President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned the 'Ozubulu Church' attack in Anambra state by an unidentified gunman, describing the incident as “an appalling crime against humanity and unspeakable sacrilege”.
St. Philips Catholic Church in Ozubulu in Ekusigo Local Government Area of Anambra state was attacked on Sunday morning and several persons were reportedly killed by the perpetrator of this attack.
'Vanguard' reports that the President expressed his grief in a strongly worded statement issued by 'Malam Garba Shehu', the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity who said that “there was no justification whatsoever to target Church worshippers and kill them in cold blood.”
He stated further that the atrocity “plumbs the depth of depravity and extreme cruelty of the kind that words cannot adequately express”.
According to the President, there was no religion that does not lay constant emphasis on the sanctity of life and that “all Nigerians must rise up and speak with one voice against these remorseless evil men.”
Expressing his deep felt sympathy with the families of the victims, the Church leadership as well as the government of Anambra State, President Buhari who is currently receiving medical attention in London reassured all Nigerians of his administration’s firm and uncompromising commitment to protect their lives and property at all times.
It was alleged that the generating set suddenly developed a fault giving the gunmen an opportunity to carry out the heinous act in the place of worship.
Worshippers at St. Philips Catholic church in Ozubulu, Anambra state were in darkness when the gunman attacked the church and opened fire on them.
An unidentified gunman had invaded the church during the 6:00 am mass, killing 12 worshipers and injuring many others.
A witness, who simply identified herself as a choir member, told NAN that the church was dark when the attacker invaded.
She said the generating set had suddenly developed a fault which prompted the congregation to use their candles while the mass continued after which the gunman had instantly jumped into a waiting car with a driver after opening fire on the congregation.
The parish priest of the church, Jude Onwuaso who was unhurt in the incident revealed that the gunman had first shot at a man. Akunwafor Ikegwuonwu before shooting sporadically at other worshippers.
The State Commissioner of Police, 'Garba Umar' stated that the attacker spoke in Igbo dialect while shooting the worshippers and gave the updated figures of casualties as 11 dead and 18 injured.
Umar also confirmed that the attack was linked to a feud between some Igbos living abroad while ruling out the possibility of a terror attack and spoke about an isolated feud between individuals in the community.
He said that the command had invited some suspects who would be useful to the investigation. He however, called on residents to go about their lawful businesses, assuring them that churches and public places were safe.
The State's Polie Commissioner said;
“At about 6.30 a.m. today, Aug. 6, I got a distress call that gunmen had invaded and shot at worshippers at St. Philips Catholic Church, Umuezekwe, Ofufe, Amakwa Village in Ozubulu, Ekwusigo Located Government Area.
“As a result, I, the Commissioner of Police, led my operatives immediately to the scene to rescue worshippers. The command, under my watch, will leave no stone unturned in locating and prosecuting those behind the massacre of innocent worshippers".
“The intelligence report and preliminary investigation showed that the incident was as a result of a feud between two individuals from the same community living outside Nigeria. One of the individuals built the church where the shooting occurred; it is definitely not a terrorist attack in the mould of Boko Haram or Fulani herdsmen attack".
“The command will brief the public after investigation is concluded; I commiserate with all those who lost their loved ones in this unfortunate incident. I also encourage `ndi’ Anambra to be vigilant and to promptly report suspicious movements or strange observation of persons and actions in their localities to the security agencies".
In its reaction, the Catholic Diocese of Nnewi, Anambra state, described Sunday’s attack as regrettable.
The church, in a statement signed by Hygi Aghaulor, Director of Communications of the Diocese and made available to journalists, said that the Parish Priest, Jude Onwuaso escaped unhurt.
He described the act as a sign of loss of what is sacred and consoled the families of victims of the attack. The statement read;
“It is regrettable that our people are more and more losing a sense of what is sacred. What on earth would make people open fire on innocent unarmed worshippers including children and women on a Sunday morning?"
“We condemn this ungodly act in its totality; we pray Almighty God to console the families affected and assure them that our hearts are with them as we pray for the quick recovery of the wounded. For the entire parishioners, we call on them not to be discouraged in their usual practice of faith".
“It is when the forces of darkness attempt to overshadow goodness that the light of God shines even brighter than ever just as it happened on Easter Sunday".
“Evil may make attempts but God and goodness will always triumph; we call on the good people to continue to pray for the deceased worshippers and their families".