Church in Nigeria Alarmed Following Attacks

Deacon and Guard Slain; Convents Hit

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LAGOS, Nigeria, AUG. 23, 2005 ( Acts of robbery targeting the Catholic Church have risen to alarming levels in Nigeria, with a recent killing of a deacon, and the looting of safes and convents by gunmen.

The recent incidents happened in Lagos and Obudu, a popular cattle ranch and tourist center in southeast Nigeria, said Peter Ajayi Dada, communications officer at the Catholic Secretariat of Lagos, in a report to Catholic Information Service for Africa.

On Aug. 2, a group of bandits attacked St. Dominic’s Priory, in Yaba, and shot dead a deacon, Godwin Okwesili.

A week later, on Aug. 10, gunmen struck at the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus Convent, in Ikeja Lagos, and strangled one of the four night guards identified as Jonathan Owolabi.

On Aug. 16, nuns were attacked in their quarters in a convent in Cross River state and their habits were torn. They have since relocated, CISA said.

The robbers carried off a church safe, cameras, wrist watches and radio sets.

Security lapses

Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie of Lagos lamented the death of the young deacon and blamed the killing on “security lapses in the country,” during his visit to the parish after the incident.

“Nowhere is safe in Nigeria,” the cardinal said. “The air, the road and the sea are not safe. The police are not doing their job; the army, the navy, too. Let the government take security matters in the country seriously because we are not safe at all.”

“The attack on the nuns was the 15th in five years,” declared Father Emmanuel Odey, of St. Charles Church, in Obudu, Cross River state, while commenting on the Aug. 16 incident.

Father Odey said the robbers were armed with tear gas, shotguns, machetes and other weapons.

“It is believed that robbers buy rifles and bullets, but what baffles me is that of teargas,” he commented. “It is surprising that armed robbers now have access to teargas.”

In the Ikeja case, the police said a suspect robber, Kelechi Uzounkwu, was arrested with bullet wounds, and some of the loot and weapons recovered.

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