The Sunday, 5th June 2022 attack at St Francis Catholic Church, Owaluwa Street, Owo, Ondo State, home town of the state Governor, Mr Olurotimi Akeredolu, yet again brings into sharp focus the disturbing spectre of terrorism and violent criminality in Nigeria. Furthermore distressful is the embarrassing inability of the government and the security agencies to prevent these murderous attacks or halt the destructive escalation.
Several eye-witness accounts have confirmed that the congregation had all but rounded up the Mass on Pentecost Sunday when an unknown number of gunmen stormed into the church detonated explosives, and rained bullets on the defenceless worshippers, maiming and murdering people in yet another dastardly act of terrorism.
According to Most Revd Jude Arogundade, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Owo, “the diocese had been able to account for 38 victims” taken to St Louis Catholic Hospital Owo and the Federal Medical Centre, Owo. This was corroborated by Ondo State Commissioner for Health, Dr Banji Ajaka who stated that “the number of victims was 127 while 40 had been confirmed dead”.
The National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) vehemently condemns the attack on innocent parishioners and the horrifying desecration of a place of worship. This heinous violence amounts to a crime against humanity that must be met with the full weight of the Nigerian State. The Government and its security agencies must understand that it further damages the respect and confidence that lingers among the populace if such terrorist rampage does not shock the government enough, into urgent and purposeful action against gravely rising terrorist and violent criminal activity.
We commiserate with the families who lost loved ones as well as the people of Owo and the Catholic Diocese of Ondo. Incidents like this mass murder in Owo and others that have, like clockwork, preceded it across different communities in Nigeria, continue to reemphasise the manifest questions about the competence of the Federal Government and the embarrassing habitual helplessness of our security agencies in arresting and prosecuting perpetrators. It is shameful and stressful that the Nigerian government and its security agencies are not forestalling these violent schemes nor identifying, apprehending and bringing their sponsors to justice.
The Federal Government by its reckless inaction and rudderless security strategy inadvertently gives free rein to impunity, allowing its continued festering into worsening terrorism. This is brutally demeaning the value of Nigerian lives. By any stretch of the imagination, it still does not make sense that our government seems to find it impossible to curtail the reign of terror manifesting in mass murder and massive mayhem increasingly severe every day in Nigeria.
Regrettably, President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership at critical times and his administration’s apathy to all the violence and killing was again highlighted after the tragedy in Owo. A statement released by his media aide, Mr Femi Adesina quoted President Buhari as describing the killings as “heinous”, noting that “only fiends from nether region could have conceived and carried out such a dastardly act”. He added that “eternal sorrow awaits the perpetrators of the bad act both on earth here and ultimately in the hereafter.”
Nigerians were however taken aback when the President could not match action with the words of the statement he issued to rightly condemn the incident. His directive indicating “immediate mobilisation of all state resources to find and neutralise the criminals”, like many others before now, seems not to be yielding any results that are visible or verifiable.
Worse still, there is no evidence that the President has given priority to ensuring the implementation of his directives. It does not show care and sensitivity to the pain and suffering of its citizens that the president found it convenient to go ahead with hosting APC party chieftains to a dinner in the state house on the same day.
Insensitive actions like this keep compelling the painful nationwide opinion of this government’s reckless abdication of responsibility and the duty of care. Prioritising that dinner party adds to the public repudiation of the existence of government-protection of lives and property. The killings and kidnappings have become so rampant that the government appears to be numb to it while the circumference of savagery widens wildly.
Seventy-two victims of terror in Borno and Kastina States between May 25 and May 26 2022 were promised justice in a press statement by President Buhari. The expectant group were still bemoaning its tragic fate when the Owo incident occurred claiming 40 innocent Nigerians. How many more Nigerians would be killed before the government shows in unequivocal terms that it cares and will act resolutely and effectively to salvage Nigeria from the grip of terror and violent criminality.
The National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) advises the Federal Government to reconsider the ineffectual strategy of publishing figures of terrorists surrendering. This in no way amounts to evidence of an effective, or even existing, war against terrorism. Only the news of arrested and prosecuted terrorists brought to justice equals tangible action to salvage Nigeria and its citizens from the rampant violent criminality. Terrorists are criminals. When they surrender they should be made to face justice through the courts as a deterrent to others. When they continue to wage war against the Nigerian state and its people, it behoves the Federal Government to militarily activate its duty of care to protect its citizens and territory accordingly. The delusional narrative of surrendering and repentant terrorists is giving rise to concerns of government incompetence and complicity in the security structure of the government of Nigeria.
The government needs to rouse itself from its scandalous inertia and actively, in conjunction with the state governments, tactically and strategically act to stop the terrorism persistently ripping apart the soft underbelly of the fragile fabric our country.
We restate our earlier recommendation for the government to seek help from friendly foreign countries in the areas of personnel training, intelligence gathering and surveillance technology that will further empower our security agencies to deal effectively with this deadly criminal and terrorist scourge tormenting Nigerians.
As far back as April 26 2022, the Department of State Security (DSS), through its spokesman Peter Afunanya, alerted Nigerians to an alleged plan by criminal elements to bomb “worship and relaxation centres”. It is baffling that there is no clarity that such intelligence has been, or is being, acted upon by the government and its security agencies. While we acknowledge that intelligence matters are largely not an issue for public media, any intel that intelligence agencies publicly share remains one that they owe Nigerians the open accountability on how they have successfully acted on it. Effective communication can indicate that the government really cares and is doing its best in the face of the humongous security crisis in Nigeria. There is no excuse for lack of appropriate inter agency sharing of security intelligence and collaboration on pre-emptive strategies in tackling soaring terrorism in the country.
It is time for Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) codenamed Operation Amotekun,which was high-flying when it kicked off on January 9 2020 to rejig its capacity for tactical operations and intelligence gathering to confront and neutralise what is an existential threat in its domain. South-West governors should put partisan politics aside and strengthen the Amotekun Corps in tactical operations and intelligence gathering. South-West governors should not play the ostrich and feign ignorance on what is at stake.
The recent judgement of an Ondo State High Court which sentenced to death three killers of Mrs Olufunke Olakurin, daughter of Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, is a pointer on how the government, law enforcement agencies and the judiciary should be firm in dealing with criminality. Nigeria has laws against murder, manslaughter, endangerment, destruction, violence etc. The message should be unambiguous that the law would be applied resolutely and criminals brought to justice.
In addition, the South-West governors should not pay lip service to the recommendations reached at its recent meeting “to increase the scope of surveillance of the activities of undocumented settlers by relevant security agencies in all the States” and “identity management of Okada riders and stringent regulation put in place for their operation”. The governors should treat the reconvening of the South- West Security Committee with utmost urgency.
A government that cannot protect its people compromises its own legitimacy. The President Buhari administration has the constitutional duty to protect Nigerians from marauding and maniacal criminals. As our hearts go out to the people of Owo, we say to our leaders, enough with the fiddling while the wanton killing of Nigerians continues!