Twelve out of the 13 repentant kidnappers, armed robbers and cultists from Ohaji-Egbema LGA who renounced their criminal activities last year and vowed not to eat their vomit, returned to Maria Assumpta Cathedral Owerri, on Tuesday November 29, for rehabilitation. The young men who had been terrorizing Ohaji-Egbema LGA and its environs are from restive Mgbuisii, Ilile and Umuokanne autonomous communities of the local government area.
Recall that on 13th of December 2015, 16 young men from Mgbuisi in Ohaji LGA came to Maria Assumpta Cathedral to renounce their lives of armed robbery, kidnapping and violence. Archbishop Anthony Obinna prayed for them and admonished them not to go back to the life of crime again.
Thereafter one of them was arrested because of previous offences. The church has done a lot to free him but has not succeeded yet.
Two of these young men relapsed and went back to their former way of life.
On Tuesday 29th Nov 2016, the 36th anniversary of the dedication of the Maria Assumpta Cathedral, 12 of these young men came to the cathedral again to affirm their commitment to keeping their promise of turning a new leaf for a decent and honest life. These 12 apparently came to prove that their “repentance” and open confession last year was not hypocritical or fear of the consequences of their past criminal lifestyle. Again, before the congregation, the “born again” hoodlums reaffirmed the commitment and promise they made last year.
These young men came up with ideas and plans of things they wanted to do. To this, the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri with the support of some good spirited Catholics gave financial assistance to help engage them meaningfully and start a new life, in the spirit of the year of mercy.
Archbishop Obinna said it was in the spirit of the year of mercy that the church decided to do what she did.
The Archbishop who presided over the anniversary Mass of dedication, urged the repentant youths to continue to abide by the promise they made before God and men.
The Leader learnt that the Archbishop later prayed for the youths at the Blessed Sacrament section of the Cathedral, and also gave them undisclosed amount of money for their rehabilitation.
It should be recalled that when the repentant cultists renounced their criminal activities on December 13, 2015 during the inaugural Mass for the Year of Mercy in the Cathedral, the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri and the Imo State Government assured them of rehabilitation if they showed true repentance, by keeping off crime. The Leader learnt that the government is yet to fulfill its own part of the agreement.
The repentant kidnappers had at the Mass in 2015 thanked God for giving them a second chance to return to Him.
Making open confession at the Cathedral, which was filled to the brim, the ‘born again’ youths said they had committed various grievous crimes, thus offending God and men and pleaded for forgiveness.
Two of them, who spoke on behalf of their colleagues, praised God for keeping them alive to make the confession, noting that some of their colleagues were not that lucky as they died in the cause of kidnapping, robbery or bitten to death by poisonous snakes in the bush.
“We were not under any curse or spell, neither is crime in our blood. We took to criminal activities due to joblessness, poverty and hardship. But we have learnt that unemployment and poverty are no reasons to resort to kidnapping and robbery,” they said.
The youths did not just walk into the Cathedral and began confessing their ugly past lives. Their turning point began with the pastoral visit of Archbishop Obinna to their home parish, Chimezie Catholic Church Mgbuisii on September 20, 2015, and the role played by the parish priest, Rev. Fr. Eustace Okorie. It was during the pastoral visit that they returned their weapons of killing and destruction.
At the occasion, Archbishop Obinna commended them for coming out from their old lifestyle adding that the church was in consultation with the government on how to rehabilitate them.
“This is just like dead people coming back to life” a worshipper told The Leader at the Cathedral.