Tragedy was averted late on Friday, April 29, 2016 when Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, survived an attempt on his life by suspected herdsmen along Benin-Ekpoma road in Edo State. Cardinal Onaiyekan was attacked on his way from the 10 years anniversary celebration of the enthronement of Dr. Augustin Akubueze as a bishop and the 10 years anniversary celebration of the Diocese Uromi.
Recounting their ordeal, the driver to Onaiyekan, who simply identified himself as Segun blamed the attack on herdsmen.
He said: “We left Benin for Uromi and at about 5:00 p.m. on the fateful day, I think very close to Ehor, I saw a big pothole and decided to slow down the vehicle. I would have passed the spot with speed but because the Cardinal was sleeping, I decided to slow down the vehicle so that he won’t wake up.
“Suddenly, I saw three men come out of the palm tree plantation by the roadside and started shooting at the vehicle. I looked ahead of me; two of them were firing from a distance at the vehicle and I looked behind me; another one was firing at the vehicle from behind, so I decided to use reverse gear.
“The other vehicles who saw me coming with reverse started clearing off the road and when I got to a safe distance I decided to stop the vehicle and people started running to see what had happened. It was then we realised that the bullets shattered the left passenger window glass and made huge holes on the panel of the door. We just thank God nothing happened to the Cardinal or any of us in the vehicle.”
Reacting today to the incident, Catholic Archbishop of Benin City, Dr. Augustin Akubueze, and the Catholic Bishop of Uromi Diocese, Dr. Donatus Ogun, both appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to tackle the issue of the growing attacks by hoodlums in Edo State.
“We thank God that Cardinal Onaiyekan survived the attacks of some criminal elements on the Benin-Ekpoma road. If something had happened to him, what would have been the story? We thank God nothing happen and we are using this opportunity to appeal to Mr. President to provide adequate security for the citizens of Edo State,” Akubueze said, in an interview in Benin City.
The Catholic Archbishop stressed that the responsibility of a government is to secure her people. According to him, “What we are asking for is not too much for our President. If there is no security of lives and property, no investments or meaningful economic development can take place in the state and the nation at large. We need security and we are demanding that from our government.”
Akubueze noted that the spate of attacks by so-called herdsmen across the country “is becoming frightening,” adding: “There is an urgent need by the state and federal government to deal with the issue of security to protect lives and property of Nigerians with all seriousness.”
Also reacting to the attack on Cardinal Onaiyekan, Bishop Ogun said: “What would have happened if the Cardinal was killed? It would have been sorry and pains for us, considering that he was coming to attend the 10th anniversary of the creation of Uromi Diocese. We thank God he came out unhurt.”
While appealing strongly to President Buhari to help secure the state, the Bishop added: “We need adequate security to protect the lives and property of the residents of the state. We cannot continue to live in fear in our own land because of the activities of these criminals.”