Interior Minister Rauf Aregbesola has urged the people of Ondo not to see the massacre that took place on Sunday in a church as an attack by an ethnic group against them.
“Our neighbours from other parts of the country with whom we have lived together in peace and harmony are not and cannot be the enemy. We must not be provoked to senselessly attack each other in reaction to the evil plot of some nihilists and criminals bent on plunging the nation into chaos and anarchy,” said Mr Aregbesola in a statement on Monday amid claims that the attackers were Fulani herdsmen.
He made the claim in the wake of the murder of at least 50 worshipers at St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo.
“It is worrisome that the attack happened in the South-West that has a measure of peace and tranquility. While the motive of the perpetrators is yet to be ascertained, there is no doubt that their cowardly act is intended to cause chaos and instill fear in the people, provoking bloody inter and intra ethnic crises,” stated the interior minister.
“This could only have been intentioned to destabilise the state and plunge the nation into a needless crisis.”
He added, “Their action is capable of widening the cracks in national harmony and peaceful co-existence of Nigerians, stoking ethnic and religious crises and pitting our people against one another on the basis of primordial cleavages.”
Mr Aregbesola said the attack was to dampen the morale of the government and Owo community.
The minister, who conferred with the Olowo of Owo, Oba Ajibade Gbadegesin III, called for collaborative efforts between traditional institutions and law enforcement agencies in apprehending the fleeing criminals.
Mr Aregbesola visited the church alongside Governors Rotimi Akeredolu and Seyi Makinde. They were received by the church’s officiating priest, Andrew Abayomi.
“Those who attacked innocent people worshipping in the house of God are the enemies. They are cowardly savages and animals,” Mr Aregbesola further noted. He assured that the entire security system of Nigeria was on the trail of the enemies that were responsible for the massacre. “We are on their trail, they will be apprehended and made to pay dearly for this unprovoked attack.”