The Sunday devastating attack on the St. Phillip’s Catholic Church in Ozubulu, Anambra State, has left many families bereaved in the state, while a large number of Nigerians on Monday continued to express their displeasure.
This is coming as the death toll rose to 12 on Monday, while those injured climbed to 40 from 18.
The state Governor, Willie Obiano, in a Monday broadcast, described the attack as a gang war “imported into the Anambra State from abroad.”
One of the families affected is the Obunadikes, whose member, Joel Obunadike, lamented the death of three members.
He told one of our correspondents that his sister-in-law, the baby girl she was nursing, and his uncle lost their lives in the attack.
Obunadike said, “I lost my uncle and my brother’s wife, as well as her baby girl. My brother’s wife was cuddling the baby when a bullet pierced through her back. The bullet killed her and the baby.
“We are still in shock. That’s all I can say for now.”
Also, it was gathered that one of the wives of the slain father of bishop (Aloysius Ikegwuonu, the alleged drug baron), Mrs. Caroline Ikegwuonu, was hit and had been admitted to a hospital in the area.
When repoters sought her comment, she said, “Please I can’t talk now. I’m still in shock. Please leave me alone.”
Another victim, Samuel Ndulue, whose legs were shattered in the attack, said, “I was in the church, but before the sermon started, I heard a gunshot that sounded like a banger.
“When I looked up I saw one man with a gun. I tried to escape from the east end of the church; but before I could do so, my two legs were shattered by bullets.
“I was later told that the gunman jumped into a vehicle after accomplishing his mission. I can’t understand the reason for the attack,’’ Ndulue stated.
A nurse at the Accident and Emergency Unit of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital, Nnewi, who spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said four of the injured persons brought to the hospital on Sunday died on Monday while six had been referred to another hospital.
She said,” Four of them couldn’t make it, including a baby. Twenty two injured persons are still with us and they are responding to treatment,” the nurse added.
The Public Relations Officer of NAUTH, Chris Ngige, also told news correspondence on Monday that 20 of the victims were on admission in the hospital, adding that four corpses had been deposited in the hopsital’s morgue.
He said, “The four that we have in our mortuary died on the way to the hospital yesterday (Sunday). There are many mortuaries in Nnewi, so the remaining corpses could have been deposited in them.
“We also have 20 other victims who have been admitted to our hospital. They are in a stable condition and they are responding to treatment.”
The Chairman of the Ekwisigo Local Government Area, Mr. Ikenna Ofodeme, said the casualty toll of the attack had increased.
He said, “The death toll has risen from 11 to 12, while the number of those who sustained injuries had gone up from 18 to 40.”
He said 27 victims were still receiving treatment at NAUTH.
The state governor, in a radio and television broadcast, said such an attack would not happen in the state again.
He said, “We are dealing with a gang war that has spilled over to Anambra State from another African country. But this is the last time it will happen under my watch.
“With a sorrowful heart, I stand before you today to brief you on the tragic killing of 12 people at St. Philip’s Catholic Church, Amakwa, Ozubulu, on Sunday.
“First, I want to assure you all that what happened in Ozubulu was a tragic dimension of a long battle between two business partners who are from the same town.
“I have been fully informed that this dangerous conflict has been going on for a while in the country where they both live outside Nigeria before they decided to bring the conflict home. But let me assure you that Anambra is too hot for them to operate.”
He urged the residents to go about their normal business, adding, “What happened in Amakwa, Ozubulu, is an isolated case. It will not happen again.”
The Anambra State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Garba Umar, told our correspondent on the telephone that the command had made some arrests in respect of the attack.
He said, “We won’t give the number of persons arrested in order not to jeopardize our investigation.”
We’ll apprehend perpetrators, says Osinbajo
The Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, on Monday assured Nigerians that those behind the Sunday attack would be brought to justice.
Osinbajo made the promise in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande.
The statement explained that since the incident occurred, the Acting President had been receiving regular updates on the status of investigation into the case from the state governor and security agencies.
The statement read in part, “Acting President Yemi Osinbajo condemns the despicable act of violence, and commiserates with families, relatives, friends of the victims, the entire people and the government of Anambra State.”
IPOB demands probe
The Indigenous People of Biafra has called for investigation into the attack.
In a statement on Wednesday by the Media and Publicity Secretary of the group, Emma Powerful, the IPOB said the conclusion by the police that the killing was a result of a business gone wrong was hasty.
It said, “It is unfortunate that the Nigeria police, who are required to investigate the incident with the view to apprehending the culprits, merely concluded within an hour that they knew the cause and the perpetrators of the crime.
