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Beyond The Ozubulu Church Tragedy

The security agencies could have done more to avert the tragedy

Last Sunday’s tragic massacre during an early morning mass at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Ozubulu community, Anambra State, pointed to a worrying tendency that does not augur well for our national security. The brazen manner in which about 12 innocent worshippers were murdered inside a church, which has all the imprints of organised crime, is simply unacceptable; especially since the security agencies could not claim ignorance of the brewing trouble.

From all accounts, a young man was said to have gone to South Africa after his secondary school education and within four months, he returned as a multimillionaire to recruit former friends to join him in what is believed to be high stake drug trafficking. Not long after, as it is with this sort of dark business, mysterious killings started taking place. Now, over 40 deaths were reported to have occurred under this nefarious platform. Last Sunday’s tragedy was believed to be a revenge assassination for which the kingpin, whose father was gunned down among other worshippers, was the primary target.

That much has been corroborated by the Anambra State Governor, Mr. Willie Obiano, who described the incident as “a tragic dimension of a long battle between two business partners who are from the same town.” While promising that the perpetrators would be brought to book, Obiano added: “What happened in Ozubulu was neither a terror attack as we know it, nor a violent action by some agitators. We are dealing with a dangerous gang war that has spilled over to Anambra State from another African country. The people directly and remotely involved in this crime are known to the law enforcement agencies.”

While we commiserate with the families who lost loved ones and wish the injured speedy recovery, there are worries that the security agencies, especially the Police, are either complicit or too incompetent to avert the tragedy. From available reports, including that rendered by Governor Obiano, the gangsters were known to the authorities while the violence has been going on for some years now. The question therefore remains: What has been done to bring the culprits to book until they had to kill scores of innocent worshippers inside a church?

Tragically, the vital requirement of any civilised democracy – protecting lives – is lacking in our country today. That explains why none of the killings we have witnessed in recent years has attracted any consequences for their perpetrators. Yet to the extent that crime is inherent in every society, what deters perpetrators is the certainty of consequences. In condemning the killings, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo said “such barbaric act constitutes an affront to our common humanity, and challenges, but will not overwhelm our collective resolve to rid our communities of all forms of violent crimes and criminality.”

We are yet to see that resolve, especially at a time our society is getting increasingly more complex and subject to the influences of our citizens around the world. We now need more of human intelligence-based security arrangements in local communities to monitor the activities and influences of both foreign-based and local criminal gangs. In this regard, the simplest formula is the old dictum: follow the money, especially when what we deal with is questionable money that poses great danger to the society.

The casual execution of fellow citizens inside a church for the simple reason that they may have some association with a gangster is the beginning of something more frightening as the accounts smell like Sicily in the heydays of the Mafia, a place where organised crime had permeated every sphere of life, including religion. That the Ozubulu people were left at the mercy of drug warlords operating from South Africa is therefore quite worrisome. The Nigerian state, even with all its imperfections, remains the ultimate guarantor of our individual and collective security. If, by any act of omission or commission, it fails in that regard, then anarchy is the clear and present danger.

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The casual execution of fellow citizens inside a church for the simple reason that they may have some association with a gangster is the beginning of something more frightening as the accounts smell like Sicily in the heydays of the Mafia, a place where organised crime had permeated every sphere of life, including religion

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