‘Only One Mastermind Arrested’, Military Clarifies Statement on Owo Church Attack

The Nigerian Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has clarified a statement made by the Chief of Defence Staff, Lucky Irabor, on the arrest of the masterminds of the recent attack at a church in Owo, Ondo state.

The DHQ in a statement on Wednesday stated that only one, of the five recently arrested terrorists, was linked to the attack on the Owo church.

General Irabor had on Tuesday in Ondo State said that five masterminds of the June 5 massacre in the state had been captured by security operatives.

His revelation comes barely two months after at least 40 worshippers were killed in June at the St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, in an incident that jolted Nigeria and the global community.

Irabor said the suspects, the majority of whom were arrested in various communities in Kogi, would be paraded before the public in due course.

“We had wanted to present the suspects to the public immediately but couldn’t because certain investigations are still being carried out,” he said.

He gave his assurance that in due course, the suspects and others who had been involved in some daring attacks in the past few months would be presented to the public.

His stance was echoed by the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, who wrote on Twitter that he had been briefed about the arrest of the suspects.

Following the statement by the CDS, Nigerians took to social media to question how one of the arrested suspects, Idris Ojo, who was said to have escaped from Kuje prison in July, was able to launch an attack in Owo in June.

In the Wednesday statement by the defence spokesperson, the director defence information of the Defense Headquarters, major general Jimmy Akpor said Idris Abdulmalik-Omeiza was the mastermind of the church attack and not Idris Ojo.

He added that Ojo was one of the Boko Haram terrorists who escaped from Kuje prison and has no link to the attack at Owo.

“The Defence Chief said, preliminary investigation revealed that Idris Abdulmalik Omeiza was the mastermind of the terror attack on the Owo Catholic Church as well as the attack on a Police Station in Adavi LGA, Kogi State on 23 June 2022, during which a policeman was killed and weapons carted away.

“The Defence Chief also mentioned the arrest of another terrorist, Idris Ojo (32 years), who was apprehended at Ayetoro Osi, Ondo State through the combined effort of military and DSS personnel on 7 August 2022. Idris Ojo, the CDS said, was one of the suspected ISWAP terrorists who escaped from the Kuje Medium Correctional Centre highlighted on 5 July 2022,” the official wrote.

Read the full statement below.

PRESS RELEASE
GENERAL IRABOR MEETS WITH MEDIA EXECUTIVES, REVEALS ARREST OF MASTERMIND OF OWO CATHOLIC CHURCH ATTACK

– Assures of Peaceful 2023 General Elections

The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor has confirmed the arrest of one of the architects of the terrorists attack on St Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State on 5 June 2022. He made the confirmation during the second CDS’ parley with media executives and editors, which took place at the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), Abuja on Tuesday 9 August 2022. The parley was organized by the Directorate of Defence Information in collaboration with The Media Today (TMT) International.

The CDS said that, through the collaborative efforts of military and DSS personnel, 4 terrorists were arrested at Eika, Okehi LGA, Kogi State on 1 August 2022. Those arrested included Idris Abdulmalik Omeiza (a.k.a Bin Malik), Momoh Otohu Abubakar, Aliyu Yusuf Itopa and Auwal Ishaq Onimisi. The Defence Chief said, preliminary investigation revealed that Idris Abdulmalik Omeiza was the mastermind of the terror attack on the Owo Catholic Church as well as the attack on a Police Station in Adavi LGA, Kogi State on 23 June 2022, during which a policeman was killed and weapons carted away.

The Defence Chief also mentioned the arrest of another terrorist, Idris Ojo (32 years), who was apprehended at Ayetoro Osi, Ondo State through the combined effort of military and DSS personnel on 7 August 2022. Idris Ojo, the CDS said, was one of the suspected ISWAP terrorists who escaped from the Kuje Medium Correctional Centre highlighted on 5 July 2022. The CDS also mentioned that Ojo was arrested alongside Jimoh Ibrahim (39 years), a sympathizer of the terrorist group, who accommodated him. The CDS further revealed that, the arrest of Idris Ojo was crucial as he, along with others, was already planning terrorists’ attacks against some selected targets, in order to create fear amongst the citizenry aimed at discrediting the government. Gen Irabor also confirmed the death of a bandit leader, Alhaji Abdulkareem, who was killed alongside his fighters on 6 August 2022 during air operations in the North West region.

Whilst mentioning the unfortunate terrorists’ attacks on Kaduna-Abuja Train Service, Owo Catholic Church, Kuje Medium Correctional Centre and the presidential advance convoy, the CDS assured the media chiefs that the military, Nigeria Police, DSS and other security agencies were collaborating in many fronts, working day and night to keep the country safe. He appreciated Nigerians of goodwill, in understanding what military operations were like and what the responsibilities of Nigeria Police, DSS and other security agencies were and what they were doing in ensuring that every one of us, within our geographical space, lived in peace and harmony.
The CDS used the opportunity to solicit the cooperation of the larger society, saying that, “what the criminals (terrorists) amongst us want to do is to stoke fear and to promote it to such a level that every one of us will not even want to leave our houses. This is the strategy, which if we do not take time, will become part and parcel of our daily lives”. Gen Irabor said the media gatekeepers had a responsibility “in educating the society to understand that, never again should we allow agents of destabilization to stoke fear amongst us, that together we will crush the elements that do not want us to leave in peace”. The CDS therefore, urged the media executives and editors to remain partners in progress in ensuring that their media were insulated from being used by terrorists to unintentionally fuel fear in the minds of Nigerians.

Gen Irabor also expressed the commitment of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) in guaranteeing a secure and peaceful 2023 general elections during the parley. He remarked that, “members of the Armed Forces have a covenant with the democratic process that the covenant deposition is that the military would create conditions for free, safe and secure conduct of the 2023 general elections”.

The CDS further explained that, all the operational engagements of the AFN have been tailored towards ensuring that the nation’s democratic process was not only nurtured but also made to remain solid. He urged all stakeholders that would be involved in politicking to take actions that are focused and geared towards moving the democratic process forward.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO), The Media Today International, Barrister Charles Odenigbo, in his opening remarks, commended the AFN for the operational successes recorded in the various theatres of operations in recent times. He said the second CDS parley was planned in the spirit of openness, to elicit a practical and robust review of media reportage of defence and security sector over the intervening period since the first CDS parley. This, he said was aimed at evaluating the contributions of mainstream and online media towards assisting the military and security agencies in the fight against insecurity in Nigeria. Barr Odenigbo urged the media to continue to work with the military in the task of national security and nation building.

In his welcome address, the Director Defence Information (DDI), Major General Jimmy Akpor, recounted that the first edition of the CDS parley with media executives and editors, which held in January this year, was mooted by the current CDS, Gen Irabor. According to him, the parley was in line with the leadership philosophy of the CDS, “to foster a professional Armed Forces capable of effectively meeting constitutional imperatives.”

The DDI further described the CDS’ parley as a welcome development that would build sustainable trust and confidence between the AFN and the media, particularly as it concerned the conduct of military operations and engagements.

Highpoint of the occasion was a presentation on “Media Analysis/Review of the Defence/Security Sector in Nigeria,” delivered by the CEO PR Nigeria, Mr Yushau Shuaib. The CDS Gen Irabor was also honoured by the Centre for Crisis Communication during the event. The President, Nigeria Guild of Editors, gave the vote of thanks at the event.

JIMMY AKPOR
Major General
Director Defence Information 10 August 2022

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