The Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, General Lucky Irabor, and the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu yesterday, confirmed the arrest of criminal elements behind the bloody attack on St. Francis’ Catholic Church, Owo, which left 40 persons dead and several others injured.
While the defence boss told editors and media executives at an interactive session in Abuja that the suspects were arrested through a joint intelligence-led operation by the military and other security agencies, the governor said at a separate forum in Akure that one of those arrested was a lodger of the terrorists, who were members of the Islamic State of West Africa, ISWAP.
Speaking during the media parley at Defence Headquarters, Abuja, the CDS said two of the masterminds of the deadly terrorist attack were 32-year-old Idris Ojo and Jimoh Ibrahim, 39.
He said four other persons were arrested at Eja in Okehi Local Government Area of Kogi State, in connection with the June 5 attack on the Catholic Church in Owo and another attack on a Police station at Ada in which a policeman was killed.
He said: “They (suspects) are Idris Abdul Malik Omeiza, Momoh Ojowu Abu, Aliyu Yusuf and Auwal Onimisi. They were arrested in a joint operation with DSS and the police. Auwal Onimisi was arrested in Kogi State.
“Idris Abdulmalik Omeiza was the mastermind of the terrorists attack on Saint Francis Catholic Church, Owo, and the June attack on a Police station in Kogi State that claimed the life of a police officer.”
Irabor said the arrested masterminds would have been paraded before the media but for the fact that there was still some part of the investigations to be tidied up.
Recall that at least 40 people were killed when gunmen stormed the church on June 5, opened fire on the congregation, and also detonated explosives as worshippers scampered for safety.
Abuja safe, not under siege of terrorists— Irabor
Regarding the heightened tension over recent attacks in the FCT involving troops of the Presidential Guards Brigade at Bwari and Zuma Rock, the CDS dispelled the notion that terrorist elements were laying siege to the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, and already plotting further attacks on residents of Abuja.
Maintaining that Abuja was safe, and had not been invaded by Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West African Province, ISWAP, terrorists, Irabor said insinuations of terrorists’ invasion of FCT were fake news, targeted at creating panic among residents of the city.
He said such reports, which create fear and panic, were the type of media propaganda terrorists and other criminal needed to be in the public domain, adding that it was playing to their advantage of creating a sense of uncertainty and apprehension.
2023 elections’ll hold in hitch-free environment
On the possibility of insecurity scuttling the 2023 general elections, the CDS said the polls would be peacefully conducted without any hitch, noting that efforts of the military hierarchy to boost security through ground operations in the North-West and North Central had resulted in the killing of several terrorists and bandits.
While reiterating the commitment of the military to protect the democratic ideals in Africa’s most populous nation, Irabor said: ‘’The military has made a covenant to protect Nigeria’s democracy and it has not changed its position.
“The Federal Government and, of course, Mr. President, has directed me and the entire members, not just the Armed Forces but defence/security agencies, to do everything possible that whoever was living in captivity be rescued and we are taking all the necessary steps and operations to ensure we have them, indeed, rescued.
‘’That is what we are working on and by the special grace of God, you will hear good news concerning those who are still left behind.”
The parley, which is the second in the series, is meant to solicit the support of media organisations towards tackling the security challenges in the country.
Welcoming guests to the event, Charles Odenigbo, Chief Executive Officer of ‘The Media Today International’, described the media as a vital stakeholder in the Nigeria security discourse.
Killers lodger, 4 suspected terrorists arrested — Akeredolu
Corroborating the CDS, yesterday, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu said five suspected terrorists, including their lodger, were arrested by security agents.
Akeredolu, who spoke during a courtesy visit to his office by the leadership of the state chapter of Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, said: “The owner of the house where the attackers stayed before the June 5 attack in Owo has also been arrested.
“Now that the military has announced it, I can tell you that five of them have been arrested now.
“The security men are still on the trail of the rest. We did not spare a moment in trailing the terrorists since the horrendous attacks on innocent worshippers at the St Francis Catholic Church, Owaluwa, Owo.
“ 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 security agents are still on the trail of some of them.”
Warns Ebira indigenes involved in kidnapping
Governor Akeredolu also, yesterday, raised the alarm that some Ebira indigenes were now involved in kidnapping.
According to him, recent reports from victims of kidnap in the state have established that some Ebira indigenes are now involved in the unwholesome act.
Akeredolu, who noted that the Ebiras had lived together with the people of the state peacefully for several decades, added that they had always been supportive and hardworking.
“I want to use this medium to urge our brothers to concentrate on their 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 things. The traders selling by the road side should not become informants. We are not fighting them.”
Akeredolu called on leaders of the Ebira community in the state to warn their young ones not to copy the bad venture of kidnapping.
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.
No reaction for now —Olowo of Owo
Contacted to react to the arrest of the suspects, the traditional ruler of Owo, the Olowo of Owo , Oba Ajibade Ogunoye, said he would react later after getting the full brief.
“ l have also heard of their arrest, but for now, I don’t want to say anything yet, maybe later,’’ he said.
lt’s sign of relief— Chairman, Ondo Council of Obas
On his part, the state Chairman of Council of Obas and Deji of Akureland, Oba Aladelusi Aladetoyinbo, said the arrest of the suspects was “a sign of relief to the traditional rulers in the state and family of the victims in particular.
Speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Michael Adeyeye, the monarch said: ‘’Though the arrest will not bring our beloved ones back to life, yet it will be a sweet memory that these sinners did not go unpunished.”