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9 Sep 2017

Five arrested over Lagos Catholic church shooting

Five suspects have been arrested over the shooting of a Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Daniel Nwankwo of the St. Thomas Catholic Church Onireke, on Friday.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that he had just finished mass at about 9am when one of the assailants opened fire on him.

They fled when he raised the alarm, which attracted members of the church who were still in the vicinity.

Our correspondent learnt that the attackers were believed to be a robbery gang. But reports say they had no chance to take anything before they  fled.

The Catholic church in Lagos has made no statement about the attack which took place at the church located along the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.

Efforts to get comments of the church were abortive as the phone lines of the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Martins, and his secretary were switched off.

But a member of the church, Frank Anyanwu, indicated that the attack was carried out by suspected armed robbers.

“Please join Agege Deanery in prayers for quick recovery of Rev. Fr. Daniel Nwankwo, parish priest of St. Thomas Catholic Church, Onilekere, who was attacked and shot by unknown armed robbers today in his parish after morning mass,” he posted on Facebook.

Reports suggest the priest was shot and left in a pool of his blood after the suspected armed robbers disguised as parishioners to gain entry into the church.

The Lagos State Police Command, confirmed this in a statement by its Public Relations Officer, Olarinde Famous-Cole.

Famous-Cole said the attackers attended the early morning mass in the church which was conducted by Nwankwo.

According to him, shortly after the service, they requested to have a dialogue with the reverend father, who granted them audience outside the church auditorium.

One of them was said to have brought out a locally made pistol and shot him under circumstances that remain unclear.

As Nwankwo raised the alarm, the assailants reportedly scaled the church’s fence and escaped through a canal close to the church.

“The reverend father was immediately taken to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital for medical attention where he is currently being treated and is under stable conditions,” the police said.

Saturday PUNCH learnt that the Commissioner of Police, Imohimi Edgal, has visited the scene.

Famous-Cole said the CP had spoken with a witness who confirmed that the three assailants, who spoke Igbo were not members of the church.

He stated, “The commissioner of police has visited the Rev. Fr. Daniel Nwankwo and spoke directly with him and confirmed that he is being given adequate medical care and recuperating fast.

“A crack team of detectives and operational officers from the police command have been dispatched to the scene and area leading to the canal where an eyewitness confirmed the hoodlums ran towards.”

“Five suspects have been arrested in connection with the attack. They will be diligently interrogated for vital information to aid police investigation. The commissioner of police is advising Lagosians to be vigilant and security-conscious at this time and must identify and report any strange faces and suspicious movement to the police.”

The PPRO said the CP had deployed police guards to churches and mosques across the state, insisting that the hoodlums would be arrested and brought to book.

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