President Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday lost their cool and condemned the killing of worshippers and two priests at a Catholic church in Ukpor-Mbalom community in Gwer East local government area of Benue State.
The president described the church killings as vile and satanic, while Osinbajo said it is sacrilegious and a calculated attempt by certain individuals to cause religious war in the country.
Two Catholic priests, Rev Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha as well as about 20 worshippers were brutally murdered in cold blood yesterday by gunmen suspected to be herdsmen during a 6:00am mass at St. Ignatius Quasi Parish Ukpor-Mbalom Gwer local government area of Benue State.
The attack is coming barely four days after the murder of ten persons by herdsmen in Guma local government area and the destruction of 300 houses in Naka, Gwer West local government area of the state.
Director of Communications, Catholic Diocese of Makurdi, Rev Father Moses Iorapuu, who confirmed the death of the two reverend gentlemen said the herdsmen in their usual style attacked the church when the clerics were celebrating morning mass, killing the two priests and other parishioners who came for morning prayers, burning down homes and destroying food items.
President Buhari, while condemning the gory incident yesterday, said the country will not succumb to the plot of evil men, even as he vowed that the culprits be fished out and brought to book.
A statement by his special adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, quoted the president as saying: “This latest assault on innocent persons is particularly despicable.
“Violating a place of worship, killing priests and worshippers is not only vile, evil and satanic, it is clearly calculated to stoke up religious conflict and plunge our communities into endless bloodletting”.
Stressing that the country will not bow to the machinations of evildoers, President Buhari vowed that the assailants would be hunted down and made to pay for the sacrilege committed.
“I extend my sincere condolences to the government and people of Benue State, the Mbalom community, and especially the Bishop, priests and members of the St Ignatius’ Catholic Church, whose premises was the unfortunate venue of the heinous killings by gunmen”, he added.
On his part, Vice President Osinbajo described the killings as sacrilegious, saying it is calculated attempt by certain individuals to cause religious war in Nigeria.
The vice president, who spoke at the Inauguration of the Deeper Life Bible Church new auditorium in Gbagada, condemned the devastating act, adding it is heinous and sacrilegious for devilish minds to kill in a place of worship.
He said while security agencies continue to work to bring the perpetrators to book, the body of Christ must not lose focus, but must do more in propagating the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Nobody can stop the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord is building His church and the gate of hell cannot prevail against the church,” he said.
Osinbajo urged the church to pray for the nation and the government, saying that running a government is like a spiritual warfare.
He said, “Persecution of Christians is on the rise. The devil is hard at work, stoking religious tension. I call on all Christians not to be broken even as security agencies are working hard to prevent such occurrences and protect the lives and property of every citizen.”
The vice president congratulated the General Superintendent and members of the Deeper Life Church for the vision and execution of the edifice and called on them to sustain the message of undiluted gospel of Christ the Church has been known, while also ensuring that the Temple of Christ, which the church has built, is also built in the hearts of the people.
“This is one of the proudest moments for me as a Christian, being alive and here seeing this sweet edifice built solely for the propagation of the Gospel of Christ. I am proud of what has been achieved here; the amenities, the IT architecture and ambience, It is my prayer that, with the way this church has been growing, the coming Glory will be greater than the one gone by,” he said.
He challenged the leaders and members of the Church to continue spreading the message of Christ, especially in this end time by making disciples of all nations.
He expressed confidence that the ultra-modern headquarters will provide greater motivation and inspiration to preach the word of God.
In his address, the General Superintendent of Deeper Christian Life Ministry, Pastor Wlliams Kumuyi, thanked the vice president, for finding time to witness the official commissioning of the new auditorium, which he described as historical in the journey of the Church towards evangelizing the world.
Kumuyi who drew the gathering down memory lane to the modest beginning of the church said Deeper Life has remained true to the propagation of the message of love embodied in the life of Jesus Christ on earth.
