Parish Priest of St. Raphael’s Catholic Church, Ugbenu, Rev. Father Fidelis Ugozo, was attacked at Obubo village, Ugbenu in Awka North Local Government Area of Anambra State by irate youths suspected to be idol worshippers.
The youths assaulted the priest, tore his vestments and stabbed him on the face. Other Catholics, who were on their monthly rosary procession, also sustained injuries.
According to an eyewitness, the priest was carrying the ‘Blessed Sacrament’ in procession with his parishioners when they were intercepted by one Mr. Gabriel Ikegbunam who is now at large.
Ikegbunam insisted that they will not enter his village, Obubo, and when they overpowered him, he called some youths to attack the priest and others who were mainly women and children.
Father Ugozo, who is the Spiritual Director of Amen and Amen Ministry, Omor in Orumba North Local Government Area, was rushed to an undisclosed hospital in Ebenebe before being transferred to St. Joseph’s hospital, Adazi Ani, by the Ebenebe Deanery chaplain.
A former Catechist at St. Raphael’s Parish, Chief Cletus Nwankwo, said Obubo village is known in Ugbenu town for adulterous acts, adding that the youths suspected that the rosary procession was aimed at destroying their deity’s shrine.
“They moved from Agueke village to Obiagu and decided to branch at Obubo before Ikegbunam blocked them. He called some youths and told them that Catholics are coming to burn their shrine. Sooner than later, they trooped out wielding dangerous weapons such as axe, gun and machetes.
“They grabbed the ‘Blessed Sacrament’ from our parish priest, hit it on the floor and used the monstrance to hit him on his hand before stabbing him on the face and other parts of the body,” he said.
Traditional ruler of Ugbenu town, Igwe Lawrence Egwuonu, whose wife was also battered by the youths, said Ikegbunam, Isreal Egwu and two others stormed his palace before the incident occurred to complain that their shrine and other sacred symbols were being burnt by Christians.
According to him, “On a close investigation, I discovered that they were all liars. None of their shrines were burnt and I can defend it anywhere. It was Ikegbunam that incited others to attack the priest and other Christians. Their greatest mistake was touching the priest and destroying the ‘Blessed Sacrament’. It is a sacrilege and they will pay for it.”
As at the time of filling this report, two of the suspects, Mr. Anthony Anigbogu and Humphrey Ekwenye have been arrested by the police and are now cooling off at the State CID, Awka, while others, Moses Ekwenye, their gang leader, Mr. Gabriel Ikegbunam, Amaechi Onuorah, popularly known as Dangote, Sunday Okoye and Tochukwu Okoye are still on the run.
Other suspects still at large include: Sunday Innocent, Amaechi Anozie, Oge Nnakee, Lambart Okoye, Ejike Okafor and Omenankiti Uba.
The Chief Priest of ‘Ofufe’ deity, Mr. Omenankiti Uba, could not be reached for comments, but one of his allies who craved anonymity said they were protecting their deity since the Catholic priest is in the habit of destroying other deities in the community.