Catholics nationwide, on Tuesday, protested the series of killings in the country.
They also protested the killing of two Reverend Fathers in Benue State by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
In Ibadan, Oyo State, the Catholic Archdiocese appealed to the Federal Government to live up to its responsibility of providing security and safety for every Nigerian.
Members of the archdiocese joined catholics nationwide and took to the streets of Ibadan to protest the continued killings in parts of the country.
They are also protesting the killing of the two priests of the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi, Rev. Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha by suspected herdsmen on April 24.
The walk, which started from Saints Peter and Paul Major Seminary, Bodija, took the protesters to the Oyo Governor’s Office, Agodi.
The protesters, singing, praying and carrying placards bearing different inscriptions such as “All Nigerians Should be Safe in their country’’; “Catholics say Enough of Innocent Killings’’ and “Nigeria Arise for Justice’’.
Others are: “Save our Nation”; “Stop the Shedding of Innocent Blood’’; “Every killing is a loss of something precious and irreplaceable’’; and “Nigerians Deserve a Better Governance’’.
Archbishop Gabriel Abegunrin, who led the protest called on the leadership of the country to as a matter of urgency act to put a stop to the incessant killings.
“We, who are gathered here this morning, are the leadership of the Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan together with the Religious and Lay Faithful.
“We want to register our displeasure over the killings in different parts of the country which has made Nigeria a killing field – a situation which has attracted opprobrium from the comity of nations.
“This protest and prayerful demonstration is to register our displeasure on these killings.
“It will interest you to know that until this moment that we are having this protest and peaceful demonstration, no words of sympathy or consolation has been addressed to the Catholic community in Nigeria for our loss,’’ he said.
The cleric called for the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of the killings.
“The perpetrators of this dastard act are human beings and not spirits from metaphysical world; they live with us, they are in our midst.
“It is sickening to note that almost one month after this ugly incident no one has been brought to book, a situation which is unacceptable.
“We are peace loving people but it should be noted that a particular group of people do not have a monopoly of violence.
“Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of justice. So, if we want peace in this country, let us work together for justice,’’ he said.
At the State Secretariat, the Chief of Staff to Gov. Abiola Ajimobi, Dr Gbade Ojo, who received the protesters on behalf of the governor, blamed the unfortunate incidence on security operatives.
Ojo said they failed to provide intelligence but appealed to Nigerians to be tolerant of all irrespective of religious inclinations.
According to him, it is time to learn from the consequences of intolerance and strive to live together.
“It is the primary responsibility of security operatives to protect lives.
“Our inability to live together is a sign of manifestation of failure of national integration and a sign of not developing fast as a nation.
“I charge us as Christians to also pray for our leaders, according to biblical instructions.
“I assure us if we pray without ceasing, we will see the change we desire because pray works,’’ he said.
The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to prioritise the security and welfare of the country’s citizens.
Martins gave the advice on Tuesday during his sermon at the Requiem Mass for the slain priests and lay faithful in Mbalon, Benue State.
The Archbishop urged the President to direct security agencies to fish out the perpetrators of callous killings
“People today feel a sense of helplessness and hopelessness in their homes especially when signals they are getting is that they do not have enough personnel to secure every inch of this nation.
“We ought to have intelligence agencies that will act to prevent attacks and to nip the attack in the bud.
“This is the least we can expect from our government, so that people can feel safe in every part of the country without the presence of gunmen.
“The president should act fast and try to restore the confidence of the people; he is the authority and father of the nation.
“We urge the president to intervene in this problem in a more divisive way in order to save the country the country from tribal or religious war, we say all of these with due sense of patriotism for our nation Nigeria, because we believe in the strength and unity of Nigeria,” he said.
Martins urged the people of Benue to take solace in the fact that the slain priests and faithful are resting in the bosom of God.
“At about this time that we are about to celebrate Mass, the bishop, priests and lay faithful of Markudi Diocese are also gathered together.
“I believe that the representative of Pope Francis I is also with them in order to celebrate the mass for the repose of the souls of two priest one Catchiest and 17 other lay faithful who were murdered in cold blood by killer herdsmen.
“They are far away, but we are united in hope, in heart, in intension, we are far together by the sadness and pain that we feel for the death of these innocent Nigerians who have done nothing else but to gather together to worship their God.
