- Wednesday, 08 August 2012
- By Elombah.com
Kogi state in Central Nigeria appears to be under siege as gunmen yesterday attacked men of the Joint Task Force (JTF) guarding Okene Central Mosque and killed two soldiers attached to the team. The fresh attack come 24 hours after worshippers at Deeper Life Church, Otite in Okehi Local Government of Kogi State, were attacked
by suspected terrorists killing 15 persons, while another victim died in the hospital.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. But the radical Islamist sect, Boko Haram, advised President Goodluck Jonathan over the weekend to embrace Islam or face the wrath of their struggle.
Security analysts worry that the three year long Boko haram insurgency, which has killed some 660 people thus far in 2012 is straining the country’s secular foundations to the breaking point.
Boko Haram has been quite active, launching attacks on an almost weekly basis, but their radical message does not resonate with all Nigerian Muslims.
The Deeper Life Church were 16 were killed
Ironically all these happened barely 48 hours after the Kogi State Police Command said it arrested 17 gunmen and recovered 35 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as well as other arms and ammunition in Okene town of the state.
Parading the suspects arrested at various operations in Lokoja over the weekend, the state police commissioner, Muhammed Musa Katsina, said the explosives were recovered from a vehicle of suspected armed robbers while attempting to raid a filling station in the area.
As the town was struggling to recover from the hangover of Monday's attack, some gunmen hit the Central Mosque, shooting dead four people, including two soldiers, bringing the death toll to twenty.
Sources said that the gunmen that carried out yesterdays invasion came to the premises of the mosque in a white Hilux Jeep trying to force their way into the mosque where Muslim faithful had gathered for their Tafsir prayer, opened fire and killed two soldiers.
The Military men, who were stationed at the Central Mosque returned fire and killed two of the gunmen before the rest escaped.
Kogi State Police Commissioner, Mr. Muhammed Katsina, who confirmed the incident, said that operatives of the command were on the trail of the gunmen.
Responding to the situation, the Kogi State Government declared a dusk-to-dawn curfew within Okene town and its environs.
Governor Idris Wada, who had earlier visited the church and General Hospital, decked in bullet proof vest, promised that the state government would pay the medical bills of victims, gave the directive during a statewide broadcast. He also restricted the movement of commercial motorcycle operators from 6am to 6pm in Lokoja, the state capital and Okene town and its environs.
Meanwhile a bomb was discovered at the Revival Church in Lokoja, the state capital, worsening increasing fear of insecurity in the state. The Church which is located at Eika Adagu in Okehi Local Government Area is now surrounded by officers of the Nigeria Police Force and soldiers as family members of the deceased are coming around in tears, to identify their bodies.
Following intelligence reports that such attacks may be repeated in other parts of the state, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar has ordered a 24-hour surveillance of all places of worship and other vulnerable areas in Okene and other parts of the state.
A victim of the Kogi church attack on his hospital bed.
According to a statement signed by Police Spokesman, CSP Frank Mba, the IG also ordered the immediate deployment of additional units of the Police Mobile Force from other Squadrons to beef up security arrangement in the state.
“The IG further appealed for calm among the people of Kogi State, promising that the perpetrators of ‘this heinous crime will certainly not go unpunished”.
Narrating how they survived the blood-chilling attack, some survivors said, yesterday, that if the gunmen, who attacked worshipers at the Deeper Life Church had their way, none of the about 80 worshippers would have survived.
Speaking on a day that the death toll of the attack rose to 20 following the death of four of the victims receiving treatment at one of the hospitals in Okene, the Zonal Coordinator of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Pastor Omotosho told Journalists that the plan of the gunmen was to kill everyone in the hall.
The presiding pastor of the church, Pastor Lambe Emmanuel was among those killed in the attack. The church Bible Study meeting usually attracts an estimated population of 80 per service.
He said that they received a distress call from one of the surviving pastors of the church that they were under attack, adding that when they rushed to the scene, it was a gory sight that greeted them as corpses of the worshipers littered everywhere in the church.
One of the victims who spoke from the hospital stated that when the gunmen came, they blocked the main entrance of the church and put off the generating set and instantly opened fire on the worshipers.
“We were in the Church for normal Bible studies on Monday evening when they besieged us. After shooting, they started spraying under benches in the church to ensure no one survived the onslaught.”
However, few members were lucky to have managed to find an escape route amidst bullets fired randomly while they were trying to run for cover.
Another survivor, Mr. Lawal Saliu, who sustained several gun shot wounds, told newsmen on his hospital bed at the Lokoja specialist hospital: “I only saw two gunmen, who entered the church in a flowing gown during our usual bible study at around 11pm. Before we could say anything we started hearing gunshots I only woke up to find myself on this hospital bed, I don’t even know how I got here.
