The Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, has faulted the Federal Government on the claim that the Islamic State West African Province was responsible for the massacre of worshippers in Owo, a town in the state.
Akeredolu, who backed the call by Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State for residents to arm and defend themselves against terrorists, called on the people of his state to repel those attacking them.
The governor, while criticising the centralised police system in the country, stated that the Nigeria Police Force cannot effectively secure the country.
The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, had on June 9, 2022, disclosed that ISWAP masterminded the June 5 attack on St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State, which claimed 40 lives.
Speaking on Politics Today, a current affairs programme on Channels Television, on Monday, Akeredolu asked people of the state to fight back when attacked.
Responding to a question on the reported arrest of the Owo attackers, he said, “We are still on the track of the perpetrators and we are yet to make a serious headway and that is for many reasons.
“These people usually disappear into our forests and from there migrate to other states.”
The governor, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, added that the vehicle and mobile gadgets suspected to have been used by the terrorists had been handed over to the Department of State Services for forensic analysis.
He added, “We have called on our traditional rulers that we must all be ready to rise up to defend our land and defend our people. What I really mean by that is that, you can’t fold your hands and say people (attackers) are coming and you are running away.
“No. If they bring a fight to you, fight them back. There is no room to run away from it. That was why when I heard my brother in Zamfara, who said people should carry arms and license people to carry arms, it might be to some a bit of extreme measure, but when you are pushed to the wall, there is nothing else you can say.
“So, what we have learnt is that our people cannot afford to stay back or lay back as if you are lazy people. We are not lazy; we are indomitable people in spirit and everything and nobody can dominate us. So, when we believe that and strongly act that, fight these people back. If they come, push them (back) inside the forest and leave. Whosoever has the higher (sic) arm will survive.”
On the claim by the Federal Government that the attack was carried out by ISWAP, Akeredolu said, “We are not people who will buy the idea that it is ISWAP or bandits or terrorists or Fulani herdsmen. We have been facing – at least in Ondo State – terrorism from the three, whether they are bandits or Fulani herdsmen or ISWAP; they work together. I don’t know how you want to separate them, except you have concrete evidence.”
“Our contention is that ISWAP, most times, if not all the time, take responsibility for their actions. So, when they do things, they say ‘we have done it.’ They take pride in this heinous crime. So, I expect that if ISWAP had done this, all this while, they would have come up and own up (to it). But some of us have our fears that it cannot be ISWAP and we do not agree with that position because the security agencies were just too quick.”
The Ondo governor noted that the Owo attack was about one month ago and the people had learnt to take security more seriously, which led to his order on security guards and installation of Closed Circuit Television cameras in public places.