•Rules out use of mercenaries in fight against terrorists
•Insists Abuja is safe
•Akeredolu confirms arrest of five suspected church attackers, Afenifere welcomes development
Deji Elumoye, Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja and Fidelis David in Akure
The Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor yesterday revealed that security forces have arrested the terrorists behind the attack on St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State.
Irabor, who made the disclosure during a parley with media executives at the Defence Headquarters, Abuja, said the terrorists were arrested by the military in collaboration with other security agencies.
The Media engagement was facilitated by The Media Today (TMT).
Terrorists had, on June 5, attacked the Catholic Church and opened fire on worshippers during a Sunday mass, killing 48 parishioners.
Also, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, who confirmed the arrest of five suspected killers of over 40 worshippers at the Church, also revealed that some members of Ebira community in the area were getting involved in kidnapping.
Akeredolu said this during a courtesy visit to his office by the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Ondo State Council, led by the Chairman, Mr. Leke Adegbite.
Speaking further on the terrorists who masterminded the attack in Owo, the defence chief said the criminals were arrested in collaboration with other security agencies.
“I want to tell you that we have arrested the attackers of Owo Church. We were to parade them today for you, but investigations are still ongoing.
“For the purpose of this interaction, I will like to read out their names and as I read out their names, let me say that it is not just the Armed Forces, but the DSS, the Police and other intelligence agencies were part and parcel of the efforts to apprehend these criminals who have put us and indeed the nation on their toes,” he said.
“On August 7, Idris Ojo, 37, was apprehended at Aiyetorosi in Ondo State. He is one of the high profile Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) that escaped from Kuje Prison.
“Alongside with him is one Jimoh Ibrahim who a 39-year old criminal who was also arrested.
“Idris Ojo was not done with all the criminal activities which he undertook in the past, he was also planning other deadly attacks and he was perfecting those plans along with his cronies before he was apprehended.
“On August 4, again, the military in a combined operation with the DSS, arrested four terrorists at Eika in Okehi Local Government of Kogi State”, he said.
Irabor noted that, “these are Idris Abdulmalik Omeiza otherwise known as Ibn Malik; Momoh Abubakar, Aliyu Itopa and Auwal Onimisi.
“Now, Omeiza is one of the masterminds of the June 5 Catholic Church attack in Owo as well as the attack on the police station in Adavi also in Kogi State that led to the killing of a policeman as well as weapons being carried away,” he said.
He also dispelled rumours that terrorist elements were laying siege to the Federal Capital Territory and already plotting attacks on residents of the nation’s capital.
He maintained that Abuja remains safe and had not been invaded by Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West African Province, (ISWAP).
Speaking further, Irabor rejected the idea of recruiting mercenaries to support the military in the fight against the terrorists.
He rather advised that the resources that would have been used to hire mercenaries should be channeled to build the capacity of the military, which he said has the responsibility of protecting the country.
“Mercenary is not an option, it is a half story. Mercenaries are commercial entities moving from one place to the other. We should rather use the resources to build the capacity of those that have the responsibility to protect the country,” he said.
Irabor also assured that contrary to expectations and fears that the raging insecurity across the country may affect the 2023 general election, the Armed Forces of Nigeria was prepared to ensure that the election was free, fair and secured.
“Some time last week the Inspector General of Police had, at a forum for personnel of the police, the military and other security agencies that would be involved in the election and I made a statement that as members of the armed forces, we have a covenant with the electoral process.
“That statement presupposes that we will do anything to create the condition for a free, safe and secured conduct of the 2023 general elections. We will do everything to ensure that nothing stops it. We have a covenant with the democratic process,” he said.
Irabor affirmed that the armed forces would ensure that, “nothing stops the election,” and maintain its constitutional role of protecting the territorial integrity of the nation.
He reassured the nation that the military would do everything possible to defend the territorial integrity of the country, adding that it would not relinquish the control of the country to terrorists.
Irabor urged Nigerians, especially the media, to unite against those he described as enemies of the state.