Another victim, Mr Samuel Ayodele, said he lost his wife and a child. The Okene overseer of Deeper Life Church, Pastor Roland Egunjobi said the incident was the saddest moment of his life as most of the worshippers who were killed were children who came out for bible study with their parents.
Following the unsavoury development, there was a public outcry against the spate of terrorist attacks in the country, particularly the Monday killings at the Deeper Life Bible Church in Kogi State. Many Nigerians said on Tuesday the country is on the brink of anarchy.
Groups and individuals, including the Church of Nigeria Anglican communion; the northern socio-political group, the Arewa Consultative Forum; and some former police bosses condemned the growing wave of violence in the country.
The Prelate of the Anglican Church, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, warned that the country was drifting to anarchy.
He said, “At the rate we are going, the country is drifting fast into anarchy and if people now capitalise on that situation, it will degenerate to dog eat dog.
“If dog eats dog, that is the end of the country. So for me, we go back to government whose responsibility it is constitutionally to provide defence for the people.”
The cleric called on the Federal Government to utilise the taxpayers’ money to “provide protection for the people.”
He said, “The attack on the church is a damnable thing; it is evil. Again, it is not something people should feel that the church should be the one responsible to act. The church has no soldiers.
“It is the Federal Government and state governments that collect revenue from people and control the security organisations that can act.”
Also, the ACF, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Anthony Sani, noted that the current attack on Okene was dastardly.
He said, “They (the gunmen) desecrate the holy month of Ramadan meant for sober reflection.
“The attacks and killings of police in both Damaturu and Sokoto as well as of some churches in Kogi State are very disturbing and horrible not because the killings are more dastardly than those of the past but because they desecrate the holy month of Ramadan.
The ACF spokesman urged terrorists who were behind the attacks to embrace peace.
He stated, It (ACF) calls on all those who kill themselves in order to kill other people for whatever reasons to lay down their arms and embrace peaceful approaches to addressing concerns/perceived grievances and attaining their goals.
“This is because in peace, it is very possible to make the most of our diversity, respect them and love them for common good.”
Commenting on the killings, the President of the Campaign for Democracy, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, said that the government had lost the war against terrorism.
“Government has lost the war totally. There are only two options: Jonathan should either get his act right and deal with the situation or step aside and let the country sort itself out,” she added.
Also, the Secretary General of the Trade Union Congress, Chief John Kolawole, described the killings as abhorrent.
He called on the Federal Government and the security agencies to take decisive steps to stop the attacks to prevent the country from serious turmoil.
He said that it would not be right for the government to pretend as though everything was okay, knowing that things were going wrong.
He wondered what would happen in the country if Christians revenged the mindless waste of human lives.
Kolawole stated, “They (terrorists) are getting out of the North-East; they have crossed the Niger. We have had one or two incidents in Kogi in the past and the security agents contained them,
“However, I think trying to eject them from Kogi is not working. The political class must sit up and the security agencies must check their advances, and stop the incessant killings.
“I don’t want to predict anything, if Christians begin to retaliate, you know what will happen, but these people are also killing Muslims.
“ I think some people are trying to create massive unrest in the country and we must move fast to prevent it.”
On his part, a former Commissioner of Police in Lagos, Mr. Abubakar Tsav, noted the insecurity in the country was getting out of hand.
Tsav, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the police and the Joint Task Force lacked the capacity to tackle terrorism in the country.
The former police commissioner stated, “This thing is getting out of hand. From all indications, it has become clear that both the police and the JTF lack the capacity to provide security for the citizenry.”
Tsav said that security agencies should be on the alert, since the attacks had been consistent.
“The primary objective is to provide security. Government has not done that,” he added.
The former police commissioner advised the government to recruit more policemen because the ratio of one policeman to 400 citizens had not been achieved.
“ I think Jonathan’s administration has failed to provide security and the government has failed,” he said.
A former Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro, described the attack as devastating.
“I am still sad about it that such a thing happened to Nigeria, I don’t know what comment to make about it,” the ex-IG said.
Tunde Ishaku, a senior member of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) an umbrella body of the Nigerian Christians, says that Christian patience with government protection was wearing out, and that Christians in Nigeria either must rise up and protect themselves, or allow their enemies to continue killing them.
There is “not any religion in the world that accepts killing of innocent people at their worshipping centers,” Mr. Ishaku said. “We have to be serious now to take urgent action for the sake of our life and that of our followers."