“We are even more saddened by the fact that many times before the 24 of April when they were killed; there have been many instances of similar murder of people in their farms as they went about their day to day lives.
“Many women have been raped on their farms; farmland and villages have been burnt. In January we all watched with dismay as the news that over 70 people- men, women and children have been murdered in Benue state.
“We witnessed their mass burial with deep shock.
According to him, since the murder of the Mbalon 19, there have been more murders and destruction in many villages in Benue, Kaduna, Ondo, Nasarawa, Zamfara, and other states as well.
“Our sorrows have been compounded by the fact that no one has been held responsible, no one convicted for the murder and destruction that has turned responsible people into internally displaced person,” the Archbishop said.
Bishop Martins Olorunmolu of the Catholic Diocese of Lokoja, Kogi State led his faithful in a procession to protest against recent killings.
The bishop said in Lokoja that there was too much bloodshed in the country.
He urged the Federal Government to do something about the killings, saying that Nigerians were no longer safe in their own country.
He noted that there was no reason why Christians could no longer worship their God freely for fear of attacks and killings.
He described such a development as a serious threat to the peaceful coexistence of the nation.
Olorunmolu called on politicians to avoid playing politics with human lives saying that there was no point killing one another.
The bishop also condemned the high rate of poverty and sufferings among the citizens of the state due to non payment of their salaries.
He appealed to Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State to allow his administration wear a human face.
The faithful defied the early morning downpour to gather at the Bishop’s Court, behind Government House, Lokoja as early as 8a.m.
They held a peaceful protest reciting their rosaries and praying to God to end insecurity in the country through the major streets in the state capital .
Catholic faithful in Uyo protested the killing of two Catholic priests and 17 worshipers recently in Benue State.
Some of the placards carried by the protesters read: “No weapon fashioned against Christians shall prosper”; “Say no to terrorism in places of worship”; “Christians lives matter”; “live and lets live”; “human lives are sacred”, among others.
Bishop of Uyo Diocese, Rev. Dr John Ayah, said that Catholics would not take up arms against Fulani herdsmen in the face of recent attacks against worshipers and priests.
Ayah said that they would continue to depend on security agencies of government for the protection of their members, especially during church programmes.
“The killings have become too many. The church is `arm less’ so, we will continue to depend on security provided by government.
“If the government provides sufficient security, then there will be no point carrying guns around to protect Christians. We are do not have arms, our arms are our prayers and our rosaries.
“So we are telling governments to wake up to their responsibilities of providing adequate security to the citizens.’’
The bishop said that the killings by herdsmen had become unbearable and had continued to portray lack of adequate security by the Federal Government.
In his remark, the Vicar General in charge of administration for the Diocese, Rev. Fr Donatus Udoette said that government’s responsibility was to provide adequate security for its citizens.
Udoette said that as Christians, Catholics would not take up arms but would depend on prayers.
He, however, called on the Federal Government to rise up to the challenge of protecting citizens from the menace of herdsmen.
The Auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, Bishop Anselm Umoren, called on the Federal Government to rise up to its responsibility to protect lives and property of citizens.
Umoren made the call on Tuesday in Abuja in his sermon at the Requiem Mass for the slain priests and lay faithful in Mbalon, Benue State.
The bishop reminded Buhari of his inaugural speech in 2015 to protect the lives and property of all Nigerians irrespective of their religion and tribe.
“We are here today to remind our President about his promise to secure the lives and property of the citizens.
“Life is sacred; it is only God that has the right to take life, so there should be dignity for human life.
“Therefore, we call on the government to defend the citizens.
“We pray for the repentance of those killing innocent people that they may be converted because God wants them to repent from their evil deeds,’’ he said.
He, however, called on Christians to pray for peace and justice to reign in the country, adding that they should be people of clean hands and clear hearts.
Umoren also urged Christians not to allow the killings to affect their relationship with God and the country.
“We should fear God who owns our body and soul; we should not fear those that can kill our body only,’’ the bishop said.
Umoren said the martyrs of Benue would be remembered for their commitment to their God.
Also, the Primate of Church Nigeria Anglican Communion, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, reiterated the need for the government to protect the lives and property of citizens.
