Church killings: It’s all gang war, says governor

Anambra State Governor Willy Obiano yesterday described  Sunday’s  killings at  St. Philips Catholic Church, Amakwa, Ozubulu during Mass as a gang war that spilled to the state from an African country.
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo and Obiano vowed yesterday that the perpetrators of the crime would not go unpunished.
Obiano upgraded the death toll to 12 from the 11 announced by the police on Sunday.
The governor gave an insight into the killings in a broadcast to the people.
Also yesterday, some survivors relived their ordeal in interviews with our correspondent.
Obiano said: “What happened in Ozubulu yesterday 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.
“This explanation, I believe, has erased the fears that the incident may have been caused by either some terrorist organisations or some members of some groups of agitators in the country.
“Wat happened in Ozubulu was neither a terror attack as we know it, nor a violent action by some agitators. We are dealing with a dangerous 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”
He added that “The people directly and remotely involved in this crime are known to the law enforcement agencies. But no suspect, no matter how highly placed, is above the law. So, we have taken bold steps to bring them to book and restore the peace and tranquility that Anambra State has enjoyed since the past three years.”
Some survivors relived their experiences at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital (NAUTH), where doctors are battling to save their lives.
The wife of a man who was believed to be the target of the gunman, Mrs. Caroline Ikegwuonwu, 40, is one of the injured at the hospital. Her husband, Mr. Chief Akunwafor Ikegwuonwu, was shot dead by the gunman who then turned his gun on other parishioners.
Okoye Patricia, 46, and her 20-year-old son, Odinaka Okoye, are also hospitalised as a result of bullet wounds.
But one of those who missed being hit by the bullet, 24 year old Mary Cynthia Ndulue’s brother, Samuel Ndulue, has his legs riddled with bullets.
Cynthia’s escape was “miraculous”, she said, thanking God for His mercy. She regretted that her brother was affected in the shootings.
Anambra State Police Commissioner Mr. Garba Baba Umar announced yesterday in Awka that the command had arrested some suspects over the killings.
Umar did not give the number of suspects in police net, but he assured residents not to panic.
Hospital authorities described survivors’ condition as  stable.
All was calm yesterday at Ozubulu. Residents were going about their normal businesses.
But the chairman of Ekwusigo Local Government Area, Ikenna Ofodeme, said they were not ruling out political influence in the tragedy as it is a governorship election year.
But he ruled out any terror link to the attack in which 12 persons died and 27 others were hospitalised.
He said the Obunadike family lost three persons. A member of the family, Mr. Joel Obunadike, told The Nation that he lost his uncle, his brother’s wife and her niece during the attack.
He was in tears. Ofodeme called on security agencies to wake up to their responsibilities. He praised the police commissioner and Assistant Inspector General of Police (Zone 9), Umuahia for their prompt response to the problem.
One of the community leaders in Ozubulu, Chief Timothy Nwadike, said what happened at the community was a national calamity.
He is the President General of Egbenma Ozubulu. He said the community would not allow anybody or group of people to destroy the peaceful community.
Another community leader, Chief John Ejimkonye, 70, told The Nation that what happened in Ozubulu was the handiwork of bad people.
He said everybody in the community, nay Anambra, had been in shock since Sunday. They are praying to God not to allow such a thing to happen again.
However, they refused to talk on the alleged feud between two suspected drug barons in their community, adding that only God could intervene in the calamity that had befallen the area.
At the hospital, Patricia Okoye, 46, and her son, Odinaka, said they were still in shock .
She said she saw the gunman who came into the church and started shooting, adding that it was later that she saw that a vehicle was stationed outside with other members of the gang in it.
Mrs. Ikegwuonwu, whose stepson is alleged to be one of the drug barons in the community, said she was short of words to describe the incident.
As she was struggling to talk, an elderly man bent down and whispered something to her. She stopped.
Chinasa Chukwueloka (25), another survivor of the attack, said the incident was too fast for anybody to give account of it.
One of the senior nurses at NAUTH, who preferred not to be named, said about six of the injured had been transferred to another place because of the extent of their fracture, adding that 12 of the victims were retained at the hospital.
They were transferred to the Accident and Emergency Complex.
Former Governor Dame Virgy Etiaba, who flew in from Lagos, was seen commiserating with the victims.
She described the shooting as “barbaric, satanic and inhuman”, adding that those behind it would not escape God’s punishment.
A former Commissioner for Health and pro-life activist, Prof. Linus Amobi Ilika, noted that though there had been shootings of Ozubulu indigenes living in South Africa and their bodies brought home, but the shooting of worshippers at St. Philip Catholic Church was an abomination against the land.
Ilika also said there was no evidence that High Chief Nnamdi Ikegwuonwu, who built the church where the lone gun man shot worshipers, was involved in drugs. He described him as a philanthropist.
Ilika, who was one time secretary general of Ozubulu Development Union, said the stories making the rounds that Chief Ikegwuonwu was in drugs business and may have offended his business partners, was untrue.
Ilika said the community does not know the young man’s trade, adding: “He has not been charged or arrested for such offences”
“There is a spate of shooting in South Africa and they brought down the corpses of our people living in South Africa.
“The person who built the church resides in South Africa. There is likely to be dispute and struggle among them but I cannot say exactly what the issues are.
“But for whatever it is there is no justification for assassinations and invasion of a place of worship to commit such mass killing of innocent worshippers,” the former commissioner said.
Perpetrators won’t go unpunished, says Osinbajo
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has assured that the perpetrators of the heinous crime at the St. Philip’s Catholic Church Ozubulu in Anambra State on Sunday would be brought to justice.
A statement by Senior Special Assistant on media and publicity Laolu Akande said Osinbajo had been receiving regular updates on the status of investigations regarding the atrocious and mindless acts of violence, which resulted in the death and injuries to some Nigerians..
The statement also said that the Acting President had been in touch with Anambra State Governor Willy Obiano, the police authorities and other security agencies on the matter.
Prof. Osinbajo also condemned the despicable acts of violence, and commiserated with families, relatives, friends of the victims, the entire people and the government of Anambra State.
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