Isong: Gov’t Must Re­lease In­ves­ti­ga­tion Re­port into Ozubulu Killings

Gen­eral Overseer of the Chris­tian Cen­tral Chapel In­ter­na­tional and Na­tional Pub­lic­ity Sec­re­tary of the Pen­te­costal Fel­low­ship of Nige­ria, Bishop Emmah Isong, spoke to jour­nal­ists on gov­ern­ment’s han­dling of the killings of wor­ship­pers of a Catholic Church

THISDAY - - POLITICS -

What is the po­si­tion of the Pen­te­costal Fel­low­ship of Nige­ria (PFN) on the mas­sacre in the Catholic Church in Ozubulu, Anam­bra State? Hu­man lives are in­volved, and the PFN, be­ing a re­spon­si­ble or­gan­i­sa­tion is con­cerned about hu­man life be­cause we preach about re­pen­tance of souls, and a soul would not have a chance to re­pent if he dies. The PFN is yet to take an of­fi­cial po­si­tion on the is­sue. How­ever, we con­demn this hor­ri­fy­ing act. Es­pe­cially, as it hap­pened Sun­day morn­ing, and in­side the church.

Are you sat­is­fied with the man­ner the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is han­dling in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the killings? We are wait­ing for the pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port. You are aware of the fact that the Gov­er­nor of Anam­bra State, Wil­lie Obiano, and Act­ing Pres­i­dent of Nige­ria, Yemi Os­in­bajo, have promised to get to the roots of the mat­ter. We be­lieved that noth­ing will be swept un­der the car­pet. We are also told by, hear say, that it in­volved drug barons from the community who had been in a long fight. We do hope that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would not only end there, but also bring to an end other issues in­volv­ing drug barons in this coun­try be­cause it is get­ting too much that hu­man lives are wasted.

A lot of peo­ple are sur­prised that such a mas­sacre can take place within a Chris­tian community, and to worsen matters that it was planned and ex­e­cuted by peo­ple who are Chris­tians.

No! Not, at all. Don’t take it that way. If you take it that way you would not un­der­stand what hap­pened in Ozubulu. It is like say­ing, why should fire burn fire ser­vice? You can­not iso­late crime. Crime hap­pens on sea, land, and air. I think we should not see it that way. Don’t for­get it was an ex­ter­nal at­tack. It was not a case of peo­ple car­ry­ing knives to kill them­selves.

It was not an in­ter­nal at­tack, but ex­ter­nal. Some­body com­ing from out­side and in­flict­ing at­tack on a wor­ship assem­bly; and don’t for­get I am not even a mem­ber of the Catholic Bish­ops Con­fer­ence (CBC). I am sure the Catholic Church will speak for it­self.

But, as a pri­vate cit­i­zen and the Na­tional Pub­lic­ity Sec­re­tary of PFN, I want peo­ple to know that you can­not de­ter­mine where a crime is go­ing to hap­pen. It can hap­pen in the air­port, church or mosque; even in the Gov­ern­ment House. You can’t say this is where it is go­ing to hap­pen. I am quite sure this is go­ing to be a big les­son to the se­cu­rity op­er­a­tives to say oh, no­body is safe any longer.

Would you ad­vo­cate the use of arms by se­cu­rity units of churches as a kind of pro­tec­tion for mem­bers? Of course, if they are li­censed, there is noth­ing wrong with them us­ing arms. If they don’t use arms then why would they be asked to se­cure the church? If you are guard­ing my premises, I sup­posed you should use arms. After all it is in the rules of en­gage­ment. So if you are guard­ing my premises I think there is noth­ing wrong with you to de­ploy the great­est ar­se­nal to do the job. It is ac­cept­able that arms be used by se­cu­rity men so long as the arms are used within the rules of en­gage­ment.

How can gov­ern­ment en­sure that such killings do not hap­pen again? Nige­ri­ans are say­ing that when an of­fence is not nipped in the bud there’s bound to be a griev­ous con­se­quence for a coun­try like ours. Let me take you to the his­tory of kid­nap­ping. Kid­nap­ping be­gan in Nige­ria around the Niger Delta re­gion, and jour­nal­ists were re­port­ing it. Gov­ern­ment saw it as restive­ness of youths. Then it didn’t grow wings. White men were be­ing kid­napped, and you and I were not wor­ried be­cause the kid­nap­pers were ba­si­cally kid­nap­ping white men work­ing in oil com­pa­nies per­haps to proof a point to the in­ter­na­tional community that the peo­ple of the Niger Delta had prob­lems that needed to be ad­dressed by gov­ern­ment of the day, and you and I were not wor­ried.

And now kid­nap­ping has snow­balled to kid­nap­ping of neigh­bours, to the ex­tent that peo­ple now kid­nap them­selves. It even be­came a boom­ing busi­ness that some­one like Evans aban­doned drugs trade, and armed rob­bery trade for kid­nap­ping.

And then to a point we were also made to un­der­stand that we also have po­lit­i­cal kid­nap­ping, whereby po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents were be­ing kid­napped and kept un­til elec­tion day elapses be­fore they were re­leased. It so bad to the ex­tent that peo­ple can kid­nap them­selves and asked that money be paid into a par­tic­u­lar ac­count as ran­som be­fore they can be set free.

If we don’t nip this in the bud, when it shows it ugly head, all of us will cry. The case of Ozubulu in Anam­bra state is a big mat­ter that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment must deal with, ex­pose, and make some­body pay dearly for it, so that it will not grow.

So that some­body will not wake up again to tell another man that you are ow­ing me N10, 000, I am com­ing to your church, where do you wor­ship, I will be on my way to shoot ev­ery­body. Crime should be tack­led. It should not be some­thing that we use kid-gloves and then be­gin to say it’s a fight by two broth­ers even when some lives have been lost, blood had been shed, the community has been des­e­crated, and the holy tem­ple has been in­sulted. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment should deal with this mat­ter squarely.

