Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
Tragedy struck Monday at Omoku, the headquarters of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA) of Rivers State, when unidentified gunmen shot and killed 17 persons who were returning from a New Year crossover service.
THISDAY gathered that about 26 persons were shot in the attack, 14 persons died on the spot, while 12 injured victims were rushed to hospitals in the city.
Of the 12 injured victims, three were said to have died in the hospital.
There were, however, conflicting casualty figures. While some sources said 14 persons were killed, another said 15 were killed, while others claimed 21 persons lost their lives in the incident.
It was further gathered that the gunmen had operated at two different locations – Kirigani and Oboh axis of Aligwu community in Omoku, in a coordinated attack.
The suspected killers, according to eyewitness reports, opened fire on Christians who were returning from different churches around 00:20 a.m. after the New Year service and killed the victims.
The Rivers State Police Command described the incident as unfortunate, adding that the culprits must be smoked out and prosecuted.
The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Nnamdi Omoni (DSP), said police were aware of the incident, but could not ascertain the number of casualties to journalists at the time of filing this report.
Omoni said: “I can confirm the incident but at the moment, we cannot confirm the number of casualties. The Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of operations and other tactical heads have been mobilised there to restore peace.
“The Commissioner of Police (Zaki Ahmed) has launched a manhunt for the bandits to ensure they are arrested and prosecuted. When the DCP and the teams there conclude, we will know the total number of people involved.”
However, the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Dakuku Peterside, said 21 persons were killed in the incident.
Peterside blamed the incident on the fight for supremacy among rival cult groups in the area, adding that cultism and cult-related killings thrive in the area because of the backing of powerful politicians, reported Premium Times.
“My heart goes to the people of ONELGA and the immediate families of the deceased. This is an act that must be condemned. The good people of Omoku have suffered enough and this has dealt a further blow on their sufferings,” he said, adding that the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, lacks the capacity to tackle the state’s security challenge.
“I have said it time and again that Governor Wike lacks the capacity and competence to guarantee the safety and security of the Rivers people.
“It is unfortunate that over 1,000 persons have been killed in questionable circumstances in the last two years under his watch. He should stop playing politics with the lives of Rivers people and face governance.
“Since the governor is not rising to the occasion to show competence, we will henceforth partner with all relevant security agencies to bring peace, law and order to ONELGA and other parts of Rivers State.
“This is indeed a sad day for the people of ONELGA and the only way we can assuage their feelings is to ensure that this does not happen again.
“Governor Wike can rise above his partisan politics and display the hallmark of a statesman by openly condemning this murderous act and stop at nothing to arrest the criminals,” Peterside said.