“The Army, Navy, Police and all the security agencies should be empowered to enter the bush and fish out these killers and deal with them.
“They are human beings, they have to prosecute them and bring them to face the law.
“If this is not done, this problem will not come to an end,’’ he said.
Okoh urged Christians not to be intimidated with the happenings but should remain steadfast in prayers.
He commended the Catholic Church for it contribution to peace and justice in the country and assured them of the support of the Anglican Communion.
In his remark, Dr Samson Ayokunle, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) President, also called for the arrest of the perpetrators of the Benue killings.
Ayokunle was represented by Dr Stephen Adeghita, CAN Director of Social Affairs.
“We must continue to demand for justice, the blood of the martyrs will not be in vain,’’ he said.
Also Speaking, FCT CAN chairman, Dr Jonah Samson said, “CAN is saying enough is enough; we are saying no to killings, brutality and wickedness of all sort,’’ he added.
There was massive turnout of Christians at the Christian Centre in solidarity with the Catholic Church in mourning of the slain two catholic priests and parishioners.
The peaceful protest and Rosary Procession, which started from the Christian Centre, would end in Our Lady of Queen of Nigeria, Pro-Cathedral, Garki.
The peaceful protest was led by the Auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, Bishop Anselm Umoren, in solidarity with some Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) officials as well as some Christian leaders in the FCT.
The Catholic Diocese of Enugu held a Special Solidarity Mass and peaceful solemn procession for people killed by militias, especially those killed at a Catholic Church in Benue.
The mass was held by thousands of Catholic faithful at the Holy Ghost Catholic Cathedral, Ogui, Enugu.
The faithful and clergy within the diocese, after the mass that lasted for over an hour, also had a peaceful solemn procession within the vast Holy Ghost Catholic Cathedral compound for about two hours.
The faithful had the solemn procession while praying the rosary as well as calling for God’s intervention in the country’s security situation.
Speaking at the end of the procession, Bishop Callitus Onaga, said that the mass and solemn procession was in solidarity with Christians who had died due to activities of militia groups in the country.
Onaga, who was represented by the Vicar-General of the Diocese, Monsignor Luke Adike, said that it was regrettable that the perpetrators of the killings could not be arrested and prosecuted, especially those that killed innocent worshippers and their priests in Benue State.
“What is the essence of government and living under a government if not for government to shoulder the responsibility of security for everybody.
“Close to a month now, no single arrest had been made in connection with the church massacre. It is disappointing, to say the least.’’
The bishop, however, prayed for the repose of the souls of the departed while urging all Nigerians to be “more security conscious”.
Earlier, in a homily during the mass, Rev. Fr. Nnamdi Nwankwo, urged Christians to rise up from their slumber and dedicate themselves to more prayers and participation in politics, to effect a true change.
Nwankwo, who is the Vicar-for-Priests in the Diocese, said that the recent happenings underscored the need for Christians to get their voter’s card in readiness for the 2019 elections.
“Enough is enough. We cannot continue to bury people in their numbers each day in the country as if we are in a warlike situation.
“What we are saying here is the issue of security for everybody in the country, whether a Christian or not.
“There the need for all to get involved and make our government answerable and accountable to us,’’ he said.
Nwankwo noted that each family, especially in the South-East must start operation “show your voter’s card’’ among its members, adding, “until we do this, the politicians will not take Nigerians serious”.
The Catholic Diocese of Minna said that security operatives refused to guarantee security for its participation in the public peaceful nationwide protest against the incessant killings in the country by armed militiamen.
The Catholic Bishop of Minna Diocese, the Most Rev. Martins Uzoukwu, made this known in Minna on Tuesday.
Uzoukwu told journalists that when the Police and the Department of State Services (DSS) were contacted, “we were told that it was not safe for us to embark on the demonstration.
“We went to the Police and the DSS to guard us during our peaceful procession, but they told us that our security was not guaranteed.
“As law-abiding citizens we obeyed them; so this is why we are doing the procession within the church premises.’’
He urged the federal and state governments as well as other stakeholders to do everything possible to protect lives and property in the country.
“We challenge our political leaders as stakeholders to ensure a peaceful and harmonious co-existence among Nigerians.