Boko Haram’s at­tacks seem to be on the in­crease. What do you think is re­spon­si­ble for this? Wha should gov­ern­ment do to fi­nally win the war against the in­sur­gents? Be­fore I come to that, I hope you know that there is re­li­gious Boko Haram in Nige­ria? How do you mean? There are cer­tain ele­ments who have in­fil­trated doc­tri­nally; some Ji­hadists to Is­lamise Nige­ria. Are you aware of that? There is also eco­nomic Boko Haram, the ones that they used to kill oil work­ers. there are peo­ple who are en­joy­ing the big mar­ket, in­clud­ing the se­cu­rity money which was sent to the north east , who are say­ing don’t stop Boko Haram, we are en­joy­ing the money, we are now rich. Just by the name Boko Haram we are see­ing money that we have not seen be­fore. Are you also aware of the po­lit­i­cal Boko Haram in which be­fore the ad­vent of Buhari some rad­i­cal ele­ments in the north were us­ing it, as OPC (O’dua Peo­ple’s Congress) and some ag­gres­sive youths in the Niger Delta we call mil­i­tants, and some Bi­afra were us­ing to ne­go­ti­ate that power should move to the north. Those are the three Boko Haram that ex­isted. So, when you say Boko Haram is still on, I would like to know which of the arms that you are talk­ing about.

Now you asked what gov­ern­ment should do to stop Boko Haram. Be­fore this ad­min­is­tra­tion came on board, they promised us two ba­sic things. They promised us se­cu­rity, and fight against cor­rup­tion. That’s the mean­ing of “change”. Good. Now let me call on Pres­i­dent Buhari`s lieu­tenants. since Buhari is not well, and is out of the coun­try to at­tend to his health, to know that per­pe­tra­tors of this in­se­cu­rity are us­ing the ab­sence of the pres­i­dent and in­deed the vac­uum in gov­ern­ment to do those things that, if not prop­erly checked, may desta­bilise the sys­tem.

The act­ing pres­i­dent might not have enough power to check the ca­bals, and put cer­tain things in proper po­si­tion to move the coun­try for­ward. Per­haps this ac­counts for the rea­son why cer­tain ele­ments went to Abuja to say come back now or re­sign. I think that’s why a lot of things are go­ing on now. You must un­der­stand the psy­cho­log­i­cal as­pect of those in­volved in this ag­i­ta­tion. It is very key, psy­cho­log­i­cally, for a leader to be at home be­cause the light that shines far­ther must shine bet­ter at its best.

Re­cently the Na­tional Assem­bly re­jected de­vo­lu­tion of power to states as they voted to amend cer­tain clauses of the 1999 con­sti­tu­tion. What is your view on this? I have al­ways sup­ported re­struc­tur­ing. It’s just that re­struc­ture like I said, is like magi and cray­fish whereby both can be used for cook­ing of “Ek­pang” (a del­i­cacy eaten by the Efik in Cross River State), and peo­ple of Akwa Ibom State), and some­times they can also be used for cook­ing of rice. The is­sue of re­struc­tur­ing is get­ting frag­mented it­self be­cause some peo­ple are us­ing the is­sue to ag­i­tate for a re­turn to re­gional gov­ern­ment whereby you don’t need to go cap-in-hand to the fed­eral au­thor­i­ties to beg. Some are clam­our­ing for re­struc­tur­ing as a means of re­source con­trol, mean­ing that the re­gions will con­trol and man­age their re­sources and pay whether tax or what­ever to fed­eral gov­ern­ment. Some are clam­our­ing for po­lit­i­cal re­struc­tur­ing; that means weak­en­ing the pres­i­dency and strength­en­ing the re­gional gov­ern­ment so that we don’t con­tinue to be a slave of any body. With such re­struc­tur­ing, you know that the ag­i­ta­tions for re­gional con­trol like Bi­afra, Oduduwa and Niger Delta and Arewa Peo­ple’s Congress will end You know that if such re­struc­tur­ing is car­ried out, you won’t need Bi­afra again. Take for in­stance, if you are from the Repub­lic of Ire­land in Eng­land, what is dif­fer­ent with you and the coun­try. So, that why you hear peo­ple like Atiku, even Ba­bangida re­cently, and some voices are say­ing maybe we can dif­fuse the ten­sion that is on-go­ing right now by power de­vo­lu­tion. I think on this is­sue, I as Bishop Emmah Isong, and not PFN de­ci­sion, I sup­port re­struc­tur­ing.

And I said to some­body why not bring the 2014 con­fab re­port and im­ple­ment it. If you think that the re­port has cer­tain grey ar­eas, you can amend it. Give it con­sti­tu­tional power. Give it some sort of seal. Ac­cord­ing to what some­one said, the Na­tional Assem­bly does not sup­port de­vo­lu­tion be­cause some of them have pres­i­den­tial am­bi­tion and they won’t want to be­come pres­i­dent un­der a weak Nige­ria. They want to be like (Oluse­gun) Obasanjo, (Muham­mad) Buhari , (Ibrahim) Ba­bangida, and Good­luck Jonathan; with pow­ers to con­trol the re­sources. A lot of per­sons sit­ting right now in the Se­nate have pres­i­den­tial am­bi­tion and so de­vo­lu­tion of power is giv­ing me an empty house to rule. So, even if, you be­come Pres­i­dent of Nige­ria and power has been de­volved, the pres­i­dency would no longer be­come at­trac­tive be­cause you are now like a co­or­di­na­tor of gov­ern­ment.

Isong...good that the pres­i­dent is back

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