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Fulani Herdsmen attack 3 Catholic Priests

Friday, 30 September 2016

By Patrick Egwu & Ifunanya Ozougwu, Enugu

Fulani Herdsmen yesterday attacked three Catholic priests along Obimo in Uzo-Uwani Local Government area of Enugu State while returning from Nsukka to Onitsha and Nnewi respectively after a condolence visit to Rev Fr Uchenna Ezeh of Nsukka Diocese who lost his mother.

Orient Daily gathered that the priests Rev Fr Chetanna Jude Chukwuneke, Fr Emmanuel Dim and Fr Prof Ezeokana were in a car passing along Obimo in Uzo-Uwani when the suspected herdsmen emerged from a bush in a bad spot of the road, and attacked them.

Fr Chukwuenke was shot in the head but managed to escape with his injuries alongside Fr Ezeokana who was also injured in the process.

While Fr Chukwuenke and Fr Prof Ezeokana escaped, Fr Emmanuel Dim was abducted and whisked to an unknown destination and subsequently a ransom of N2.5 million was demanded by his abductors before he is released.

In a release, the Director of Communications at the Nnewi Catholic Diocese, Rev. Fr. Hygi Aghaulor confirmed that the kidnappers of Rev. Fr. Dim - the Rector of Fr. Tansi Major Seminary in Onitsha, Anambra, have demanded a ransom for his release.

Aghaulor confirmed that Dim was kidnapped around 7 p.m while the three catholic priests were returning from Nsukka to Onitsha and Nnewi.

Also, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) condemned the attacks and has directed that no ransom be paid.

Aghaulor requested that Nigerians join hands to pray the priest's release.

“We call on people of goodwill to continue to pray for the immediate release of the Vincentian priest. We are tempted to wonder if Nigeria is on the verge of collapse. All over the country, women are being raped and intimidated, innocent Nigerians are being slaughtered,’’ Aghaulor said.

Similarly, a human rights group,  the Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network (CRRAN), termed the attack "failure of leadership" in the Southeast states.

The President of the Group, Barr Olu Omotayo said "The worsening security situation in Enugu State and Southeast states becomes worrisome due to the inactivity of the governors of the various southeast states who are handling this security challenge with kid gloves.

We support the position of the Catholic Diocese of Nnewi who through Rev Fr. Aghaulor maintained that the southeast governors are doing nothing to protect the people they are governing".

"The position of the Catholic Diocese Nnewi supported our position that Enugu State and sister states in the zone are treating this urgent security matter as a political matter.

We had before now maintained that until the herdsmen arrested in connection with previous attacks in Enugu state are charged to court, these attacks will continue".

"We submit that the trial of the arrested suspects of previous attacks in Enugu state will serve as deterrent to others, hence we instituted the Suit No. FHC/EN/CS/106/2016, at the Federal High Court Enugu against the Attorney General of Enugu State to perform his constitutional duty and charge the 5 suspects of Nimbo Killings to court," he maintained.

However, the duo are currently receiving treatment at an undisclosed hospital.
In a reaction, Fr Chukwuneke confirmed the incident, saying that God saved him from the clutches of death.

He said: "Dear friends, thank you so much for your solidarity, goodwill messages, calls and most importantly your prayers. I am very much stable, hale and hearty. Our Lord did the greatest miracle for me: I was shot in the
head through the side window of the driverside by Fulani hoodlums along Obimo in Uzo-Uwani, near Nimbo both in Enugu state.

The pellets stopped few inches to my brain/skull, and left orbit and ear. It could have been the end but God said it is not yet time.

However, I still have some pellets in my face. Finally, continue to pray for Fr Emmanuel Dim who was abducted. Also Fr Prof Ezeokana is recovering from burns."

When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) Enugu state police command, SP Ebere Amarizu, said the identity of the gun men is yet to be established but claimed that the kidnapped Rev Fr has regained his freedom.

According to him, "The Enugu state command of the Nigeria Police Force through its operatives has commenced a full scale investigation into the incident of attack of catholic priests  by yet to be identified gun men on 27/9/16 along Akachele village of Obimo in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu state  with a view to establishing those behind the dastardly act and their identities so that they can be brought to book".

"It was however gathered that the gun men had allegedly attacked the three priests injuring two and abducted one to an unknown destination. The injured priests were later taken to hospitals for medical attention where they are responding to treatment.However,the abducted priest has regained his freedom.

Members of the public are advised to go about their normal lawful business as the state command working in partnership with relevant stakeholders, sister security agencies as well as the state government  are poised towards ensuring a functional and effective security of lives and property in the state", the statement read.

This is not the first time that Uzo-Uwani will be experiencing such attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen. It would be recalled that on the 25th of April 2016, some suspected armed Fulani herdsmen invaded the town of Ukpabi Nimbo in Uzo-Uwani leading to the death of over 50 persons and properties worth millions of naira destroyed.

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