AFRICA/NIGERIA - Six months after the massacre of the Saint-François-Xavier church in Owo, questions are being asked about who committed it

Wednesday, 14 December 2022 massacres   local churches   bishops  

Abuja (Agenzia Fides) - More than six months after the June 5 massacre at St. Francis Xavier Church in Owo, Ondo State (see Fides, 6/6/2022), Nigerians are waiting for the holding a trial against those arrested for their participation in the massacre (which left 40 dead and 80 injured).
On August 9, the Nigerian army announced the arrest of four people accused of the massacre at the Catholic Church. The announcement was made to the media by the Nigerian Army Chief of Staff, General Lucky Irabor, that the arrests took place on August 1. Two other people were arrested a few days later (see Fides, 11/8/2022).
"General Irabor, Nigeria is still waiting", Bishop Felix Femi Ajakaye, Bishop of Ekiti, a neighboring diocese of Ondo, said in a statement asking for an update on the investigation and progress in the prosecution of the accused. ''More than ever, the people who have been arrested must be judged now,'' he stressed.
Those arrested are believed to be members of the self-declared Islamic State in West Africa (ISWAP) province, although in the aftermath of the incident doubts were raised as to whether they belonged to the jihadist group, which never before had it attacked a state, such as Ondo, so far south of its "sanctuaries" in northeast Nigeria, although it had already carried out actions in neighboring Kogi state.
However, the massacre at St. Francis Xavier Church in Owo did not happen without warning, as stated in an interview with the Vanguard newspaper Akogun Adetunji Adeleye, commander of the local security force, Amotekun, who said the massacre "is a serious embarrassment to the entire security architecture, especially since we have everything in place to prevent this particular incident." Adeleye states that "The Amotekun Corps had received an intelligence report indicating that such an attack was likely to occur. I personally met with the Commander of the Nigerian Army 32nd Artillery Brigade at Akure and we carried out a joint patrol in all areas and patrolled the town of Owo and the surrounding forest for seven days. We withdrew on Saturday and on Sunday morning the incident occurred". According to Adeleye, there was no complicity between the security forces and the attackers, they simply "watched us and acted as soon as we withdrew".
Amotekun is an example of Nigeria's complex security situation. The Amotekun (leopard in Yoruba) force was established on January 9, 2020 by six states in southwestern Nigeria (Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti) to assist the police in combating terrorism, banditry, armed robberies and kidnappings. First considered illegal by the federal authorities, they were later recognized by them and became a support force for the federal police, as in the case of the Umueri vigilante group in Anambra State (see Fides, 19/11/2022). (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 14/12/2022)