“We want them to live up to their responsibilities so that we can once again live together as one happy people.
“We need the government of the day to give us a different feeling from what we perceive.’’
He said that there was a strong feeling that the government of the day was not doing enough to stop this “great evil that has befallen us”.
Similarly, Rev. Mathias Echioda, the state Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), prayed God to stop the ongoing killings of innocent Nigerians.
Echioda enjoined Christians to remain a united body in Christ, using John Chapter 17 to buttress the message.
Responding the to the allegation, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Muhammad Abubakar, (ASP) said that the police was at the Church to guard them and not to prevent them from embarking on the procession.
Some of the placards displayed by the faithful read; “we have a right to live; let us live,’’ “Give peace a chance,’’ and “Government responsibility is to protect lives and property”.
Hundreds of Catholic faithful in Edo and Delta joined their counterparts across the country to protest the killing of innocent Nigerians by suspected herdsmen.
The Catholic faithful under different groups of the church marched through the streets of Benin, Auchi and Warri with placards of various inscriptions.
In Benin, so of the inscriptions on the placards include: stop rendering people homeless, cattle grazing is private business, the Catholic Church in Nigeria rejects Federal Government of Nigeria’s poor handling of security in the country among others.
They called on Buhari to take urgent steps to address the spate of attacks and killings of innocent citizens by suspected herdsmen across the country.
The Chancellor of the Catholic Archdiocese of Benin, Revd. Fr. Michael Oyanoafor, said they were using the peaceful march to say that life is sacred and that nobody has the right to take a life.
He said the level of violence in the country had deteriorated to a level that puts the life of every Nigerian at risk.
He added that they were also using the protest to say no to terrorism.
“We are telling the government to make every effort to address the situation, so that Nigerians can live in peace.
“The Federal Government has the power, in terms of having control of the Nigeria Police and the military in different forms and capacity.
“We are saying that it should help ” he said.
In Auchi, hundreds of Catholic faithful converged on Immaculate Conception Cathedral to embark on a solemn protest in honour of the two priests and 17 parishioners killed by marauding herdsmen in Benue.
The protest, led by the Bishop Gabriel Dunia of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi coincided with the burial ceremony of the two priests and 17 parishioners killed by suspected herdsmen at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Ukpor-Mbalom, Gwer East Local Government Area of Benue state on April 24.
Speaking to newsmen, Dunia said the nationwide protest was to draw the attention of the Federal Government on the need to ensure adequate security of lives and property of its citizenry.
“This call becomes imperative in view of the killings in parts of the country by herdsmen.
“We are calling on the Federal Government to end the senseless killings across the country as soon as possible.
“It is the responsibility of the government to as matter of urgency and concern to stop the wanton destruction of lives and property of Nigerians by their fellow countrymen,” the cleric said.
He urged Christians to continue to pray for the peace and unity of the country.
“Christians should arm themselves with prayers; God has given us the protection.
“I urged Christians to continue to pray for the peace and unity of the country,” he said.
Also, the Catholic Diocese of Warri appealed to the Federal Government to deploy its machinery to end the incessant killings in the country.
The Bishop of Warri Diocese, Most Rev. John Afareha led over 2,000 worshipers in the well coordinated possession from the Cathedral in Okere through Ajamimogha to Government House Annex.
The clergyman urged government to rise up to its constitutional responsibility of safeguarding lives and properties, noting that Christians could only arm themselves with prayers.
The worshipers carried placards with inscriptions like: “For an end to killings in Nigeria”,” For peace in Nigeria “, ” FG help stop killings in Nigeria” among others.
“We have gathered here for peace and unity to end the senseless killings in all parts of the country.
“We cannot take to arms to defend ourselves but can arm ourselves with prayers and voice out our displeasure to government.
“All life is sacred irrespective of tribe or political affiliations so must be cherished and protected by all.
“So government should deploy its machinery without complicity to stop the bloodletting in our land and bring to justice the enemies of peace,” he said.
Afareha said that the church would continue to support the government in prayers to enthrone peace in the country.
A copy of the statement of peaceful possession was presented to Mr Emiro Nelson, Assistant Director, Government House Annex on behalf of Delta government.
Earlier, a requiem mass was held at the cathedral before the possession.