Meanwhile, Director of Communications, Catholic Diocese of Makurdi Rev Fr Iorapuu, who confirmed the death of the two priests and worshippers in the Church attack said the Police seem to know nothing of the attacks which have been going on in villages within Benue State since the Anti-Open Grazing Law came into effect last year.
He said, “Many people are asking why the International community has remained silent over the massacre of Benue citizens The answer is simple: It has been the goal of the Jihadists to conquer Benue and Tiv people who resisted their advance into the middle belt and the Eastern part of Nigeria since 1804, the people who rejected Islam and fought for the unification of Nigeria in the civil war of 1967 – 1970.
“The people of Eastern Nigeria therefore have little sympathy for Benue people who fought on the side of Nigeria.
The Muslim North is enjoying a sweet revenge overshadowed by an insensitive regime”.
According to him, there were over 180,000 internally displaced persons before the Naka invasion and surely with the current situation in Mbalom, Benue will be flooded with thousands more.
“What cannot be said at this point is the consequences of the death of Missionaries in the silent killings that have been ignored by the government for over a year. The Catholic Diocese of Makurdi, which is one of the largest Dioceses in Nigeria, has been active in providing relief materials, including education and skills acquisition lessons to internally displaced persons To go for the Priests means total destruction of everything we stand for and believe in, as a people”, he added.
Also confirming the incident, a top government official who does not want his name in print said after the attack, 17 bodies were recovered, while some are still missing.
He explained that the attackers burnt nearly 50 houses during the attack and sacked the entire community.
I Counted 19 Bodies Acting Gov Meanwhile, Benue State acting governor, Engr Benson Abounu, has said he counted 19 bodies of worshippers who died in the Church attack, including the two priests, which have already been recovered.
He lamented that the persistent killings in the state are beyond the farmers/herders crises, even as he called on the federal government to treat the attackers as insurgents the way it is done in the Northeast of the country.
Reacting to the yesterday’s morning attack on worshippers in Mbalom, Abounu said the killings have now taken a new dimension.
He said, “This is another black day for the people of the state. The attackers who they said are over 30 targeted a burial and the church in the area. This, I can say, is a calculated genocide on the people of the state and what is happening now is a clear demonstration that the state is under siege because the state is being attacked in all corners. This is unacceptable.
“It is a calculated attack, well planned and well executed and I am directing the security agencies not to take this as the usual herdsman-farmer crises. Let them go after this attackers and apprehend and interrogate them to know the root cause of the crises”.
Confirming the killings, the commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, said the attackers who came around 5:30am targeted a burial ceremony where the priests were to officiate a mass, shooting at anyone in sight.
According to him, the command has deployed enough security in the area alongside the army to go after the attackers and ensure their arrest.
He urged members of the community to assist the security agencies in the area of intelligence gathering to help them work better.
Meanwhile, following the persistent attack on people of the state, Governor Samuel Ortom has cut short his vacation to return home and address the security challenge.
A statement by the chief press secretary to the governor, Terver Akase, noted that the governor’s return is occasioned by the continued attack on his people.
Police Confirm Ethnic Clash In Nasarawa
The Police in Nasarawa State yesterday confirmed the occurrence of a communal clash between the Ebira and Bassa ethnic groups in Ugya village in Toto local government area of the state.
DSP Kennedy Idirisu, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the state, told Newsmen in Lafia that the conflict was a spillover of the crisis in the neighbouring Kogi.
‘‘We received information about the crisis this morning and our findings revealed that the situation is a spillover of the crisis in Kogi over the weekend,’’ he said.
Idirisu said although police could not ascertain any casualty figures as at press time, the Police Command was doing its best to contain the situation and avert bloodletting.
He said the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Ahmed Bello, had directed the deployment of officers from the New Karu and Keffi Area Commands to strengthen the personnel already on ground in the area.
He called on the people of the area to refrain from taking laws into their own hands and seek redress over grievances through constituted authority.
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