The Bishop of Abuja, Nicholas Okoh, has used his New Year Message to predict a “year of optimism and happiness” for Nigerians. Archbishop Okoh, the Primate of All Nigeria, made his comments in a New Year’s Message as it emerged that 17 churchgoers were shot dead as they left a midnight Eucharist service at a church in Omoku, about 56 miles north-west of Port Harcourt, in southern Nigeria’s oil-rich River State. The attack has been blamed on one of a number of armed gangs which are active in the area, mainly target multi-national oil companies in the region. The local Anglican Archbishop of the Niger Delta, Ignatius Kattey, and his wife Beatrice, were kidnapped by one-such gang in September 2013. They were released unharmed a short time later.
In his New Year Message, Archbishop Okoh said that Nigerians would experience “the power of the Almighty God” despite the challenges in the country, the Vanguard newspaper reports. “I want to assure you that such problems that have consumed a colossal amount of our money such as electricity supply, unemployment, political situations, Boko Haram, Herdsmen palaver, medical and labour issues, had made some people to feel like giving up already.
“Do not be frustrated or unhappy, do not take it on anyone, avoid being vengeful for the Lord is working out a miracle for you.” He said that while there might be “difficulties along the path”, people would “reap the fruits of their labour in 2018.”
He called on his fellow Nigerians to “have faith and allow God to be their guardian in all endeavours who would resolve all their personal and national problems”, according to Vanguard.
Details of Monday’s shooting remain sketchy and confused. The Agence France-Presse news agency quotes an un-named police source as saying: “14 persons died on the spot, while 12 who sustained gunshot wounds were rushed to the hospital and are receiving medical attention.”
The General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, condemned the attack, saying: “People who were worshipping, starting anew, celebrating and reflecting on a new year, have lost their lives. We condemn this senseless violence. Let us strengthen our resolution to pursue peace and justice for all, dignity for all, the freedom to worship safely for all.
“We mourn for the families of the victims, and for the church family that lost so much so quickly,” he said. “God, we seek your mercy.”
The Revd Yakubu Pam, a regional chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, an ecumenical group which includes the Anglican Church of Nigeria, commented: “What we see today is not encouraging especially the hardship in the land; unless a proactive measure is taken, we will witness downturn in our quest to recover fully from recession,” the Vanguard reports.
“The government must end all forms of insurrections and wanton mayhem being visited on innocent villagers by terrorists; the government must step up security and restore hope to the people,” he said. “The war against the insurgents must be seen in all the light of safety to our teeming population, which have become vulnerable to attacks.”