As two Catholic priests and 17 parishioners were given Mass burial May 22, in Makurdi, Benue State, the State Governor Samuel Ortom, noted that it was the third time the state was conducting mass burial. He disclosed that 492 people have so far been killed by herdsmen, since the beginning of the year, while the state government is battling to cater for over 170,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) languishing in eight camps in the state.
He also disclosed that 80,000 Benue children are presently out of school as a result of the incessant herdsmen attacks and invasions in the state.
“The herdsmen have continued to attack communities in the state on a daily basis, since January this year. These slain victims were in church for prayers and not in their farms.”
Against the backdrop of killings of people in worship centres across the country, Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, declared, said the burial that Nigeria is in a state of emergency.
Onaiyekan said the murders are affront against God and that time has come for people in authority to ensure that the killings stop; to avoid the situation getting out of hand.
In his funeral message at the Sesugh Maria Pilgrimage Centre, Ayati, Benue State, where the remains of the two Catholic priests and 17 other worshippers, who were killed by suspected herdsmen at St. Ignatuis Quarshi Parish Ayar-Mbalom, Gwer Local Government Area, last month, were buried, the cleric called on Nigerians to rise above religious, political and ethnic divide to save the country from drifting into anarchy.
Onaiyekan described the deaths as a “horrific massacre which will not be forgotten for a long time” and also, warned that “the killings “must not be politicised. “The nation is in a state of emergency. “(Our) demand for synergy, division, especially on tribal lines will only throw our nation to anarchy.”
He called on the federal government to act decisively to end the spate of killings across the country, and also, on the people to be vigilant and be their “brother’s keeper.”