“We don’t know when the Nigeria police acquired this level of efficiency and excellence that enabled them to conclude their investigations within an hour. Does it mean they had prior knowledge of the crime and if so why were measures not put in place to pre-empt it?
“We are alerting the international community, men and women of good conscience to prevail on the Nigerian and Anambra State governments to constitute an independent and transparent panel of inquiry to ascertain what actually happened because this level of brutality is unheard of in Anambra State.
Labour seeks prosecution of culprits
Organised labour, under the aegis of the Nigeria Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, and Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, also called for the arrest of the perpetrators of the massacre.
The unions, in separate statements on Monday, expressed shock at the killing of worshippers by gunmen, and demanded a thorough investigation into the incident.
The President, NLC, Ayuba Wabba, while describing the attack as animalistic and shameful, called on security operatives to beef up security around places of worship.
“What makes this attack more confounding is the fact that Ozubulu is far removed from any known theatre of conflict at the moment and has had little or no history of violence,” Wabba said.
The President, NUPENG, Dr. Igwe Achese, enjoined the Federal Government to be more intelligence-led and proactive in order to avert disasters.
In a statement, the TUC President, Bobboi Kaigama; and the Secretary, Musa Lawal, lamented insecurity in the country.
The statement read in part, “This is a bad signal, considering the fact that campaign and election in the state will commence soon. This development is unfortunate and a testimony to the fact that security operatives have so much work to do.
“The incident portrays the country in a bad light before the international community. It is heartbreaking that some Nigerians no longer have regard for human lives.”
NANS demands arrest of masterminds
The National Association of Nigerian Students on Monday asked the police to fish out the masterminds of the attack and prosecute them immediately.
NANS President, Chinonso Obasi, warned that security agents must not “shield anyone responsible no matter the status.”
He said, “The attack on innocent worshippers is nothing but an act of wickedness carried out by mindless beasts in a sacred place of worship. No reason whatsoever is enough to justify any attack on any life, let alone in a congregation of worshippers.
“Justice must be served without shielding anyone involved, no matter the status or reasons for this unfathomable attack.”
ANN seeks justice for victims
A newly formed political group, The Alliance for New Nigeria, ANN, decried the killings.
The group demanded the arrest of all the perpetrators of the dastardly act, describing the incident as “an unimaginable desecration of the house of God.”
ANN in a statement on Monday by a member of the Board of Trustees, Leonard Ebute, said the attack was totally unacceptable.
The statement read in part, “We are not interested in the motivation of the killers or the reason behind such a heinous crime. Security agencies should do a thorough job in fishing out the killers and make them explain to the whole world the reason behind such dastardly act.”
ANN said the trauma caused by the act was better imagined and demanded justice for the victims.
‘Attack, evil against humanity’
The Global Amnesty Watch said the attack was the worst form of evil against humanity.
GAW’s Assistant Country Director, Dr. Chinedu Chukwu, in a statement on Monday, described the attack as an ungodly and wicked act that should be condemned by all.
Chukwu noted that the attack was not only wicked, but barbaric and could only be a “manifestation of the worst form of insanity and mentally deranged minds.”
“We call on security agencies to leave no stone unturned until those involved in the planning and execution of the dastardly act are not only exposed and arrested, but brought to justice.”
The group urged the government to go beyond mere promising to deal with the perpetrators of the attack, saying all efforts should be made to bring the perpetrators to book as it would not only serve as a deterrent to other criminally-minded persons, but would assure all citizens that they were free to practise their faith without any hindrance.
Police contact Interpol on killings
The Nigeria Police Force has solicited the assistance of Interpol for the arrest of the masterminds of the killings.
Our correspondent gathered that the police authorities took the decision after preliminary findings indicated that the attack was caused by business disagreement between two drug lords based in South Africa.
It was gathered that the Interpol would be involved in the international aspect of the case, while Nigerian police detectives would go after the local collaborators and perpetrators of the attack.
A source said three suspects had been apprehended by the police in connection with the chilling killings.
Investigation indicated that the NPF, as a member of the Interpol, had access to its I-24/7 network which enabled the 190 member countries to search and cross-check data of suspected criminals, wanted persons, stolen or lost travel documents within seconds.
The INTERPOL I-24/7 system is domiciled at the National Central Bureau at the Force headquarters, Abuja.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, confirmed that the Interpol would be involved in the investigation, adding that the police had already sought its assistance to fast-track the arrest of the suspects living outside the country.
“We are exploring all avenues to ensure that all the perpetrators and masterminds of the killings are arrested and brought to justice. We have already solicited the assistance of the Interpol in arresting the suspects living outside the country,” he said.