No fewer than 20 persons have been arrested in connection with the killing of 19 worshippers and two soldiers in Okene, Kogi on Aug. 6 and Aug. 7.
A police source who confirmed the arrests, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lokoja on Friday said that those arrested include government functionaries and notable politicians, many of them from the Okene Local Government Area.
The source said that those arrested had been whisked away to Force Headquarters in Abuja, noting that the suspects had been cooperating and making useful statements to the police.
Unknown gunmen had invaded the Deeper Life Bible Church at Eikha-Adagu in Okene, killing 16 worshippers instantly while three others later died in hospital.
Among those killed were the Pastor of the church, Lambe Emmanuel and Cecelia Omeiza, Chairman of the Committee of Deans of the Federal College of Education, Okene.
On Aug. 7, two soldiers on security patrol at the central area of Okene were also gunned down by unknown gun men, forcing the State Government to impose a dusk to dawn curfew on the town.
The development has grounded socio-economic activities in the town with banks, offices and markets shut.
Okene has also been completely deserted, following a curfew imposed on the town by the State Government.
Many people have fled the town while some residents stayed indoors for fear of being arrested as soldiers and policemen conduct house-to-house searches for the weapons used by the attackers.
Traditional rulers and community leaders in the town were said to have joined security agents in the search for the weapons and the suspects behind the killings.
A staff of the Okene Local Government Council who spoke to NAN on condition of anonymity, said he escaped to Lokoja through an unpopular route, describing the situation in Okene as terrible.
Meanwhile, the Senator representing the Kogi Central Senatorial District, Sen. Nurudeen Abatemi-Usman, in a statement in Lokoja on Friday, appealed for calm, pending the resolution of the crisis.
The senator expressed concern over the hardship facing the people.
Mr. Abatemi-Usman in the statement signed by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Michael Jegede, said he was in touch with the security agencies to bring the situation under control.
“So, I appeal that our people should remain calm and be law-abiding as we pray for God’s relief and intervention,” Abatemi-Usman was quoted as saying.
He condoled with the families of the two soldiers killed and the entire Nigerian Army, applauding Gov. Idris Wada and the management of the National Emergency Management Agency for rising to the challenge posed by the development.
A former deputy-governor in the state, Patrick Adaba, had since condemned the killings, describing it as shocking and inhuman.
Mr. Adaba told newsmen in Lokoja on Friday that he was sad that all the efforts made by the State Government and well- meaning indigenes of Okene to find lasting peace in Ebiraland had not yielded the desired results.
He commended Wada and the security agencies in the state for their prompt response, saying that all those behind the killings should be fished out for prosecution.