assurances and commitment expected of a Commander-in-Chief, who should be a Comforter-in-Chief in the face of such horrific terrorist attack.”

The party in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Debo Ologunagba, further stated that “the feeble and insensitive statement by the presidency is a further confirmation of the tacit sympathy for terrorism by the APC administration.

“This is because in saner climes, the President would personally address the nation on the gruesome murder of many citizens under his care. President Muhammadu Buhari’s personal silence is deafening and points to allegations in the public space that terrorists are enjoying tacit accommodation from the highest level of the APC administration.”

THE Sultan of Sokoto and President of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, has condemned the attack, describing it as a crime against humanity and a grievous and inexplicable sin.

In a statement signed by NSCIA’s Director of Administration, Zubairu Haruna Usman-Ugwu, yesterday, in Abuja, the Islamic leader urged all peoples of faith to see the incident as a direct attack on all law-abiding citizens and should, therefore, be in the vanguard to halt the evil that appears to be assailing the life, property and integrity of humanity, particularly believers in God.

He implored government at all levels to issue and pursue an ultimatum for the security agencies to unravel the identity and bring to book the perpetrators of the violation of sanctity of not only life but also religions.

THE Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, said despite the unprovoked attack by terrorists on St. Francis Catholic Church, the Yoruba nation will remain unconquered.

The monarch, who commiserated with the Yoruba home and in the diaspora, particularly, families of the victims and the Catholic Church, called for vigilance by citizens and law enforcement agents to prevent a reoccurrence of such ugly incident in future. He noted that the gruesome massacre was an attempt to make Yorubaland a war zone, saying Yoruba people have the capacity to defend themselves even though they are peace loving.

In a statement by his Director of Media and Public Affairs, Otunba Moses Olafare, Ooni Ogunwusi warned against plan by the attackers to destabilise the Southwest, adding that the people should be more vigilant and report promptly suspected individuals to relevant authorities.

He said: “We should all be reminded that Sunday, June 6, made it exactly one year when an invading gang of killer herdsmen killed at least over 20 people in Igangan, Ibarapa North Council of Oyo State, leaving several houses, the palace of the Asigangan and a popular petroleum station burnt in the attack.

The Ooni, who is the co-chairman of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria (NCTRN), explained that there had been reports that some criminals are currently working to invade and wreak havoc in Yorubaland like the one that just happened in Owo.

The Ooni, who is the co-chairman of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria (NCTRN),

“When calamities like this befall us without a single trace, the interpretation is that the intelligence unit of our country’s security architecture is probably faulty or completely missing. However, we the descendants of Oduduwa cannot be overrun in our own home as we are prepared and ready to defend ourselves against external invaders.”

In the same vein, the Asin of Okaland, Oba Pius Omiyejola Akande, has condemned the heinous attack on the peaceful kingdom of Owo. The king and people of Oka kingdom commiserated with the families of all the innocent souls mowed down by the marauding terrorists.

In a statement signed by Elder Jerome Tolorunlogo, media aide to the monarch, he said the latest development required all hands be on deck to rid the state and communities of wicked and heartless killers as a matter of urgency.

“In like manner, we also advise communities across the state to complement government’s efforts by always being on the alert to nip such nefarious attacks in the bud.”

ALSO, apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has condemned Sunday’s murder of innocent worshippers, saying the incident has again exposed the country’s level of insecurity.

It lamented the porosity of Nigeria’s borders as a “freeway for all category of persons in the country”, just as it canvassed the restructuring of the nation’s security architecture to check rising insecurity.

In a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Dr Alex Ogbonnia, Ohanaeze Ndigbo said: “The massacre of these worshippers, whose only crime was gathering together to worship God is barbaric, savage, cowardly, unconscionable and indeed the worst sacrilegious dastardly affront on the body of Christ.

“Ohanaeze is worried at the lowest ebb and utter disregard for the sanctity of human life that has insidiously become the Nigerian character. More worrisome is the porosity of Nigerian borders that have become a freeway for all category of persons into the country.”

It continued: “Ohanaeze recalls that the Owo massacre is coming only one week after the abduction, by suspected herdsmen, of the Prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, His Grace, Dr. Samuel Uche and two other clergymen in Abia State.

“Ohanaeze Ndigbo reiterates its persistent calls for the restructuring of the security architecture as a practical strategy for checking insecurity in the country. It is regrettable that today Nigerians can no longer walk or travel freely on account of the level of insecurity in the land. We hereby urge the Governors of Southern Nigeria to come together and strengthen their local vigilante groups, especially the Amotekun and Ebubeagu, to ensure safety of our people.”

Ohanaeze Ndigbo

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