At least one person has been reported dead and several others injured after masquerades numbering about 10 invaded a church on Friday night at Uke, Idemili North Local Government Area, Anambra State.
The masquerades were reported to have caused pandemonium after they disrupted church service while it was holding and at the same time, made an attempt to arrest the parish priest.
The Anambra State Police command however reports that the culprits have been arrested. It was also reported that over 100 worshipers were flogged, describing the incident as a planned and deliberate act to intimidate Christians coming to worship God at the ground.
A statement released by the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mrs Nkeiruka Nwode on Saturday in Awka revealed that the suspects attacked worshipers at the Holy Ghost Adoration Ministry, Uke.
“Three masquerades have been arrested in connection with the church attack. We have commenced investigation into the cause of the incident and would notify you when concluded,” Nwode said.
It was gathered that the masquerades were celebrating a festival known as “Uzo Iyi” festival when the sad incident happened.
Nwode, however, denied that the masquerades attacked the police officers from Special Anti Robbery Squad, who responded to calls on the breach of peace.
It was further gathered that about 10 masquerades invaded the church, assaulted the worshipers and attempted to whisk away the spiritual director of the centre, Rev. Fr Emmanuel Obinna, but for the quick response of the police.
A witness said the leadership of the church called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the police to help their internal security to protect worshipers.
“On arrival, the operatives arrested three masquerades, who were involved in the attack, but their colleagues attempted to stop them from taking the arrested masquerades away, prompting SARS operatives to shoot sporadically into the air before taking them away,” the source said
The Personal Assistant to the spiritual director of the centre, Mr Francis Okoye, told journalists that a Catholic Priest, Rev Fr. Henry Nnajiofor, a seminarian and 28 others were injured during the attack on the worshipers.
“The normal masquerade activities in Uke, to the best of my knowledge, ends by 6 p.m but as at 8 p.m on Friday, the masquerades were still parading at the entrance route of Uke Adoration ground, extorting money from our members and robbing others in the guise of masquerade festival.“As at 8.30 p.m, we started receiving information that some masquerades were attacking our members, flogging them and inflicting injuries.“They flogged some of them, stabbed some with their weapons including machetes, while others were robbed of their mobile phones and other valuables.“We quickly contacted the SARS office to assist our Adoration security team, who could not handle the situation at that point in time.“When SARS arrived an hour later, they arrested two masquerades but on their way back, the youths blocked the road and insisted that the masquerades must be released; that was when SARS officials fired shots in the air to disperse them.“When SARS left, they re-grouped and this time came in their numbers to the Adoration premises, beating everybody including the elderly, the sick and pregnant women.“Our Adoration youths, in defence, pursued them and arrested one other masquerade, who stayed in the Adoration ground with us until this morning when we handed him over to the officials of the Nigerian Army, who came to our rescue.”