ISWAP: The Federal Government, yesterday, identified the Islamic State, West African Province ISWAP as being responsible for the attack at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State that led to death of about 40 persons last Sunday
Briefing newsmen at the end of the National Security Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja, Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, said security agencies were already on the trail of the culprits.
While noting that their imprints have been ascertained in the attack, he, however, said the authorities have so far made no arrests.
Aregbesola, joined by the Inspector General of Police, Alkali Baba Usman, dispelled insinuations of ethnic-religious connection in the attack, affirming that the group’s activity has nothing to do with Islam. He also said there was no ethnic agenda in the attack, urging Nigerians to unite and defeat terrorism in the country.
The minister added that the Council expressed concern about killings in the name of blasphemy and consequently directed security agencies to go after perpetrators of the separate incidents in Sokoto State and Abuja recently.
Aregbesola said the motive of the terror group is to pitch Nigerians against one another and make it appear as ethno-religious war.
“The Council is concerned about the violent attack in Owo and have been able to locate the perpetrators of that horrendous attack. From all indications, we are zeroing in on ISWAP
“It is not an ethno-religious thing, the animals in ISWAP, wanting attention and recognition, are suspected to have launched that attack. We have directed all the agencies concerned to go after them and bring them to justice,” he said.
Responding to the recent kidnap and release of the Methodist Church Prelate, Samuel Kanu-Uche, the IGP said no arrest had been made, but added that the incident was being investigated by the authorities.
“We have leads, we have some issues we are still following through on how the ransom was collected and how the negotiations were done. We have information to that effect and we’re getting into the real aspect of arresting the suspects.”
It was gathered last night that suspected attackers of the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church have been reportedly arrested. A trending video showed a crowd protesting within the palace of the Olowo of Owo, Oba Ajibade Ogunoye.
One of them could be heard saying: “They want to take them (suspects) to Akure. The youths are angry.”But the Special Adviser, Media to the Olowo, dismissed the purported arrest as a rumour. He said: “Someone started the rumour and it spread like wildfire. After they tried to disperse the crowd that had gathered to no avail, the Olowo had to come out to address the youths that he too heard the information the same way they heard. The monarch told them he too wished to see the killers and ask them questions too.”
When contacted, spokesperson of the Ondo State Police Command, SP Funmilayo Odunlami, said she is not aware of the development, while the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Richard Olatunde, directed our correspondent to police authorities for confirmation.
The Ilana Omo Oodua Worldwide has said the position of the group that foreign terrorists of Fulani extraction have surrounded Yoruba land is now vindicated by Federal Government’s declaration that the massacre of worshippers in Owo was carried out by ISWAP.
Reacting in a statement, Prof. Banji Akintoye, leader of Ilana Omo Oodua, which is the umbrella body for Yoruba self-determination groups, said its position that Yorubaland had been surrounded by terrorists has been vindicated.
The group urged Governor Rotimi Akeredolu not to be weary but tasked him to redouble his efforts to rid the state of criminal herdsmen terrorising his people.
“We therefore reinstate our earlier position that the government of Ondo should declare an emergency on the activities of herdsmen in the state. All herdsmen operating in Ondo should be profiled. Those in the bush must be flushed out.”
MEANWHILE, the United States of America (USA) has condoled with Ondo State governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), over Sunday’s terror attack. Recall that 40 persons out of the 127 involved in the attack were killed, leaving 61 survivors currently on admission in different hospitals and 26 already discharged.
In a letter to Akeredolu, dated June 7, and signed by the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, U.S. extended its heartfelt condolences to the people of Ondo and the Owo community.
“On behalf of the United States and the staff of the U.S. Mission in Nigeria, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to you, Ondo State, and the Owo community for the horrific event and lives lost at the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church on Sunday.
“This tragedy saddens us deeply and our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families during this difficult time.
“The United States condemns this attack in the strongest terms, and we are concerned with the growing pattern of violence that afflicts communities across Nigeria. We remain steadfast in our efforts to support Nigeria in enhancing civilian security throughout the country
THE pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, has also lauded Akeredolu for his giant strides on security, describing him as a true son of the soil. Akeredolu, yesterday, received Afenifere delegation, who paid a condolence visit to his office in Alagabaka, Akure, the Ondo State capital. It also donated N1.5 million to the church and victims of the attack.
The group was led by its national leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, in company of other members, including the deputy national leader, Oba Oladapo Olaitan; former governor of Ogun State, Chief Gbenga Daniel; Chief Olu Falae, Chief Tunji Alapinni, Chief Sola Ebiseni and Chief Korede Duyile, among others.
The Afenifere leader, particularly, commended Akeredolu for doing his best to secure not only the state, but the Southwest region.
He added that the security situation in the Southwest would have worsened if not for the prompt establishment of the Amotekun Corps, despite opposition by the Federal Government.
Adebanjo also saluted the courage and stance of the governor on issues of national importance, saying that Akeredolu has always demonstrated that he is a politician with a second address.
He described the Owo church attack as an unfortunate situation, calling on Akeredolu to ensure the assailants do not go unpunished.
The governor, while receiving the delegation, appreciated them for their condolence visit, noting that his administration would not back down on its anti-open grazing law.
“What we have suffered is just gruesome, for me it is like an annihilation because these animals in human’s skin did not come to kidnap or steal. They came to maim and kill. So, that is why we have never minced words to say they are terrorists.
We have been reading the news, and I think this incident is the most internationalised incident in Nigeria ever. The Pope is talking and the House of Commons in UK is debating, everybody is talking.”
Akeredolu re-emphasised the need for restructuring the county, saying there is the need for a new Constitution to take the country out of the various challenges facing it.
YORUBA socio-cultural organisation, the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), has given Southwest governors a week to summon a stakeholders’ summit on security in the region following Sunday’s attack in Owo.
Making the call, yesterday, OPC President, Otunba Wasiu Afolabi, described the killings as a horrible, sacrilegious and provocative action, which showed the porous state of security in the Southwest that must be urgently addressed.
OPC, also, condemned the resistance Northerners were putting up against the ban of Okada commercial motorcyclists in six councils of Lagos State and warned that nobody should give the law an ethnic colouration.
The group described the Owo massacre as a wake-up call. It said: “What happened in Owo demands a swift and appropriate response from the Yoruba people or we are all done for.
“To continue to carry on as if we are safe after such a huge tragedy is to live in a fool’s paradise. It is an invitation to annihilation. No one is safe. Who knows where next these evil people will strike and with what magnitude?