THOUSANDS of Catholic faithful in Enugu State on Saturday staged a prayer rally in protest against the repeated Fulani herdsmen attacks in some communities in the state.
The processions, which were held simultaneously in Awgu, Enugu and Nsukka attracted the attention of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who quickly rushed to the Holy Ghost Cathedral, Enugu at about 11.45am to stop miscreants from taking over the Enugu protest.
Reports from Awgu and Nsukka revealed that scores of Catholic faithful marched to the streets of the towns with placards. While Bishop John Okoye led the Awgu protesters, bishops Godfrey Onah and Calistus Onaga led Nsukka and Enugu demonstrators respectively.
It was also learnt that the protesters in Enugu had scheduled to take off after church service from the Holy Ghost Cathedral to major streets before moving to meet Governor Ugwuanyi at Government House, Enugu to register their anger.
But following security reports, the governor joined the protesters at the church where he assured them of the renewed efforts of the government in protecting lives and property in the state.
Ugwuanyi commended the church for the leading role it has continued to play in the struggle against social injustice, human rights violations and other crimes against humanity in every part of the country.
“I wish to sincerely thank you all, for the peaceful conduct of this prayer rally and it goes to show the high regards that the church and its faithful have for the rule of law and for constituted authorities.
“It is indeed a day that will ever remain dark, sad and solemn in the memory of the people of Enugu State and indeed Nigerians at large.
“We are however consoled that the whole world had stood by us and offered us sympathy and solidarity, ever since the incident occurred. You will recall that in my speech during the burial of the victims, I did assure our people that never will such incident happen again in Enugu State.
The governor further noted, “We are deeply appreciative of the support and cooperation that the Federal Government has been lending us towards this end and it is worthy of note that five of the suspected attackers are already in police custody.
“We have continued to take necessary measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents in the state. We are currently engaged in the process of reactivating the neighbourhood watch associations in every community in the state and in aid of which we have approved an initial seed sum of N100 million,” he added.
Earlier, the Catholic Bishop of Enugu, Most Reverend Dr Calistus Onaga, said that the three bishops in the state met in May 2016 to plan for the prayer rally in the wake of repeated attacks by herdsmen in various part of the state.
Bishop Onaga in the joint statement said that the free grazing of cattle in the state had become a threat not only to the growing of crops but also to lives.
“The nomadic lifestyle makes policing and the pursuit of criminals more complex and hazardous, stressing that it provides terrorists like Boko Haram operatives with ready cover for penetrating every community in the country.
“In the past few years, however, the relationship between the herdsmen and the local population had become increasingly problematic as the herdsmen turned aggressive, disrespectful and destructive in their activities. More recently, this gathering storm has led to conflicts characterised by kidnapping and robberies, the loss of lives, limbs and property, the rape of women and girls and utter destruction of farms and farmlands.”
The Bishop noted, “The result is that an ominous cloud of fear, foreboding and insecurity now hangs thick over our people in their own home state.”