“That the police jumped inside the church in a gestapo style when the service was in full session is reprehensible, primitive, and highly condemnable.”
The Anglican Church in Nigeria has condemned the police invasion of the church during Sunday service to arrest Uche Nwosu, the son-in-law to a former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha.
The incident happened on December 26 at the St Peter’s Anglican Church, Eziama Obaire in Nkwerre Local Government Area of Imo State.
Mr. Nwosu is a former governorship candidate in the 2019 election in Imo State.
The masked police officers fired gunshots in the air and reportedly assaulted Mr Nwosu, his wife, and others before his arrest.
He was released some hours after without the police informing him why he was arrested, his media aide said on Monday.
“It was a black Sunday,” the Church Of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, said in a statement issued on Monday by the Archbishop of the Owerri Province, David Onuoha.
Bishop Onuoha said the officiating priest had barely concluded the celebration and administration of the Holy Eucharist, ready for the end of year thanksgiving, when armed police invaded the church.
He said what happened was unprecedented in the more than 160 year’s history of the church in Imo State.
“We are gravely worried and disturbed that worshippers were greatly frightened, worried, confused and completely disorganized by the presence of heavily armed security operatives in the church service thereby disrupting the worship of God’s people.
“That the police jumped inside the church in a gestapo style when the service was in full session is reprehensible, primitive, and highly condemnable,” he said.
The archbishop warned that the police action could worsen the security challenges in the state.
“The Church will in the next few days engage the Nigerian Police in a dialogue to truly understand the reasons behind this dastardly act and how to avoid a repeat occurrence.
“While this process is on, we urge all Christians to continue in prayers for God’s mercy on all of us and peace in our land,” he added.
The police are yet to disclose why Mr Nwosu was arrested.
Imo Government’s Reaction
The Imo State Government has condemned the police invasion of the Anglican Church.
“The arrest of Mr Nwosu within the church premises could have been avoided and therefore stands condemned,” the state Commissioner for Information, Declan Emelumba, said in a statement on Monday.
“Government therefore wishes to appeal to those negatively affected by the action to bear with the security agencies,” Mr Emelumba said.
The commissioner said Governor Hope Uzodinma “holds the Anglican Communion in very high esteem and will never support any act that will disrespect her reverential status as a place of Divine worship”.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Imo State has apologised to the Anglican Church over the invasion of the church by security operatives.
CAN Chairman in the state, Reverend Eches Divine-Eches, tendered the apology on behalf of the religious body on Monday while addressing reporters in Owerri, the state capital.
“The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Imo State chapter hereby apologises to the Anglican Church over the recent incident of the arrest of Uche Nwosu in one of its parishes,” he said. “We believe that this could have been avoided.”
Policemen had stormed St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Eziama-Obaire in Nkwerre Local Government Area of Imo State on Sunday, sparking outcry in parts of the country.
Condemning the action of the policemen, Divine-Eches asked security agencies to ensure they carry out their duty in a professional manner.
He asked them to shun actions that can give detractors and criminally-minded persons the opportunity to destroy their good works.
The clergyman, however, stated that the association would continue to support every effort by security agencies to arrest any group or person involved in any form of criminality in the state.
“As the umbrella body of the Christians in the state, we support efforts by security agents to bring any person fingered of involvement of any form of criminality in our state to book,” he declared.
“The security agencies must be mindful of the mode of operation to avoid offending the sensitivity of our people and unwillingly giving detractors the opportunity to rubbish their good work.”
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