Tension is currently brewing in Uke, Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State as masquerades celebrating their Uzo Iyi annual festival on Friday invaded the Holy Ghost Adoration Ministry, Uke, killing one and leaving scores injured.
Catholic Priests were attacked, including the Spiritual Director, Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Obimma, popularly known as Ebube Muonso, who was shielded by his congregation to escape lynching by the youths, even as other priests, Brothers and Sisters escaped lynching by the whiskers.
The deceased, whose name could not be ascertained as at the time of filling this report, allegedly died on Saturday morning at an undisclosed hospital.
The masquerades also allegedly confronted operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squared attached to Neni in Anaocha Local Government Area and attempted preventing them from going with three suspects arrested during the imbroglio.
When our reporter visited the Adoration ground, Obimma was not available to comment of the cause of the youth and masquerade invasion of his Adoration ground, but his Personal Assistant, Francis Okoye, revealed that a Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Henry Nnajiofor, a seminarian and 28 others were injured during the attack on the worshippers.
The spokesman of the Anambra State Police Command, ASP Nkiru Nwode, confirmed the incident, but denied that the masquerades also attacked the police officers from SARS.
Nwode said the command arrested three of the suspects and is currently investigating the cause of the commotion at the Adoration Ground.
According to Ebube Muonso’s PA, over 100 worshipers were beaten when they invaded the Adoration Ground, describing the incident as a planned and deliberate act to intimidate Christians coming to worship God at the ground.
He said: “The normal masquerade activities in Uke, to the best of my knowledge, ends by 6pm, but as at 8pm on Friday, the masquerades were still parading at the entrance route of Uke Adoration Ground, extorting money from the adorers and robbing others on the guise of masquerade.
“As at 8:30pm, we started receiving information that group of masquerades were attacking our members, inflicting bodily injuries on them as a result of severe thrashing.
“They flogged some of them, stabbed some with their weapons, including machete, while others were robbed of their mobile phones and other valuables.
“We quickly contacted the SARS office to assist our Adoration security that 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 on the air to disperse them.
“When SARS left, they regrouped again 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 the official of the Nigerian Army that came for our rescue.”
Okoye further disclosed that the youths occasionally attack the worshippers, especially on Fridays, robbing them of their valuables.
He added that one of Ebube Muonso’s aides, Onyeka Collins Chimezie, was recently attacked after being flogged mercilessly.
They made away with his phone when he was coming for Adoration.
He said: “Father Ebube Muonso instituted a case against the youths, but the traditional ruler of the community and other stakeholders came on bended knees, begging our Spiritual Director to tamper justice with mercy, which he heeded to.
“This time, we shall not take it lightly.
“We shall take this matter to the highest level.
“They were agitating that Ebube Muonso did not see them before holding Adoration in Uke and I wonder when it has become a norm to see the youths before worshiping God in a land that was fully paid.
“So, what happened is a planned deal to intimidate us but they have failed.”
The traditional ruler of Uke, His Royal Highness, Igwe Charles Chuma Agbala, regretted the action of the youths, describing it as unfortunate and an avoidable confrontation.
Agbala said he has been guiding against such misbehaviour from the youths, hence an announcement was made that nobody should go near the Adoration Ground.
Igwe Agbala informed that Uke sounded a note of warning to youths not to take the masquerade near the Adoration ground but some youths defied that order.
He regretted the wanton destruction, saying the community was already in emergency security meeting for a solution.
The Divisional Crime Officer, Ogidi Police Division, SP Fidelis Eyisi, led his men to restore normalcy, but immediately they left, the youths re-grouped with brand new masquerades parading around the Adoration Ground.
Members of the Adoration Red Cross Society mobilized themselves to give first aide to the injured.
Among those injured were Unigwe Stanley, Nnaeze Josephine and Dominic Onyeneke.
Chianaka Ibeto had his Lexus smashed, while Dr. Chinedu Okechukwu had his official buses smashed also.
In a telephone interview, Obimma said he was shocked beyond his imagination that masquerades could unleash such mayhem, appealing for calm from his members until the security agencies unravel the mystery behind the attack.
Already, the State Governor, Willie Obiano, has been briefed on the development, but has not spoken on the development.