Catholic Priest’s Murder: Enugu Directs Air Surveillance as Clerics, IPOB Protest

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  • IGP deploys special squads, orders manhunt for killers

Christopher Isiguzo, Gideon Arinze in Enugu and David-Chyddy Eleke in Awka

Enugu State Government, security agencies and church leaders in the state yesterday rose from an emergency meeting over the killing of a Catholic Priest, Fr. Paul Offu, in charge of St. James the Greater Parish Catholic Church Ugbawka in Enugu State and resolved to establish air surveillance as a way of dealing with the challenge of insecurity in the state.

The killing drew the ire of priests in Enugu and Anambra States as well as Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) who protested the killing and rising insecurity in the region which they blamed on hersdmen.

This is as Inspector General of Police,  Mohammed Adamu, has ordered massive manhunt for the killers of Rev. Father  Offu and consequently deployed crack detectives from the IGP-Intelligence Response Unit (IRT), the Forensic and Homicide sections of the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) to Enugu State to complement efforts at apprehending the killers.

  In addition, according to a statement by Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, the AIG in charge of Zone 9 Headquarters had been directed to mobilise more units of Police Mobile Force (PMF) personnel to black spots in Enugu State.  

In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting and read by the State Commissioner of Police, CP Balarabe Suleiman, the air surveillance will take care of all the forests where incessant cases of killing had been taking place. 

Suleiman said that immediately after the surveillance, the security agencies would embark on rigorous joint operations from Monday, August 5th and in addition to that, the security architecture around those areas would be reviewed with immediate effect. 

He also noted that the State Government had observed the proliferation of small and light weapons in the hands of people who should not possess them, adding that anybody found in possession of arms illegally would be dealt with in accordance with the law.

“To that effect, the government has set up a committee comprising security agencies, LG chairmen and officers of the state to mop up these weapons that are in the hands of people illegally,” he said.

He further stated that the state government would partner with security agencies and communities to ensure that the ugly incidence did not repeat itself and that the state continued to maintain its peace status.

According to him, the state Governor and the people of the state in conjunction with all the security agencies condemn in totality, the killing of Fr, Offu, while restating the resolve of the police command and other security agencies to fish out the perpetrators.

“The state government has resolved to employ the services of forest guards and also strengthen the neighborhood watch guard as a way of ensuring adequate protection of lives and property in the state.

On his part, the Anglican Bishop of Enugu, Emmmanuel Chukwuma said that the church was fed up with the increasing rate of killings of priests in the state and that it was not ready again to tolerate such acts.

“We are saying that no priest will again be killed by any group in the state. We totally condemn and say no to it and we will not accept it anymore,” he fumed.

Insisting that nobody could get Enugu into a state of violence and insecurity, Chukwuma called on the Inspector General of Police, to increase the number of the police in the state as it has been discovered that their number was inadequate, particularly in rural areas which are usually vulnerable to attacks.

“As religious leaders, we condole with the Catholic Church for the killing of Offu. We are saying that Enugu is safe and we are also behind the Governor and his efforts to ensure that life and property of people in Enugu State is secure,” he said.

The representative of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu, while noting that this was not the first time a priest was being killed or abducted in the state said that the diocese had so far lost two priests this year in the hands of hoodlums.

“It is a sad thing that is happening to us and we feel that it is an attempt to sabotage the efforts of the state government to ensure that the state continues to maintain its peace status. Whatever the case is, we are sad and so we have come here to dialogue with the governor and the state security find out how best to handle this issue.

While thanking the Governor for his quick response to the sad incident, he called on all concerned authorities to ensure that such act did not repeat itself as the people of the state do not want to start living in fear. 

 Offu was reportedly taken away and killed along Ihe- Agbudu Road in Awgu.

Following the killing, business activities were literally shut down in Enugu yesterday as hundreds of Catholic Priests took to the streets to protest against the collapse of security in the state culminating in the increasing spate of kidnapping and killings of innocent residents.

Also, the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, His Lordship Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor condemned the killing while the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, in a press statement he personally signed and made available to THISDAY in Awka also condemned the killing.