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“Stop killings, convoke a Ceasefire Meeting”: Nigerian Archbishop to Imo State Governor

Archbishop Anthony Obinna of Nigeria’s Owerri Archdiocese/ Credit: Courtesy Photo

The Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Owerri Archdiocese, which covers Imo State, has expressed concerns about killings of innocent citizens by “known and unknown gunmen” and called on the Governor of the Nigerian State to “convoke a Ceasefire Meeting.”

In a statement issued Thursday, June 3, Archbishop Anthony Obinna says, “Lives are at stake as killings of Imo People are taking place in broad daylight and at nights by both officially and unofficially armed men.”

“Imo people are on the run from known and unknown gunmen,” Archbishop Obinna says and adds, “There is scare in the air and anxiety on the ground. Imo people are hiding, living in fear.”

“Reports of indiscriminate arrests for no clear reason and killings as a show of power or in alleged retaliation continue to spread,” the Catholic Church leader bemoans.

He appeals for an end to the bloodshed in Imo State saying, “On behalf of the already killed and even more, on behalf of the living now threatened daily with brutal death, I charge Governor Hope Uzodimma as the Chief Security Officer for Imo People to step up and stop the killings by whoever is responsible for them.”

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“I urge the Governor to convoke a Ceasefire Meeting of all Imo Stakeholders, no matter their disposition or leaning, for a concerted approach to quench the bloody fire already ravaging Imo People and destroying Imo State,” the Local Ordinary of Owerri says in his June 3 statement obtained by ACI Africa.

He continues, “I equally charge all users and abusers of guns and deadly weapons to stop the killings, to renounce violence and to denounce any show of pride in killing fellow human beings.”

Tension has been on the rise in Imo State following clashes between gunmen and the Nigerian Police.

Last month, at least nine gunmen were killed during an attack on the Orlu police station, according to media reports.

An aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Ahmed Gulak, was shot dead last week in Imo State.

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According to the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Mr. Bala Elkana, “On May 30, 2021, at about 07:20hrs, armed bandits intercepted and attacked a Toyota Camry cab, carrying Ahmed Gulak and two others, who were on their way to Sam Mbakwe Airport to catch a flight.”

He added, “Six armed bandits who rode in a Toyota Sienna intercepted, identified and shot Ahmed Gulak around Umueze Obiangwu in Ngor-Okpala Local Government Area, close to the Airport.”

Owerri ThisDay newspaper reported Thursday, June 3 that gunmen invaded the Orji area in Owerri killing three persons in different locations. The operation lasted for more than an hour, as the armed men moved around the area shooting sporadically. 

In his June 3 statement, Archbishop Obinna makes reference to some of the cases of violence and arbitrary arrests in Imo State saying, “On Wednesday the 26 May 2021 I personally went to the Federal Correctional Centre, Owerri, to see the one hundred and six young men arrested from various locations, accused and charged to court jointly for planning to commit a treasonable felony. They are yet to be released.”

“On Thursday the 3rd June 2021, I visited the Owerri Federal Medical Centre, Mortuary. As I painfully surveyed the thirty-five corpses stark naked on the bare floor, stealthily dumped there within the last few days, victims of run-away killers, military, police and unknown gunmen, with no identification on them, I thought of many others who have been kidnapped, taken to unknown locations, killed and even butchered, as we continue to hear. Imo is bleeding,” the Nigerian Archbishop recounts.

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He implores, “Into your hands O Lord we commend Imo State. O Mary, Mother of Sorrows and Mother of Mercy, intercede for your children.”

Last month, the Local Ordinary of the Catholic Diocese of Orlu located within the region reassured the people of the presence of God amid fear and anxiety as a result of persistent insecurity.

“In this moment of heightened tension, fear and anxiety, I would like to reassure our people that God has not and will never abandon His people,” Bishop Augustine Tochukwu Ukwuoma said in a statement issued May 17.

The Bishop added, “God calms the heat of war, the storm of ravage, and the wind of extermination. Let us hold firmly unto His unfailing word. Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and of good courage.”

Catholic Bishops in Nigeria’s Ecclesiastical Provinces of Onitsha and Owerri have also raised similar concerns, underscoring incessant insecurity in the country and their region.

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In a May 11 video posted on Facebook following their extraordinary Onitsha/Owerri Inter-Provincial Bishops’ Meeting on the situation of the West African nation, the Catholic Church leaders said that the country is in “great danger” and urgent action is required.

“The state of Nigeria in different parts of our country with so much violence, insecurity and anxiety is a source of major concern to us Bishops. We are speaking to you, our people at various levels of government and across the nation, to see that this nation is in great danger unless we bring a new spirit, a new approach,” they said in the message.

The Bishops also called on the President Muhammad Buhari-led government to “look into security matters and restrain those who are using weapons of various sorts to intimidate the people and to create this unrest.”

“We expect a stoppage of the carnage that is taking place in farmlands and in various locations,” the Catholic Bishops in the two Nigerian Ecclesiastical Provinces said, calling on all Nigerians to “recognize that every human life is sacred.”