CATHOLIC PRIESTS PROTEST SHOOTING OF FELLOW PRIESTS & RISING INSECURITY IN ENUGU STATE
Catholic priests of Enugu Diocese on Friday protested against the killing of the Parish Priest of St. James De Great, Ugbawka, Nkanu West Local Government of Enugu State, the Reverend Father Paul Offu by suspected rogue herdsmen.
The priests numbering about two hundred, with leaves and pla cards, marched from Holy Ghost Cathedral to Government House and journeyed through Ogui Road, Edinburgh, Obiagu and terminated their protest at the Bishop’s Court, Independence Layout, Enugu.
At the Government House, the protesting priests after presenting their grievances to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi left in annoyance as they refused to let the Governor address them.
Speaking with Radio Nigeria, the Director of Communications Catholic Diocese of Enugu, the Reverend Father Benjamin Achi explained that the late Reverend Father Paul Offu, in company of his house boy, was on his way to see a fellow priest in Awgu Diocese after a meeting of priests in Enugu Diocese before he was attacked by suspected herdsmen.
“According to the account of the boy that accompanied Fr. Offu, they came under intense gunfire on Ihe-Agbudu Road but the priest kept moving until his four tyres were flattened by gun shots.
They ran into the bush but their assailants, four armed men, pursued them and rounded them up. They wanted to kidnap them but one of the herdsmen said that the priest gave them a tough time and suggested that he (Fr. Offu) be killed, after all they were not sure whether the church would be interested in paying ransom as the church often refused to pay ransom for their abducted priests.
“The three other herdsmen agreed and they shot Fr. Offu but spared the boy, who was alive to tell the story,” so said Fr. Achi.
Also, the Parish Priest of All Saints Church, Ibagwa Nike, the Reverend Fr. Linus Chukwujike Okwu, lamented that the activities of the suspected herdsmen were criminal and inimical to peace and progress.
The Reverend Father Okwu also pointed out that the rogue herdsmen were a threat to farming in rural communities.
“Most of our parishioners no longer go to their farms because they are afraid of being attacked. I am a farmer too. Yesterday when I visited my farm I discovered that all I have planted have been damaged and some of them eaten up by cows as the herders allowed them enter my farm.
“People, including men, boys, old and young women have suffered different calamities in the hands of these marauding herdsmen. They have been gang raped, beaten to stupor, given machete cut and killed in their own farms. We can’t allow such to continue,” Father Okwu thundered.
Another priest, who was outraged by the incident and who didn’t want his name mentioned, urged Enugu State Government to rise to the occasion and defend the people.
“Security and welfare of the people are the primary functions that the Nigerian Constitution assigned to the government. However the Enugu State Governor, Ugwuanyi, had failed in this duty. Enugu State is under siege.
“This is the third Catholic priest to be attacked in recent time. Two months ago we buried Father Clement who was murdered in his parish house, about two weeks ago another priest was attacked by the herdsmen though he narrowly Escaped death but he is still nursing bullet wound in the hospital. There are stories of ordinary people attacked on the road by robbers and herdsmen and nothing seems to be done. Let our Governor wake up and stop paying lip service to insecurity challenges in Enugu State,” the priest stated.
Addressing journalists at the end of the protest, the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, the Most Reverend Calistus Onaga, appealed for calm among the priests and the laity but urged Governor Ugwuanyi and President Muhammadu Buhari to find lasting solutions to insecurity in the country.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s the life of a priest or laity that is lost, the important thing is that life is precious and sacred. Government should should show reasonable commitment to the issue of insecurity. We shall not fold our arms and what our brothers and sisters killed,” Bishop Onaga said.
In a telephone interview, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) Enugu State Command, Mr. Ebere Amarizu, expressed the displeasure of the command with the development and said that the command had lunched investigation into the matter and had commenced manhunt of the suspects.