“The core responsibility of the military is to protect the territorial integrity of the country. A nation is as strong as its military and there are various avenues you can weaken your military. There are people who are strong physically but you can attack them emotionally and their strength will be useless.
“Do not encourage people to weaken the emotional strength of the armed forces, if you do, every one of us will be the losers.
“God has created this space for us to dominate our dominating and exploiting the resources of the state is a collective responsibility. It is for us, our families and our children to enjoy.
“It is not for us to abandon it for some other idiots to take over, it is for us to defend and enjoy.
“So whatever it will take to defend the nation, we will do,” he said.
Meanwhile, Akeredolu who also confirmed the arrest of five suspected killers, further disclosed that the owner of the house where the attackers stayed before the June 5 attack in Owo had also been arrested
He noted that government did not spare a moment in trailing the terrorists since the horrendous attack on innocent worshippers.
“Now that the military has announced it, I can tell you that five of them have been arrested now. They are still on the trail of the rest.
“The home where they lodged in Owo and the person that accommodated them before the attack, has also been arrested.
“We did not spare a moment. I am happy that the Chief of Defence Staff has announced it. We have known for a while, but we needed not to come out with it because more works are still ongoing.
“I can confirm that this arrest has been made and they are still on the trail of some of them,” he said.
Akeredolu also called on leaders of the Ebira community in the state to warn the young ones against the bad venture of kidnapping.
The governor said recent reports from kidnap victims in the state established that some Ebira indigenes are now involved in the unwholesome act.
He noted that the Ebiras have lived together with the people of the state peacefully for several decades, adding that they have always been supportive and hardworking.
“I want to use this medium to urge our brothers to concentrate on their farming trade. It will be unfortunate to know that the Ebiras in our midst are now involved in kidnapping.
“We are appealing to them not to copy bad thing. The traders selling by the road side should not become informants.
“We are not fighting them; we have seen their numbers, they supported and voted for us during elections. I will call their leaders and talk to them.
“Our brothers who were kidnapped on their way to Ikare; talk to them, they were taken to Ebira farmsteads.
“For me, we have lived together for too long for this to happen. I am ready to make any effort to ensure that the conviviality that we have enjoyed continues.
“But we are begging their leaders to urge them not to copy bad thing. They are in our midst; we are surrounded by them. The issue of security is key and it’s dynamic,” he said.
Akeredolu disclosed that aside the recent recruitment and training of new Amotekun personnel, 20 hunters and local vigilantes would be trained by the Amotekun corps in each of the 18 local government areas of the state.
The governor, who thanked the NUJ in the state for the cooperation extended to his administration, assured them of sustained efforts at developing the state.
Earlier, the Chairman of the NUJ, Ondo State Council thanked the governor for his support for the management of Ondo State Radiovision Corporation and Owena Press PLC, adding that the upgrade of facilities in the two state-owned media outfits was commendable.
On the issue of Security, Governor Akeredolu disclosed that aside the recent recruitment and training of new Amotekun personnel, 20 hunters and local vigilantes would be trained by the Amotekun corps in each of the eighteen local government areas in the state.
In the meantime, the Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, has described as a welcome development the reported arrest of the terrorists that attacked the Catholic Church in Owo.
The group’s National Publicity Secretary, Jare Ajayi said this in a chat with THISDAY.
He said: “The announcement of the arrest of some of the masterminds of the Owo carnage as announced by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, is a welcome development. It was an indication that the insecurity situation in the country that is giving us a lot of concern is something that our military is not oblivious of.”
According to him, the confirmation of the arrest by Akeredolu while receiving members of the NUJ in the state and the reassurance given on efforts at providing security for the people, “also gladden our hearts.
“We urge the security agencies and the governments at federal and state levels to buckle up more in providing security for all and sundry.”
The Afenifere spokesman urged the military and all other security agencies to ensure that criminals, bandits and terrorists are apprehended before they are able to execute their evil plans.
“To find lasting solutions to the insecurity problem however, we are hereby repeating our several advocacies for State Police.
“We are also appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari to come out boldly and send powerful messages to evil perpetrators to stop. Such messages to be both gestural and in concrete actions,” the Afenifere spokesman further added.