The Emir of Suleija, Malam Awal Ibrahim, was yesterday booed by worshippers during the mass burial of victims of the Christmas Day bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State.
The service, which held at the Catholic Church, was attended by thousands of people from within and outside the country.
A suicide bomber of the Boko Haram sect had, on December 25, 2011, detonated a bomb at the church, killing scores of worshippers including women and children.
At the funeral mass organised by the Catholic Diocese of Minna, 18 victims of the blast were buried, amidst wailing and tears, within the premises of the church.
Trouble started when the monarch, who arrived late for the service, attempted to disembark from his vehicle with a retinue of his aides.
As soon as the emir and his entourage drove into the church, some youths and worshippers who could not find space inside the auditorium started complaining about his presence.
To avoid any unpleasant encounter, the monarch remained inside the vehicle until his presence was announced by the moderator of the service.
“I wish to also announce the presence of the Emir of Suleja, Malam Awal Ibrahim,” the moderator said. Once the announcement was made, worshippers within and outside the church thundered, “No! No! No! No!”
The moderator later invited the monarch to deliver a goodwill message and this led to another round of booing by the worshippers.
The pandemonium continued for several minutes as the leadership of the church made frantic attempts to calm the worshippers, but to no avail.
The situation within and outside the auditorium became so charged that the Bishop of Minna Diocese, Most Rev. Martin Uzoukwu, who also served as chief mourner at the service, held the floor to address the worshippers.
“Beloved brothers and sisters, I appeal to all of you to please calm down,” he pleaded, adding that the best honour to give to the victims of the unprovoked violence was for the worshippers to pray for peace and unity of the church and the country.
Before their charred remains were interred, a mass was conducted by the Bishop of Minna, assisted by the Archbishop of Abuja Arch Diocese, Most Rev. John Onaiyekan, and other Catholic bishops.
In his sermon, Onaiyekan urged Christians to avoid vengeance but forgive those who wronged and caused them pain and untold hardship.
He said: “We are here to bury those who have died in the blast which was deliberately detonated in the front of the church on the morning of Christmas Day. Almost all of the victims were worshippers coming in or going out of the church premises for the Eucharistic celebration that day.
“We live in a country where many people are dying daily. People are dying in their hundreds. We have come to bury those who died with a difference. They were killed in their place of worship on the festival of the birth of Jesus.
“The bomb blast shook our nation. No wonder the news was heard all over the world. They deserve to be listed as martyrs. They have not died in vain. Those who killed others are simply murderers who have no reason to kill.
“It is natural that we feel the pain of the sudden death of our brothers and sisters. May the Lord comfort the family of the bereaved.”
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan has promised that the reorganisation in the police will bring about the necessary change needed to combat insecurity in the country.
Represented by the deputy chaplain, Aso Villa Chapel, Abbah Machala, the president said the country is ready to wage a renewed war against terrorism.
He said: “Government has started what needs to be done. Already, there is the change in the leadership of the police and there is going to be reorganisation of the police that will bring about credibility in what the security agencies are doing.
Speaking on cooperation with international security agencies, he said, “The international community, the UN, AU, US are committed to it. It will be a collective thing because terrorism is not just a Nigerian issue; it is a global issue.”
Also speaking, Senate president David Mark urged Nigerians not to be intimidated by the activities of the terrorists but remain steadfast in their faith in God.
Mark, who was represented by Senator Ayogu Eze, said the bomb blast was meant to humiliate the country and destroy the peace in the nation.