In response to the terror attack on St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State last Sunday, the Christian Association of Nigeria has called on the Federal Government to enact a law permitting individuals to carry firearms.
This was as security agencies assured residents of ample security in places of worship.
At least 40 people were confirmed dead in the gruesome attack by gunmen in Owo, last week Sunday.
As a result of the incident, the ancient town of Owo has been mourning while one of our correspondents in Ondo reports that no open religious programme has been held in Owo and Akure since the tragic incident occurred.
The Ondo State chapter of CAN has, however, advised church leaders in Ekiti and neighbouring states to beef up security in worship centres.
The association, in a communiqué, also asked its members to suspend vigil programmes for the time being.
The communiqué made available to Sunday PUNCH was signed by the state CAN Chairman, Rev. Fr. Anselm Ologunwa, Secretary, Very Evang. Amos Olomofe, and the Director of Information and Communications of the association, Mr Daisi Ajayi.
The body said, “The present Nigeria Constitution, which prohibits the use of firearms, should be reviewed, to give room for individuals for self-defence, given the prevailing insecurity situation in the country.”
CAN also said it would support the setting up of vigilance groups in every local government area of the state.
Also, the Chairman of the association in Osun State, Bishop Amos Ogunrinde, said churches had been instructed to engage the services of at least two security operatives per church.
He also said churches that could afford it should buy body scanners, ensuring that people were properly searched.
Ogunrinde said churches with perimeter fences should ensure that entrances were locked immediately service commenced.
On his response to the killing in Owo Catholic Church, the Ekiti State Chairman of CAN, Rev. Fr Peter Olowolafe, said, “We have had a discussion with some of our security agencies, particularly the Department of State Services and they have assured us that there is no need for panic.
“I trust them; they said we should not create unnecessary fear for people. We have discussed with our members that people should be more security conscious and that church leaders should get some security personnel so that there will not be any situation like what happened at Owo last week.”
An Owo town resident, Mrs Olaitan Akindele, said she would stop attending church programmes for some time until the government provides security around worship centres.
“This next Sunday, I will pray and worship God in my house. There is no security anywhere,” she said
Another resident, Mr Adebola Ayinde, said, “There is fear everywhere in the state, I can’t say if I will go to church next Sunday (today) with the way things are now. Something must be done to secure churches.”
In Lagos State, residents, who spoke to Sunday PUNCH, said they would attend Sunday service, as they had no fears.
A Lagos resident, Damilola Solanke, said, “I will go to church on Sunday. I know anything can happen anywhere at any time, but to the best of my knowledge, based on my security experience, there is a low chance of such attacks in Lagos State.”
Another Lagos resident, who gave his name as only Uche, also said he would attend church and would not wish to dwell on the sad incident.
In Ekiti State, some residents also expressed reservations about going to church on Sunday.
A Catholic Church member, Bimbo Adeoye, said she might not go to church for now until she was sure of the security situation.
The Ekiti State Commandant, Nigerian Civil Defence and Security Corps, John Fayemi, said heads of security agencies in the state had met to review the situation and had “stepped up our networking with the religious leaders in terms of communications, then, we are stepping up sensitisations”.
Similarly, the Commandant of the Ondo Security Network Agency (Amotekun), Akogun Adetunji Adeleye, told Sunday PUNCH that the outfit had intensified surveillance around churches and markets.
“We are on serious surveillance, especially in our markets and all big churches are already manned. People should call our distress lines if there is anything. Our people should go to church, nothing will happen.”
Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the Lagos State Police Command, Benjamin Hundeyin, said, “Security measures are being observed in all states, the Commissioner of Police has directed all DPOs and all area commanders to ensure adequate security in all mosques and churches, especially on Fridays and Sundays.”
Also speaking on efforts to secure worship centres in the state, the Field Commander, Osun Amotekun Corps, Mr Amitolu Shittu, said, “Men have been deployed in all churches and mosques across the state. Not only for Friday and Sunday prayers, but our men will be there every time people gather to pray.”
In a related development, the Commandant of Amotekun Corps in Oyo State, Col. Olayinka Olayanju (retd.), said his men had been combing forests in the state to confirm that criminals did not turn the areas into their hideouts.
In an interview with one of our correspondents on Saturday, he said, “There is no security threat anywhere in Oyo State. Despite that, we have been working to prevent things like that from happening. We have been combing fringes of forests to make sure criminals do not have a place to hide.”
The President of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, Dr Israel Akanji, called on the government to provide adequate security for places of worship all over the country.
In a statement condemning the Owo incident, Akanji said, “The Federal and state governments should also ensure better security provision for all places of worship in the country.”