Ondo State governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has again disputed the claim by the Federal Government that ISWAP should be blamed for the killing of about 40 worshipers in a Catholic Church Owo in the state.
Akeredolu who spoke on Channels Television Programme- Politics Today, on Monday, said linking the Islamic State’s West Africa Province, ISWAP, to the attack was questionable.
His words, "We just have Fulani herdsmen right in front, followed by these bandits, and again ISWAP; so, the three of them work together and they work separately.”Reacting to the killing during the interview, the Governor further said, “I reacted to that almost immediately because I asked what evidence they have.
“It is important to let us know because the security agencies were too quick to jump to the conclusion that it was done by ISWAP.
“But whatever it is, we stand by the position that it’s a trilogy that is operating in our forests and causing havoc."
Several worshippers were killed and many injured when gunmen opened fire on worshippers at St Francis Catholic Church in Owo, the headquarters of Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State on June 5, 2022.
The incident sparked widespread condemnation with various individuals and groups calling on the government to ensure the assailants were arrested and brought to justice.
However, amid the controversy over who was responsible for the incident, the Federal Government linked the killings to ISWAP, a position which Governor Akeredolu disagreed with.
According to the governor, the activities of killer herdsmen, bandits, and ISWAP fighters are inseparable, and the terrorist group has always been quick to claim responsibility for attacks carried out by its members.
“So, we are not people who will buy the idea that maybe it is ISWAP, or bandits, or Fulani herdsmen; we have faced terrorism in Ondo State from the three,” he stated. “So, I don’t know how you want to separate them except you have concrete evidence.
“And our own contention is that ISWAP, most times if not all the time, takes responsibility for their action. When they do things, they say we have done it; they take pride in these heinous crimes.
“I expect that if ISWAP had done this, all this while they would have come out and owned up but some of us have our fears that it is not ISWAP and we do not agree with that position.”