A Nigerian politician was murdered on the steps of an Anglican church on Sunday in what police are calling a politically-motivated ‘contract killing’.
On June 20, Mr. Paul Inyang, a former regional secretary of the People’s Democratic Party was killed in a gunfight on the steps of Ebenezer Anglican Church in the Diocese of Uyo in the oil rich coastal state of Akwa Ibom.
Witness reports printed by the Nigerian press conflict in their accounts of the murder, but all are agreed that six gunmen drove up to the church on motorcycles while the 11:30 morning Eucharist was underway.
Suspecting trouble after catching sight of their drawn weapons, the parish verger closed the doors of the church to the six men and warned Mr. Inyang, who exited the church from a side door.
The vicar of the church, Archdeacon Christopher Bassey Ndon told the Daily Independent the gunmen with guns drawn marched up to the pulpit where he was preaching and demanded to know where Mr. Inyang was. Archdeacon Ndon told the gunmen he did not know where their target was, as pandemonium broke out in the church.
Instead of fleeing, Mr. Inyang went to his car to arm himself and was shot to death in an exchange of gunfire. The state police commissioner, Walter Rugbere, told the News Agency of Nigeria that “Chief Inyang’s attention was drawn to the assassin and was advised to run, only for him to come back with his gun from his car to fire at the suspects.”
As shots rang out, Archdeacon Ndon ran to his office and telephoned the police, who quickly arrived on the scene and exchanged gunfire with the killers. A police corporal was wounded in the exchange and one of the assassins was taken prisoner, Commissioner Rugbere said, adding that the leader of the gang had been identified and a police dragnet for the gang was underway.
The number of kidnappings and assassinations at churches has risen sharply in Nigeria over the past year due to the country’s political instability—and because churches are one of the few unguarded public venues where Nigeria’s political and business elite can be found. Last year the former director general of the National Youth Service Corporation and the dean of the Department of Environmental Studies at the University of Uyo were kidnapped after church services, while a former member of the State House of Assembly was murdered as a left Sunday services earlier this year.
Archdeacon Ndon described the victim as a “committed member who loved God,” whose passing would be deeply missed.