Last Sunday, a gunman opened fire on early morning worshippers at the St. Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu, Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State, killing 13 people and wounding about 18 others in an unprecedented display of barbarism that shocked Nigerians. The mindless bloodletting is not only sacrilegious, it is abhorrent and alien to Nigerian culture.
The gunman was reportedly brought to the church by a callous gang of killers in a Lexus sports utility vehicle in which they also made their escape after the mass murder of innocent men, women and children. It has been speculated that their actual target was a prominent member of the Ozubulu community, but they decided to kill the victims when they could not find him. The Police reportedly made arrests, but did not disclose the identity of the suspects. This type of killing of innocent worshippers at a church service has never been witnessed in Igboland.
The premeditated killing of these innocent worshippers calls for prompt action from the Federal and Anambra State Governments. The nation’s security agencies must enlist all their investigative resources to unravel this atrocity that has been linked to drug deals that went awry. Detectives must follow the evidence wherever it leads. They should solicit external help, if necessary. It is of the utmost importance that this atrocity be fully investigated. Because of the peculiarity of this crime, and to allay fears that money could be used to suppress the truth of the matter, it may be necessary for the government to institute a public commission of inquiry.
We urge the government to consider that option, while the Police is made to brief the public periodically on the progress of the investigation to ensure that rumours do not replace information. Nigerians want the perpetrators apprehended and tried in open court, whether the crime originated from South Africa, Brazil or South America.
The facts of this incident are not yet known, and Nigerians must be patient until they emerge. What is, however, not in doubt is the unhealthy influence of money on our values as a people. There is a disturbing silence in our communities concerning affluent persons, irrespective of the origins of their wealth. Men and women whose wealth emanate from dubious sources are oftentimes glorified, while a blind eye is turned to their moral depravities. When such individuals use ill-gotten monies for public causes, they are granted indemnity for their nefarious activities, whether they are drug barons, looters of public funds, smugglers, corrupt public servants, prosperity pastors, scammers or fraudsters.
Glorification of wealth is an unmistakable sign of social decay and it permeates every aspect of our existence. The church or mosque has proved not immune to these temptations, whereas they are supposed to be guardians of both our moral compass and our conduct. Pervasive poverty has accentuated the race to the bottom of the moral ladder and, when stolen wealth is given to the hungry widow or the jobless villager, they feel obliged to their benefactor, even if he is a known criminal. Nigeria, indeed, needs moral rearmament.
One good way for this to begin is to arrest the men behind the Ozubulu killings and bring them to justice. This will send the strong message that such horrendous criminal acts will not be tolerated in the country.